Virginia Aiming for 100% Carbon-Free Energy Goal by 2050
Switching to renewable energy as much as possible is an important way to reduce the impact of pollution and climate change. What is as much as possible?
Virginia has set a goal of 100% carbon-free energy by 2050, with a more modest interim goal of 30% by 2030, with the commonwealth’s own agencies aiming for 30% by 2022. This goal was set in an executive order by Governor Ralph Northam on September 16, 2019. While executive orders have some limitations, most notably the fact that they are easy for a future administration to reverse, the ambitious goal sets an example for other states and will steer Virginia towards a clean energy future.
Highlights from the executive order include the following:
- The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is to develop a plan to meet these goals (30% by 2030 and 100% by 2050). This includes specific goals for solar and onshore wind of 3,000 MW by 2022 and 5,500 MW by 2028. Meeting these goals will require significant build-out of solar and wind power.
- The Department will also hold utilities accountable for their own goals. For example, Dominion is aiming for an additional 500MW in solar and offshore wind, with 50MW small scale in 2019 and 150 by 2022. Appalachian Power is aiming for 200 MW by competitive procurement, with 25% through power purchase agreements, by the end of 2021. The latter are useful for giving clean energy startups building innovative products access to the grid. The plan should include ways to reduce legislative and regulatory barriers that prevent companies from reaching their goals.
- Incorporating energy storage into the plan, with pilot projects being put into play by both Dominion and ApCo. Pumped hydroelectric storage facilities are a specific part of the plan, but other means of combining energy storage with renewable generation are vital to the future. Proper energy storage allows renewable energy, which can fluctuate, to produce a more stable level of power for the grid.
- Energy equity plans to ensure that benefits are also gained by low to medium income communities and communities of color, which have historically seen lower investment. Low income households pay, proportionately, considerably higher for energy, with negative effects on health and welfare. The plans should also address the historic tendency for low income neighborhoods to be more affected by pollution.
- Requiring that Virginia state government buildings run on at least 30% of renewable energy by 2022. This will require working with Dominion. The DMME is also to initiate procurement of smaller scale power purchase agreements at government facilities. The first of these will be for at least 10MW of small scale solar in the fall of 2019. (In this context, this primarily means leased solar, where the solar company installs and maintains solar arrays on or near government buildings). Small scale, locally generated solar, improves efficiency as power is not being transported long distances. Demonstrating that solar works on large government buildings encourages private facilities to try solar installations as a way to reduce their long-term energy costs.
- Developing an energy resource plan that will evaluate curriculum and training programs for clean energy career opportunities. This will include K-12 efforts to develop skills and improve young people’s awareness of the job possibilities. Already, 78,670 individuals work in energy efficiency, and 3,980 in solar power generation (including rooftop solar installers). Pre-employment programs are also under discussion, as is the potential ability of clean energy to provide opportunities for low income children.
Virginia is already seeing the impact of climate change, and moving towards more use of renewable energy is a key part of mitigation. Energy generation currently accounts for about 30% of Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Northam’s plan is a road map for Virginia and sets an example for other states. The impact of individual decisions on climate change can seem minimal, but larger scale plans provide the answer for change. Within that framework, the plan should include assistance to low to middle income families for the cost of solar installation on their own property.
100% of energy from renewables by 2050 is a lofty goal, but as the cost of coal and gas rises and that of renewables drops, it becomes not just good for the environment, but for business and everyone’s energy bills. New developments in solar and wind, as well as potentially other sources of renewable energy, will make the landscape of energy generation look quite different. Northam’s ambitious plan is perfectly feasible and is part of how we reduce our carbon footprint.
If you are looking into doing your part in reducing Virginia’s dependence on fossil fuels by installing roof top solar at your home, contact Mountain View Solar today. Our highly qualified installers can design and build a solar system that will reduce your energy costs in the long term and will also make you part of the solution and Virginia’s goal to move away from coal and gas.