Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Energy
Department of Energy
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8/24/18  4:35 pm
Commenter: Jennifer Sklarew, PhD, George Mason University

Energy Plan: Reflecting economics, environment and energy security

I teach energy policy in George Mason University’s Department of Environmental Science and Policy. My students often ask why VA doesn’t have higher generation from solar & wind, and better energy efficiency rankings compared to some other states.  We discuss federal, state and local priorities in economics, environment and energy security.  Virginia's updated Energy Plan is an opportunity to reflect ways in which these priorities intersect with clean energy and efficiency goals.

Clean energy: I support the spirit of the goals DMME has set forth for solar and wind in VA, but I urge more ambitious goals.  These can encourage large and small businesses, including IT firms and new energy businesses, to locate & operate in VA.  They can grow jobs and provide energy system resilience while addressing environmental concerns. I suggest the following:

  • Beyond pilots: The Energy Plan should promote policies, goals, and regulatory frameworks that move VA beyond pilot projects on solar and wind.
  • Net metering and PPAs: I encourage a much higher residential net metering cap, if we need one at all.  Other states' programs can serve as models for this.  We also need to aim higher on our overall net metering program, beyond the proposed goal of 3% of the utility’s peak load. Further, we need to expand eligibility for Power Purchase Agreements.
  • RPS:  VA currently has a renewable energy goal of 15% by 2025.  We need to move beyond a goal to a standard, set higher than 25%, to meet the renewable energy goals DMME is pursuing.  Many states, including MD, DE, NJ, CA, OR, NM, NV, NY, CT, NH, ME, and RI, have ambitious targets that can serve as models.
  • Local models: I have served as a member of Arlington County’s Community Energy Plan Implementation Review Committee. I suggest that DMME work with VA’s localities such as Arlington to find ways to support their progressive energy plans.
  • Energy and economic justice: Models exist for reeducation and employment programs for displaced fossil fuel workers. The Energy Plan should include goals and policies that support such retraining for clean energy jobs.  The Energy Plan also needs to create opportunities for clean power and energy efficiency in lower income communities.  Pilot projects and financing programs that lead to long-term plans in these communities offer options for jumpstarting transitions in these communities.

Energy efficiency: I also support DMME’s attention toenergy efficiency.  VA rranked 29th in ACEEE’s (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy) 2017 state scorecard for energy efficiency. The Energy Plan should include concrete goals and policies on:

  • Efficiency for buildings and utilities: Efficiency improvements are low-hanging fruit that can boost VA’s economic, environmental, and energy security goals by contributing to electricity demand-side management in cost-effective ways.  
  • Combined heat and power (CHP): CHP is even more accessible; recovering heat from electricity and using it makes economic and environmental sense for VA businesses.

Energy storage:  I further support DMME’s focus on energy storage in the Energy Plan.  I encourage inclusion of concrete policies to enable energy storage to realize its vital role in VA’s energy security. The Energy Plan should provide a policy framework for energy storage technology that: 

  • Promotes definition of a regulatory framework to enable fair and equal grid access for energy storage
  • Encourages  -- or even requires -- utilities to consider and evaluate energy storage in their integrated resource and distribution planning.

Models for these Energy Plan improvements exist at the local level in some of VA’s counties and cities. Other states’ plans also offer precedents.  I hope that DMME will consider these models and incorporate them in an Energy Plan that can advance VA toward the economic, environmental, and energy security gains that can emerge from a supportive state-level environment for clean energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage.

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