GOP Group Seeks Repeal of 2020 Energy Omnibus

Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility.

By Steve Haner

A Virginia GOP activist group aimed at suburban voters will be advocating repeal of the Virginia Clean Economy Act by the 2021 General Assembly, seeking to return a herd of cows that is well out of the barn and busting down the pasture fence.

The Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition has produced a short video (here) and is mounting a petition drive (here), both of which might have been helpful a year ago. Of course, a year ago the VCEA was just a bunch of closed conversations to which only Climate Crisis True Believers were invited. The final bill appeared out of thin air just before it got voted on.

The video focuses on just one aspect of the coming energy conversion, the plans to destroy 490 square miles of forests and farmland to cover the land with up to 30,000 megawatts-worth of solar panels. That may indeed be the least popular aspect with suburban Virginians, but the most expensive and risky part of the plan involves the coming offshore wind turbines.

On a parallel track in the opposite direction, the Climate Crisis True Believers are arguing that it was President-elect Joe Biden’s deep commitment to their cause that got him elected. A recent column in Virginia Mercury argued:

“In the home stretch of the 2020 campaign, presidential candidate Joe Biden leaned hard into the issue of climate change, giving a televised climate speech and running climate-focused ads in swing states. His campaign bet that this issue, once considered politically risky, would now be a winner.”

It seems more likely that the final tightening of the race, which produced such a painfully close outcome in key states, was driven by Biden’s late admission of his hostility to fossil fuels. You could see President Donald Trump’s final messaging on the topic moving votes his way in the oil and fracking regions.  Dreams of a Blue Texas and overall blue wave disappeared like smoke.

The VCEA votes in the General Assembly last year were almost but not totally party line. Senator Jill Vogel, R-Warrenton, supported it, perhaps with an eye on the Piedmont Environmental Council in her part of the state. Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, voted for it because it was good for his local Dominion Energy coal plant, which survived to demonstrate how the environmental promises of the bill are just window dressing.

The 33-page bill itself changed about ten sections of the Code of Virginia and about a half dozen previous Acts of Assembly. A bill to truly disentangle that would probably be just as long or longer. Given how many people and companies will be getting rich off it over the next few years, the odds of success range from hopeless to impossible.

If a major effort is mounted to repeal it, that will simply take attention and energy away from the 2021 battles, whatever they turn out to be. Virginia is just getting started down the road toward a California-style energy economy, with its high costs and brownouts. The next carbon tax battle will over transportation fuels, with the Transportation and Climate Initiative.

Expect other issues. The pattern with both the environmental movement and its ally, Dominion Energy Virginia, is to misdirect, dissemble, and then strike suddenly with their real legislation in the form of a late substitute bill.

But if this GOP activist group becomes a vehicle for education of voters, if the discussion over destroying forests for solar panels leads to a deeper understanding of the entire issue, then that might be valuable. The only hope for a change of direction in the Commonwealth is for a different electoral outcome next November.

This video has some punch. A similar video raising questions about costs and unreliability of the offshore wind energy would be useful. People also remain largely ignorant that soon their monthly electric bills will include 1) the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative carbon tax, 2) the Percentage of Income Payment Plan tax to protect low income households from exploding costs and 3) an added charge to cover utility losses and late fees from the moratorium on disconnections.

Over the past nine months, the American people have been told to trust the experts but instead have spent quite a bit of time and energy digging on their own and debating those experts. Some of what the experts have told us has turned out to be wrong. Some of what the experts have told us has been inconvenient to the progressive’s agenda (open the schools) and thus dismissed by them. And there are daily stories about our hypocritical leaders imposing rules on us that they themselves disregard.

The COVID-19 pandemic is real and the responses subject to experiment and testing. The real science on climate change does not support the alarmist agenda or heavy-handed interventions such as the VCEA. If the American people will pay the same level of attention to this invented emergency, the climate catastrophe narrative will quickly collapse. The 2021 General Assembly and subsequent election season are great places to start.

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17 responses to “GOP Group Seeks Repeal of 2020 Energy Omnibus”

  1. JuniusQuercus Avatar

    At this point, localities have quite a bit of choice as to how much acreage gets covered in solar panels. Do you see a GA (assuming its current makeup) deciding there’s not enough of “drive through Virginia” contributing to solar, and forcing it upon localities not yet with the program?

