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Virginia’s troubling near failing clean energy/energy efficiency position

September 21st, 2017 · No Comments

Yet another report, yet another sign that Virginia is (far) behind the times when it comes to leveraging the clean-energy revolution to create economic activity and help address climate change.  In this case, “Solar Power Rocks” has gone through and rated the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As to Virginia,

“Solar in Virginia: about as bad as you might think!” The state’s big utility company, Dominion Power, offers an anemic performance payments program, which will help homeowners now but isn’t guaranteed to be there in a few years. All in all, the “D” grade is earned

That 38th spot ranking: a drop of three slots from last year.

Grading on a curve: Virginia’s Solar D position

Regretfully, the above solar ranking is far from the sole example of where Virginia is at the back of the pack across the nation.  From earlier this year,

Table 1: Various Measures of States related to “Climate Issues”

Category Best Worst Virginia Source
Per Capita Energy Use New York Louisiana 30 EIA
CO2 Emissions Per Capita Washington, DC Texas 18 EIA
Energy Efficiency MA/CA (tied) North Dakoa 33 ACEEE
Energy Efficiency New York South Carolina 35 Wallet Hub
Home Energy Efficiency Utah Louisiana 36 Wallet Hub
Car Energy Efficiency New York North Dakota 31 Wallet Hub
Worst Industrial Pollution  Ohio 14 World Atlas
Toxic Chemical Releases Rhode Island Alaska 20 Scorecard
Renewable Energy Leaders Oregon Smart Asset
Clean Energy Momentum California Union of Concerned Scientists
Greenest States Vermont Wyoming 31 Wallet Hub
Environmental quality Vermont Montana 46 Wallet Hub
Eco-Friendly Behaviors Oregon Louisiana 39 Wallet Hub
Climate-Change Contributions Delaware Montana 15 Wallet Hub

For Virginians aware of the Commonwealth’s tremendous risks from climate change and (potentially even more) tremendous opportunities for prosperity through climate action, to say that those middling-to-bad rankings are frustrating is (at a minimum) angering, frustrating, depressing …

As Lowell Feld put it at Blue Virginia,

So much for Terry McAuliffe’s vow to make Virginia the “energy capital of the East Coast.” Heck, we’re not even the energy capital of the mid-Atlantic…or anywhere else. Massive #FAIL by all involved in making Virginia energy policy.

Clearly, the Commonwealth’s political structure (with a gerrymandered GOP control of the State Legislature) and culture (with Democratic Party politicians seeming to think “The Virginia Way” requires them to compromise even while most in the GOP don’t seem to know how to spell the word) contributes to these laggard ratings.  Related to this, of course, is a Public Utilities Commission that seems more enthralled with “utility” interests than in serving “public” interest.

Dominion Power’s heavy fossil-fuel preference, climate-change denying CEO, and massive (out-sized) influence on the Commonwealth’s politics (and politicians) plays a heavy role.

And, Democratic Party leadership that seems too tied to Virginia’s coal past (rather than creating a prosperous future for Virginia’s coal country and its residents), behind-the-times when it comes to climate change risks and opportunities, too ready to ‘pre-compromise’ in the clean-energy and climate arena, and willing to take public relations coups over substance also is a serious contributing factor.

Right now, Virginia is a laggard even as key portions of Virginia (Norfolk/Newport News/Virginia Beach) are among the areas of the nation most at risk from climate change. Right now, Virginia is a laggard even as it doesn’t have to be.

Just yesterday, one of the leading candidates to be Minnesota’s next Governor released Minnesota-Powered Plan. While there are tremendous differences, obviously, between the two states, this is the sort of serious — both in terms of the substance supporting the proposal and the specific proposed items — proposal and action that Virginians should expect to see from their political leaders.  Sadly, right now we are still waiting … perhaps Ralph Northam can read that plan before swearing in as Virginians next Governor and, when he takes the helm, take action that will truly make Virginia “the energy capital of the East Coast” through opening up solar opportunities, changing the game on energy efficiency, and with projects like an electric school bus program, greening public schools, and making the Tidewater region the East Coast’s capital for offshore wind.

NOTE: For a perspective on where Virginia lies, see graphics here.

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Tags: solar