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Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy
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8/24/18  11:29 am
Commenter: Karel Svoboda, on behalf of Zero Carbon Virginia

Statement by Zero Carbon Virginia (



The 2018 Virginia Energy Plan must lay the foundation for decarbonization of the energy sector

Since the start of the industrial period, the burning of fossil fuels has nearly doubled atmospheric CO2. We are beginning to see the effects of the resulting climate change. For example, the six hottest years recorded have occured over the last decade. Accelerating ice melt at the poles is causing rising sea levels, including in Virginia's tidewater region. Recurrent flooding causes major damage. Tens of millions of dollars are spent to harden Virginia's coastal military bases against the rising waters. These effects will only become worse, and the economic and social impacts of continuing to burn fossil fuels will be staggering.

Science tells us that to avoid the most extreme effects of rising temperatures, we must hold global temperature increases under 2°C (3.6°F). To realize this goal, the major economies must pursue ‘deep decarbonization’, reducing carbon emissions by approximately 80% by mid-century. We all have to do our part, including Virginia. Delay is not an option. Virginia’s 2018 Energy Plan must lay the foundation for deep decarbonization by mid-century.

Economically viable deep decarbonization will include three elements (See for more):

1) A zero carbon electric power sector. Getting the power sector to zero carbon by 2050 is a critical element of deep decarbonization. Deep decarbonization will require the retirement of coal fired generation facilities and the widespread deployment of renewable energy resources and increases in energy storage capacity, such as pumped storage. Grid modernization is necessary to make this possible. In addition, dispatchable zero carbon generation resources will be needed, including advanced nuclear and natural gas turbines with carbon capture.

2) Deployment of energy efficiency measures. We must immediately pursue aggressive energy efficiency goals. Energy efficiency is the lowest cost component to reducing energy demand in the United States.

3) Switching from fossil fuels to electricity. Deep decarbonization will also require electrification of activities that currently burn fossil fuels. Switching transportation, heating, hot water generation, cooking, and light industrial processes from fossil fuels to electricity will reduce carbon emissions, provided the power sector is decarbonized.

The next ten years, covered by the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan, must lay the foundation for these fundamental changes. Therefore, Zero Carbon Virginia requests that the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan:

  1. Set the goal of achieving a zero carbon power sector by 2050.

  2. Develop a strategic vision for decarbonizing the power sector.

  3. Include specific immediate initiatives to:

    • Place a moratorium on construction of new capacity based on burning fossil fuels

    • Close energy capacity gaps with renewables and efficiency measures

    • Establish specific goals and timing for grid modernization

    • Expand the capacity of energy storage across the grid, including additional pumped storage capacity

    • Accelerate the transition to electric vehicles including passenger cars, buses, and fleet vehicles.

    • Motivate the electrification of fossil fuel activities.

    • Maximize energy efficiency measures.

  4. Recommend an examination of regulatory reform for Virginia’s power sector to clear obstacles to achieving zero carbon power production by 2050.

We thank you for your  work on Virginia’s 2018 Energy Plan. The right choice is clear based on economic, technical, and moral grounds: deep decarbonization by mid century. Virginia has the opportunity to play a leading role in developing a decarbonized economy.