Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Energy
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8/17/18  1:50 pm
Commenter: Natalie Pien, 350 Loudoun, Sierra Club, GFG, Green Team-Unitarian Universal

Virginia Energy Plan

DMME Listening Session: Virginia Energy Plan

August 16, 2018. Fairfax, VA


Hello.  My name is Natalie Pien.  I am a retired public school teacher living in a passive solar home with solar panels and driving a Chevy Volt or Honda Insight in Leesburg, VA. I am: a volunteer member of the Sierra Club, Great Falls Group, Executive Committee; an activist/ organizer with the Climate Change group 350 Loudoun; the Green Team Chair at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun.  Thank you for hosting this listening session.  The Virginia Energy Plan must include comprehensive, coordinated, complementary actionable steps to create a thriving, clean energy economy in Virginia that will at the same time mitigate climate change.


I would like to address briefly some areas of the plan: Energy Efficiency; Grid Modernization and Planning for a Clean Energy Future; No More Fossil Fuels.


First, energy efficiency is a low hanging fruit for reducing energy consumption. The 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard,  has good news for Virginia: Virginia ranked among the 3 most improved states in the nation.  The bad news is that Virginia ranks in the bottom half at 29th for energy efficiency.  Efficiency improves affordability, reliability, and security while creating millions of jobs. It can help those most in need reduce their energy bill.  Although energy efficiency is by far our cheapest energy resource, Virginia’s voluntary efficiency policies have proven to be ineffective, hence Virginia’s low ranking. Virginia needs affirmative policies to require or incentivize greater levels of energy efficiency from our utilities but also in standards for new buildings, appliances and lighting.  Virginia must: stop wasting energy that generates high electricity bills; and stop polluting air & water that harms peoples’ health and exacerbates climate change.


Next, Virginia’s electrical grid needs modernization to facilitate a rapid transition to 100% Renewable Energy by 2030 that will create a thriving clean energy economy in Virginia.  Recommendations for grid modernization must be made in a transparent/public fashion by an independent 3rd party, not by utilities behind closed doors.  Utilities will create energy generation and delivery systems most profitable for themselves, not the ones most efficient and beneficial for the public.  Therefore, the first step in grid modernization should be a comprehensive study of grid transformation, managed by an independent expert who can help DMME and stakeholders.  Grid modernization to promote distributed clean energy and microgrids in our communities will create a more security and resiliency in the face of extreme weather and the worsening impacts of climate change.  To do so will require expanding access to distributed, customer-owned solar, something that utilities currently thwart.    Further, our electric grid will need to incorporate vastly more wind and solar generation plus electric vehicle charging, battery storage, and new metering technology that gives consumers greater control over their energy use.



Virginia lags behind neighboring states in terms of renewable energy because our utilities have undue influence over energy policy in Virginia and oppose distributed renewables.  For example, neither Virginia nor Georgia has a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard, yet Georgia outpaces Virginia in terms of solar energy.  Recent reports from the Solar Energy Industry Association shows that Georgia outpaces Virginia: 3% more solar companies; 21% more solar jobs; 163% more solar investments; 146% more MW solar installed.  The Virginia Energy Plan must enable Virginia’s solar industry to flourish like Georgia’s.


Finally, it’s time to make wise investment decisions.  That means, it is time to stop investing in fossil fuel infrastructure.   A July 18, 2018 article in Green Technology Media,, reports that distributed renewable energy technology is advancing at unpredicted and remarkable speed.  Some states recognize this and have rejected utilities’ Integrated Resource Plans that include fossil fuel based electrical energy power plants.  “More than 30 state commissions currently require an IRP strategy, while simultaneously mandating and/or incentivizing growing levels of decentralized and distributed energy resources (DERs).” 


Indeed, The 2017 edition of Lazard’s annual Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) study shows unsubsidized onshore wind and utility-scale solar are both cheaper than new coal in many parts of the U.S., and are cost-competitive with new combined-cycle natural gas.


Further, unlike fossil fuel energy, there is no fuel cost for using renewables.  Though the price of natural gas in the U.S. is the lowest by far compared to overseas markets, the long term forecast 2018 – 2030 shows a steady rise in price,   In January, 2018 Forbes magazine published an article titled “Renewable Energy Will Be Consistently Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels By 2020, Report Claims…” , referencing a report by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).  That’s just 2 years from now.


I mention all these news items because the Virginia Energy Plan must incorporate the new and dynamic energy technology reality that we live in.    The plan must put an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure to prevent expensive stranded assets that will be paid for by Virginia consumers, while utility shareholders pocket the guaranteed 15% profit. We can make the transition to 100 % Renewables by 2030. The transition will reap benefits across many aspects of life in Virginia including: improved health; lives saved; improved worker productivity; reduced health costs; more distributed & higher than average paying jobs; more money in each Virginian’s pocket.  It will also mitigate climate change, something good for the entire planet.


Please ensure that the Virginia Energy Plan is a comprehensive road map to create a thriving clean energy economy in Virginia while mitigating climate change.


Thank you.


Natalie Pien

20644 Gleedsville Rd

Leesburg, VA 20175

703 963 3573








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