Richmond Times Dispatch: September 17, 2019

Northam lays out renewable energy goals for Virginia, calls for carbon-free electricity by 2050

By Mel Leanor, Richmond Times Dispatch

Gov. Ralph Northam called on state agencies and public institutions Tuesday to create a plan that will make Virginia’s electric grid solely dependent on carbon-free energy sources by 2050.

Northam announced an executive order to that end during the Virginia Clean Energy Summit in Richmond. The executive order lays out goals for statewide energy production: By 2030, Northam hopes 30% of Virginia’s electricity will come from renewable sources like wind, solar and nuclear.

“We know the importance of a true shift to reliance on renewable energy sources in reducing our carbon footprint, growing our economy, and creating the clean energy jobs of the future,” Northam said in a statement, adding that the executive order will help ensure Virginia “meets the urgency of the challenges brought on by climate change.”

Northam is calling for 3,000 megawatts worth of planned solar and onshore wind by 2022, and an additional 2,500 megawatts from offshore wind by 2026. Virginia already has a statewide goal of achieving 5,500 megawatts of wind and solar energy by 2028.

A spokesman for Dominion Energy, the state’s predominant electric energy producer, said Tuesday, “Challenge accepted.”

“The Grid Transformation and Security Act allows us to accomplish many of the clean energy goals laid out today,” Rayhan Daudani said. “We look forward to working with the governor and stakeholders on next steps needed to accomplish all of them.”

Northam’s executive order will also direct state agencies and public institutions to reduce electricity consumption by 10% by 2022, using 2006 as the baseline.

“Governor Northam’s Executive Order is a leap in the right direction,” said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters in a statement.

Environmental groups at once celebrated the order’s goals, and decried the administration’s support for two natural gas pipelines that are planned for Virginia.

Brennan Gilmore, executive director of Clean Virginia, commended Northam but added that “the path to achieving a clean energy future is not through a utility monopoly whose profit model is built on expensive fossil fuel projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

Clean Virginia opposes the state’s electric regulatory framework that allows for Dominion’s monopoly.

Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons said plans for the pipelines “directly contradict the executive order’s ambitious goals.”