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Virginia to Become South's Clean-Energy Leader

The Virginia Clean Economy Act is expected to jump-start the solar industry in the state. (Adobe stock)
The Virginia Clean Economy Act is expected to jump-start the solar industry in the state. (Adobe stock)
March 9, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia could become the first state in the South to completely shift to renewable energy, with Gov. Ralph Northam's signature on a General Assembly bill now heading to his desk.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act requires the state's biggest utility, Dominion Energy, to deliver carbon-free electricity by 2045. Will Cleveland, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said he sees the law as a giant leap forward for the South in confronting the climate crisis that's taking a toll on the region.

"Virginia is still a southern state. We have deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, and it has historically been controlled by legislators who did not believe in the science of climate change or believe there was a need to do anything to respond to it," Cleveland said. "That is no longer the case."

Some lawmakers have argued the bill preserves Dominion's monopoly on renewable energy in the Commonwealth. Northam is expected to sign it into law this week.

The bill sets a timeline for closing old fossil-fuel plants in Virginia. It is also expected to jump-start the state's wind and solar industries, bringing up to 13,000 new jobs, according to Tim Cywinski, communications director with the Sierra Club's Virginia Chapter. He said the bill turns the Commonwealth into a clean energy leader.

"Virginia right now is ranked one of the worst states on climate policy," Cywinski said. "And this bill transforms it into the top ten and arguably the top five states on climate ambitions and climate policy and clean energy expansion."

He said the bill will force Dominion to boost its low-rated energy-efficiency plans. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranked the utility 50th in a comparison of the 51 largest U.S. electric utilities for their energy-efficiency programs and policies.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA