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Clean Energy Plan Could Be "Bright Day" for Solar in Virginia

PHOTO: Clean energy advocates say the Obama administration's crackdown on carbon pollution will lead to more solar projects across Virginia, like the one pictured here in Lexington. Photo courtesy Secure Futures.
PHOTO: Clean energy advocates say the Obama administration's crackdown on carbon pollution will lead to more solar projects across Virginia, like the one pictured here in Lexington. Photo courtesy Secure Futures.
August 4, 2015

STAUNTON, Va. – Reaction to the first-ever national limit on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, proposed by the Obama administration on Monday, has been mixed.

Matt Ruscio, program and policy officer with the solar development company Secure Futures, says the EPA plan to cut emissions by 32 percent from existing power plants by 2030 will spur diversification.

"It's a great day for the solar industry in Virginia," he says. "It offers a bright future, and not just for our industry, but a bright future for renewable energy and all the economic benefits that are created from investing in renewable energy, and the jobs created by renewable energy."

Critics of the Clean Power Plan are promising legal challenges, charging the plan will sharply raise the cost of electricity. Clean energy advocates say shifting to wind, solar and biomass should make a typical utility bill somewhat smaller.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, only 6.5 percent of the electricity generated in Virginia last year came from renewable energy sources. Ruscio says Virgina lags behind neighbors like North Carolina and Maryland in solar investments, with less than $15 million dollars in 2014, compared to a combined $873 million in the other two states.

"There will be more opportunities for solar projects with schools," says Ruscio. "More utility-scale solar projects in Virginia, and it will keep rates at a level playing field here."

Conservationists also are citing the public health advantages of tougher carbon emission limits. Ed Perry with the National Wildlife Federation Climate Change Campaign says it's a win for nature too.

"A flexible, science-based rule is going to represent real progress in protecting our country's natural resources," he says.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - VA