Northam: 100% Clean Energy by 2050

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam has issued an executive order outlining how Virginia can reach the goals of producing 30% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and 100% from carbon-free sources by 2050. The governor’s vision relies heavily upon solar power, offshore wind, and energy storage, while emphasizing “energy equity” for “communities of color” and lower-income Virginians.

Northam’s plan relies heavily upon Virginia’s investor-owned utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Co., to make investments in solar, wind, and energy-storage, and contemplates no significant changes to the existing electric-utility framework. The plan also has won the blessing of at least one of Virginia’s leading environmental groups.

“Governor Northam’s announcement today shows real leadership on climate change in the face of its absence at the federal level,” said Will Cleveland, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in a prepared statement. “It’s time for this kind of cost effective, smart and modern solution to bring Virginia into the future.”

Virginia currently has a statewide goal of achieving 5,500 megawatts of wind and solar energy by 2028, at least 3,000 megawatts of which should be under development by 2022. In furtherance of this goal, states the governor’s order, Dominion has committed to build up to 500 megawatts annually of utility-scale solar and onshore wind through a competitive procurement process, and to implement a process for procuring smaller-scale energy, including rooftop solar. Apco has instituted a procurement process for 200 megawatts of utility-scale solar

The governor’s plan also envisions reducing retail electricity consumption by 20% by 2022 (using 2006 as a baseline) by means of tighter building codes, energy performance contracting, private financing, $870 million in investment by Dominion in energy-efficiency programs, and $140 million in Apco energy-efficiency programs.

Northam also wants to move full steam ahead on offshore wind. A 12 megawatt demonstration project currently under construction is expected to lead to a larger offshore project of 2,500 megawatts that could be fully developed by 2026.

Solar and wind are intermittent energy sources, and provisions must be made to supply electricity when the sun and wind aren’t cooperating. Dominion is developing a 30 megawatt battery-storage pilot program, and Apco is investing in a 10-megawatt project. Further, notes the order, “pumped hydroelectric storage facilities are now deemed in the public interest.”

The plan also addresses issues “related to equity and environmental justice.” Clean energy resources, states the order, “shall be deployed to maximize the economic and environmental benefit to underserved communities while mitigating any impacts to those communities.”

The Commonwealth will play a major role in advancing the governor’s goals by procuring “at least 30 percent of the electricity under the statewide electric contract with Dominion Energy from renewable energy resources by 2022,” and investing extensively in energy efficiency.

Issues not addressed: The governor’s order makes no mention of nuclear power. All four of Dominion’s nuclear units are up for license renewal within the time-frame covered by the plan. Dominion wants to keep the aging plants in place to provide a zero-carbon base-load capacity. Many environmentalists oppose renewal of the licenses.

The order also avoids any mention of natural gas, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Dominion regards natural gas as the logical back-up for intermittent solar and wind for the foreseeable future, but environmentalists say it makes no sense to make long-term commitments to natural gas infrastructure when new battery-storage technologies are being developed that might make gas obsolete.

In his statement, the SELC’s Cleveland said that a zero-carbon future will “ensure efficient, in-state, low-cost electricity.” Virginia is second only to California as an importer of electricity from outside the state, and a gas/wind/storage portfolio arguably support more jobs and tax base in the state.

On the other hand, it is harder to support the claim that Virginians will enjoy lower electric rates if it means accelerating the phase-out of coal-fired plants, shuttering gas-fired plants, building offshore wind in the absence of a maritime infrastructure to support it, and constructing a pumped-storage facility in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia. Further, while advances in battery-storage technology look promising, there are no guarantees that batteries will slide down the same lower-cost curve as solar and wind. Expect all of those claims to be subjected to close scrutiny as the debate over energy policy unfolds.

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29 responses to “Northam: 100% Clean Energy by 2050”

  1. It doesn’t look like Northam will get a free ride from the Left. Here’s the reaction from Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons that just arrived in my in-box (my emphasis):

    This announcement from the Northam administration underscores that Virginia must chart a course for a cleaner, healthier and more economically vibrant future. We’re pleased that Virginia is joining other states that have pledged to take serious action on climate. But current state policies and plans for new fracked-gas infrastructure like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines directly contradict the executive order’s ambitious goals.

    Achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity requires reforming the law to remove barriers to distributed clean energy and ensure Virginians are not locked into paying for obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure. Virginia must enact policies that prioritize equity and environmental justice over profits for monopoly utilities, and that assist communities most impacted by the shifting energy economy.

