VA Bails on Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Monday, June 12, 2023
Virginia's Air Pollution Control Board has voted to leave the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
RGGI is a cooperative effort among multiple states to cap and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from their power sectors.
But Virginia has moved in a different direction - becoming a growing hub for data centers, which are known for their high electricity use.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership finds more than 20% of all hyperscale data centers worldwide are in Northern Virginia.
Maya Domeshek, research associate with Resources for the Future, said RGGI kept emissions from these centers low.
"If you're living in a world where electricity demand is increasing and you're building renewable resources, that's not necessarily enough to guarantee that you emit fewer greenhouse gases," said Domeshek. "You also need a policy that's going to require reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and that's the role that RGGI was playing."
The U.S. Energy Information Administration finds Virginia consumes more electricity than it generates, and gets additional power from two regional grids.
Earlier this year, Virginians weighed in with public comments on whether the state should be part of RGGI or leave. A majority said the state should stay.
Now, 11 states remain in the initiative.
Several policies, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act, aim to get the state to reduce fossil-fuel use and move toward cleaner energy sources. Domeshek described how they might shape up without RGGI.
"With Virginia outside of RGGI," said Domeshek, "it'll be important for those hoping the state moves toward cleaner energy to really pay attention to what its utilities are doing - and whether they are, in fact, meeting the other goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act."
Revenues from RGGI were slated to help the state address the worsening effects of climate change.
The latest report from Resources for the Future notes the state established a Climate Resilience Fund early last year, using $25 million from RGGI.
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