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Part of the GOPs problem is that they seriously do not understand a large segment of the population with regard to how they feel about the Climate issue as well as solar/wind and EVs.

    As usual, they are “skeptics” and deniers and call those who are not – “alarmists” but it’s really a large percentage of people.

    Is the GOP trying to “lead” or trying to tell others what to think?

    In terms of cutting down trees and using farmland, more silly boogeman stuff. How many mountaintops have been removed for coal and how many miles of trees removed for pipelines ? No trees need to be removed for solar – there is plenty of land already available. For instance, have you ever looked at a typical highway interchange that has large interior areas that are unusable for almost anything? Or for that matter, how about solar on those removed mountaintops or closed coal plants or even existing pipeline and powerline corridors? There are hundreds/thousands of places that are available without cutting one tree and destroying one foot of “farmland”.

    1. John Harvie Avatar
      John Harvie

      I suspect, but have not done a rigorous analysis, that at some point the cost of interconnecting small isolated solar areas (think mountaintops and interchanges) will out weigh the economic benefits.

      This will be even more costly due to the push for underground which is inherently much more expensive to build and maintain than overhead.

      Since I’ve been out of the utility business for some years I only posit this as a thought for consideration.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        The prime sites for big solar farms are near existing substations. That was the attraction of the site in Spotsylvania for that 5000 acre project.

        Not that different in some respect than gas plants which are located near gas pipelines AND substations.

        And not a tree was cut down for the project. They bought the land right after the trees had been harvested.

        Solar is not going to go away but neither is gas. But we’ll burn less gas when solar is available.

        And what solar also does is incentivize a more distributed grid so that power outages when they happen or less widespread.

  3. Elsewhere over much of the PJM grid, they have nice energy choices. I am having to help my 92-yr old mother in Pittsburgh decide on energy supplier. Currently Mom has INSPIRE on-shore wind, apparently with First Energy taking over as the grid operator (West Penn Power now as subsidiary). Pennsylvania honestly needs energy social workers to help older people decide what to do (hundreds of elec plan choices). But costs seem reasonable.

    We could get that, but that’s what we are probably are *NOT* going to do here. We want to mandate more expensive options (offshore wind in the deep ocean) and make Virginian’s pay for that higher cost, not mention coal ash re-location, carbon penalties, RGGI membership, other Dem mandates, etc.

    Off-shore wind is not totally a bad idea, might make sense, but we could use diversity with cheaper onshore wind like the rest of PJM, and we really need to play our cards for lower costs (perhaps Fed incentives for the high cost of offshore). But our elected officials are so hell-bent on “taking the lead” on the offshore wind, they are asking questions later.

    I saw the effect of NJ taking the lead on nuclear years ago. NJ must have had the highest elec cost in the nation when we moved there in the late 70’s. The NJ cost has moderated but still higher cost…and of course where is NJ’s former industry? Texas, China, etc.

  4. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    So I’ve been hearing and reading for years that renewable power costs are lower than fossil-fuel power costs. If this is true, where are the offers for consumers to switch and save money? There is a reason to give Dominion a monopoly on transmission given its incumbent network. But there are no sound reasons to give it a monopoly on retail power or generation. Dominion still has too much economic power within PJM.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      “Dominion still has too much economic power….” You can just stop there.

  5. […] GOP Group Seeks Repeal of 2020 Energy Omnibus  Bacon’s Rebellion […]

  6. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Raising energy prices is a bad idea. The premise is that homeowners will counter the price hikes by installing solar on their homes.

    Let’s test that. What about renters? Clearly, they cannot make this type of alteration to the premises? And what incentive does a landlord have to spend the money to install solar? Can rents be raised to recover the added costs? If so, what is the impact on tenants and affordable housing?

    How about people who don’t have a good southern or western exposure? How many mature trees will need to be removed for solar installations?
    How about people, be they young or old, who don’t plan to live in their home for the payback period?

    What about the limits on solar installations in the bill to protect Dominion’s revenue? What happens if and when people hit the cap?

    How will higher energy costs affect businesses that are struggling after COVID-19 impacts? Or ordinary residential customers? And what about those people who don’t qualify for subsidies as their income is just above the limits? What is the impact of higher energy costs on local economies; local taxes; state taxes; job growth/layoffs?