  2. Rebelathrt Avatar

    I’m skeptical of the viability of renewable energy sources. I believe that the cost to maintain these sources of energy are going to be astronomical. I look at the inability of North Carolina Aquariums to maintain just three windmills at Jennette’s pier. Currently all three windmills are inoperable.

    1. That’s an argument for sure that we don’t want state-operated wind turbines!

  3. 30-years ought to give us enough time to figure out if this makes sense, or not. We have to be pragmatic: we can go with whatever solution makes Virginia/USA successful. Whether or not this is wishful thinking will be revealed with the passage of time.

    One thing to keep in mind, natural gas can be used at your house for winter heat, or it can be used at the power plant and you can heat your house with an electric heat pump. Virginia does a lot of heat pumps. Other northeast states use more natural gas directly to the houses, and are therefore are able to boast less carbon intensty to make electricity. But what really matters is the overall state carbon foot-print and energy use, and not tunnel vision on what the utilitiies are doing.

    Another thing is electric imports. By using imports we can divert our carbon emissions to other states such as PA, WV, OH. What good it is that? I recently learned 20% of Los Angeles power comes from one coal-fired power plant in Utah, and I suspect they have other out-of state carbon sources. Also CA has much import of hydro power from out-of-state. Also Ca. has no winter.

    All states are not created equal, and we need to realize carbon-free is not as readily attainable for all states. We have very little onshore wind in Va., and offshore wind is currently mega-expensive ( a fact held as top-secret in Va.). Some say it will get cheaper to do offshore, so who knows long term?

  4. It just amazes me that our leaders refuse to see/read/hear what has happened in Europe with solar and wind energy. Also, just the other day I heard a conversation on the high cost of replacing solar panels. In your earlier blog, you quoted a consultant who commented that replacing solar farms would leave rich, fertile land below it. Is that true science? As with climate change, science isn’t being followed here, just the whims of people who have no science knowledge but who think they know it all! Follow the money.

    1. Lars Schernikau argues on Watts Up With That ( that we have captured most of the gains from solar and wind. We can eke out more energy from solar panels and wind turbines than we are now, but we have reached the point of diminishing returns — no Moore’s Law operating here! He also is skeptical that the cost of battery power will decline enough to make it a viable large-scale backup for solar and wind.

      I have no way to evaluate his claims. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s not. But I do think politicians and pundits should acknowledge that there is some uncertainty regarding how fast the technology will advance.

      1. He makes some interesting points. However, he makes the same fundamental mistake that most energy planners do, that the future will be mostly like the past. I heard so many arguments about the physical limits to the capacity of computing devices, but look how far we have come.

        His most basic mistake is assuming that we will keep increasing our energy usage. The most monumental change in our energy system will be how much more we can make and do without using more energy. This is the pathway to prosperity. Every industry that lags behind on productivity will be left behind. The energy energy will be devastated if it does not transform.

        Our freedom of choice and being chained to a few existing providers is being determined by our continued approval of projects that require us to pay for them for the next 30-40 years whether they have value to us or not.

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          Lot of truth there. One of my clients, for which I obtain experimental radio licenses from the FCC, is experimenting with remote sensors used in remote stream valleys and major freeways. The devices consist of sensors, radio chips and a processor that is encased in a covering made by a 3D printer. The devices are powered by two AA batteries.

          One of the experimental goals is to make the batteries last five years. You cannot travel 300 miles to check on a sensor that measures stream flow and water levels during flash floods or regularly dig up a speed and vehicle volume sensor on a freeway entrance ramp.

          Research has taught that the biggest factor in power consumption is the operation of the sensor. Professors and grad students, therefore, work to simply the computer code so that it works more efficiently and consumes less battery power.

          Energy breakthroughs will not come from the alternative energy industry, which is consumed by religion and rent-seeking from taxpayers. Until we force out nonprofits from participating in public policy debates, the American consumer will never see reliable, renewable power at cheaper prices.

  5. I think the key words in Northam’s proclamation are “carbon free,” which nuclear is. I guess this means we will see a big off-shore wind presence and at least one or more additional pumped-storage units for ready back-up power. It may mean the eventual withdrawal of Dominion from PJM, since the capacity obligation of that organization would mean tens of thousands of “extra” solar and/or wind generation, since each has a very low capacity credit under PJM rules. This would also imply running the North Anna and Surry nuclear units into the 80 to 100 year range, a somewhat disturbing thought.

    1. Tens of thousands of “extra” solar and/or wind generation megawatts…too slow on the edit.

    2. Yes basically Northam is proclaiming his wish that Virginia needs to go full-out on off-shore wind, which Hampton Roads is seeing as an enormous economic opportunity. But hold onto to your pocketbooks!

      All the Northeast elected officials are excited about forcng offshore wind with associated construction of plants, so Virginia faces stiff competition unless we move fast and furious to take a lead role.

    3. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Yep. The Navy retires submarine reactors at 30 years and carrier reactors at 50 years.

  6. djrippert Avatar

    An executive order pertaining to 2050 from a governor who was a lame duck the day he was inaugurated.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Yep. It’s a political document. The pandering/bidding in other states is up to 100 percent and now VA is better aligned with AOC’s Green New Deal talking points. Expect no details or cost estimates, certainly not until after Nov. 5…..which is all about turnout.

  7. The Governor’s plan would move Virginia towards more solar, offshore wind, and energy storage. However, the method he recommends depends primarily on such projects being developed by the investor-owned utilities and put in the rate base. This is a very expensive way of accomplishing what would happen more quickly and less expensively if we removed the obstacles to customers making their own choice about their energy sources.

    Paying utilities for developing solar requires us to pay about twice the project cost in profits to the utility. The same applies to offshore wind. All other states on the east coast are expecting independent developers to offer offshore wind at fixed prices for the life of the project, not so with Dominion. Utility programs for energy efficiency would often provide lower savings at a far higher price than could be accomplished by independent providers whose projects would create no added cost to ratepayers.

    The pumped storage project proposed in southwest Virginia will add billions in higher energy costs to families and businesses throughout the state in exchange for a few million in higher tax revenues to communities in southwest Virginia and billions in added profits for Dominion shareholders.

    Adding more renewable, carbon-free sources of energy in Virginia can be a good idea. But the method chosen by the governor is essentially a multi-billion dollar handout to a few energy companies at the expense of the citizens of Virginia and our state economy.

    It is true that wind and solar generation is not available 24 hours a day. However, the output is very predictable and there is a great surplus of generation in PJM to deal with the variations in output. Batteries have many valuable uses and are rapidly decreasing in price. But there is no reason to wait on batteries for wind and solar to have a valuable contribution in Virginia and lower our energy costs, if developed in the right way. The amount of renewable energy that we plan to develop in Virginia over the next 5-10 years would benefit from battery storage, but not require it.

    Having the state government acquire renewable energy from independent sources would lower the cost of electricity to state facilities (compared to utility prices) and help establish a vibrant energy industry in Virginia without the need for subsidies. The subsidy in the governor’s plan is for the utilities.

    Our utilities can still prosper by improving and maintaining a modern grid that will facilitate a two-way flow of energy and information. Monopoly power does not entitle them to charge higher prices for services that can be provided more cheaply by other providers. There will be opportunity for everyone in a properly designed energy system. This would unleash innovation and job creation, create more equity for lower income energy consumers and provide a secure path forward for our leading energy companies. A governor that was focused on what was good for all of Virginia would support a plan like that.

  8. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Found that without too much trouble doing a search on Granted, some solar has been added to that 313,000 megawatt hours since 2017, but the 30 percent target calls for 27,000,000 megawatt hours renewable by 2030. Will be taking that bet right now…..Generously VA was at 6 percent in 2017….Solar capacity factors in VA really stink, and even offshore wind won’t provide much reliable capacity. But some voters are stupid.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’ll agree that Northam’s statement is an uber political one.

    But solar is a proven technology and the canards about it wearing out are just silly. When they wear out, you replace them with a more modern, more efficient version just as you would for any power plant of any source.

    And the entire state of Virginia could be powered by one site about 30-40 miles on a side.

    And the argument against doing that is what?

    that it “wears out” and can’t generate at night?

    so, let’s get this straight. If someone said we could cut the amount of gas we burned in half – by using solar – it’s a bad thing?

    We’ve got a ways to go and I’m a skeptic of “storage” AND we have to admit that solar – with storage has to be what we compare to gas or nukes.. it’s not solar alone, it’s what it takes to provide electricity at night – from solar – so we’re not there yet.

    And until we are “there” – the night will be powered by gas.

    that’s just the reality.

    but it’s certaintly no reason to NOT use solar for daytime and save how much gas we burn and how much Carbon we generate.