    A few more years of this and we can become a stupid state just like California. How well is their system working? Blackouts anyone?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Not solar TMT – conservation technology like LEDs and what if you got credits and rebates when you bought that technology – including landlords for apartments?

      Yes. The most expensive electricity in the nation is also the lowest per capita use.

  7. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    My wife and I own a rental house in Manassas Park. Why would we spend money on these items? Sure, the credit would reduce the cost of purchasing these items, but it’s not 100% and we cannot use rental losses (generally created by depreciation) to offset ordinary income on federal or state income taxes.

    Economic growth and increased quality of life has come from affordable and reliable energy.

    And by how much will this reduce global warming? Where is the cost-benefit analysis? This is one more example of giving rent seekers access to other people’s money.

  8. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    Why not consider the alternative of encouraging home and business owners to install solar and storage instead of utility scale solar? It seems that more distributed generation would help in many ways.

  9. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Economic incentives work only when they can motivate people to make the desired decisions. For example, raising the tax on cigarettes enable each smoker to decide whether he/she wants to quit smoking and get help doing so or spend more money for the same amount of “pleasure.”

    Any detailed analysis of the Virginia energy bill shows that it cannot do this. People whose houses offer only north or east-facing exposures to the sun have a substantially less economic incentive to install solar than those who have south or west-facing exposure to the sun. The former receive less economic incentives than the latter. This is different from raising the cigarette tax.

    Within the next few years, I’m going to retire and my wife and I will move to Raleigh. The payback period for solar just isn’t there. And there’s no assurance that the added costs above short-term savings on power bills can be recovered in the sales price of the house. This is different than smoking.

    And why would we spend the money to put solar on our rental house? We don’t pay the electric bill. I don’t believe we could raise the rent sufficiently to recover the cost of installing solar. This is different than smoking.

    And I don’t trust the system. No one can tell me with any certainty that making these economic sacrifices now will reduce the rate of temperature increase by a specific amount. What specifically do we get for the higher energy prices? If preventing a rise in sea levels is important, why isn’t Virginia also prohibiting new or reconstruction in areas likely to see higher water levels? Why are we allowing people to fail to mitigate losses? What protections do consumers have against speculative trading in greenhouse gas emission credits or their equivalent?

    What about China and India? Why should I sacrifice when there are few restrictions on those countries? Obama may trust them, but I sure as all hell do not.

    If greenhouse gas reductions are so important, why didn’t the GA stand up to Dominion? Why did the Democrats sell out ordinary people to get Dominion’s buy-in? For years I heard Democrats criticize the GOP for being soft on Dominion, but the Democrats turned around and did the same thing. This bill is just crony capitalism and the GA picking winners and losers.

  10. Virginia is frustrating re: elec.
    We have among the lowest cost and cleanest generation of all states, which could benefit the economic growth of our state. But our elected officials support a high profit margin to Dominion, so we end up with average elec cost. Dems see our current clean energy mix as deplorable because some natural gas is involved. So Dens are demanding much higher cost elec to meet their extremist requirements. Dominion pledges to help accomplish that due to even higher profit potential for them. Elected officials are enamored with ultra high cost utility projects, such as the failed nuke plant in South Carolina.

    It just looks politically hopeless to leverage Virginia’s favorable current energy mix into a better Virginia economy.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I think the days when high consumption industry was considered “good” economic development are gone.

      All industry nowdays is seeking to minimize their energy consumption not look for cheaper energy and locate there.

      And for the few that remain – they will negotiate directly with the provider to get a discount rate from the advertised rate.

  11. […] in the meeting to defeat House Bill 2265, an effort by Delegate Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, to repeal many of the major elements of the VCEA.  It died on the same party-line 6-4 vote.  Along with […]

  12. […] In contrast with that, CFACT’s Collister Johnson, Jr. in his article cited pledges from Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe to double down on the already aggressive pledges to get the state to at least a net-zero position (undefined, always undefined) by 2045 or 2050.  McAuliffe would push to get it done a decade sooner. Johnson is part of a GOP group seeking repeal of the centerpiece Virginia Clean Economy Act, topic of a previous post. […]

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