    We are so bound up on the partisan divide these days – that good is the enemy of perfect.. there is not perfect… it’s all about doing what you can do – we will NEVER, in our lifetime go to 100% renewables. It’s a nice goal and we better do what we can to stave off climate change but these all or nothing propositions don’t get it – on either side.

  10. […] (Source: Bacon’s Rebellion) Governor Ralph Northam has issued an executive order outlining how Virginia can reach the goals of producing 30% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030 and 100% from carbon-free sources by 2050. Read full article…. […]

  11. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    This is not about good vs. perfect, this is fantasy vs. reality. There is always going to be a need for base load generation, 24-7, and nuclear may not be sufficient or may not survive at all for economic reasons or environmental fears. Without the nukes Virginia would be in a world of hurt if TomH and his friends also eliminate natural gas as an option for base load. And that is their goal.

    There will be a limit to how much can come from wind, solar and battery storage and beyond that limit, reliability will come into question. If you lie awake afraid of CO2 (while exhaling it), the electricity industry is a small part of the issue.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Oh I AGREE with you with respect to base load at night but base load during the day for many days is possible if we have enough solar/wind and to the degree we can do that – we reduce the need for gas as base load. I’m abivalent about Nukes but certainly agree, the challenge with renewables would be far higher without our nukes and closing our Nukes to “replace” them with wind/solar would be disastrous.

      Most people – as the polls show – want to reduce the use of fossil fuels despite what Conservative types feel – Most of the Dems and Independents want to go in that direction – forthwidth – not an overnight change to grid that is harmed and unreliable but step-wise increament changes that gradually move us to more and more less polluting energy and that includes demand-side changes to reduce the overall demand.

      But having the right demonize the entire effort by pointing to the most extreme on the left is just bogus… and it makes me wonder what exactly is the motivation of that kind of attitude.

      Most of us – KNOW that we have had in the past and continue to have adverse impacts on the environment – our air quality, the Chesapeake Bay, mercury and toxics, PCBs, Kepone, DDT, you name it – we have a long history of it and yet we have folks who have opposed the cleanup all along – the same folks – and now the argument is “we’ve cleaned up enough and we are now ok and if we don’t stop we’re going to harm the economy – that’s the very same argument against clean-up originally… ”

      We can do better than we are doing right now – and we should – no matter what the extremists on both sides are saying – the folks in the middle want to reduce emissions… that’s the bottom line.

  12. Steve,

    I believe you have misunderstood much of what I have said.

    First of all, baseload is not a type of generation, it is a type of demand – that which exists 24 hours a day. The lowest-cost, zero emissions method of dealing with baseload is through energy efficiency. This is also the best way to boost our economy.

    It will not be possible to refurbish our nuclear units in Virginia to extend their life from 60 to 80 years and produce energy from them at anywhere near a market-competitive price. The proposal to do so from our utility is mostly to provide billions of dollars in added profits to shareholders.

    Certainly our utilities are committed to providing a reliable supply of electricity. Until we revise the way we pay them them, they will keep wanting to add more generating capacity even though demand is not increasing. That is what the governor’s proposal is all about. You have advocated on behalf of industrial customers in the past, and more recently written about how residential and commercial customers will pay more from our current energy policy. I am puzzled as to why you are willing to expose utility customers to much higher prices just to maintain business as usual.

    We have developed a number of technologies in the past few decades that do not require monopoly power or 35-40 years of guaranteed profits in order to develop them. I would think that would appeal to fiscal conservatives and libertarians. Utilities can still receive a fair return by doing what is good for their customers.

    I am a realist about gas. The newest units will probably be able to generate economically for at least 10-20 more years. We have a significant amount of gas-fired generation in Virginia. It now comprises the largest share of our generation; more than what we will need for future baseload requirements.

    My argument is why build more? From a total greenhouse gas perspective, burning gas has about the same effects as coal. Although there are other negative factors with coal to be sure. But gas is not the “clean” energy source it is advertised to be. Drilling for gas in shale formations has contaminated more than a trillion gallons of water. The new pipelines said to be needed to supply new generation in Virginia are harming our land and water. We don’t need them to have all of the gas we need and they will add billions to our energy costs.

    We have created a national energy policy that will increase our gas prices significantly. And more than 2700 MW of new gas-fired capacity is scheduled to be in service in Charles City County by 2022. The profit motive and the fear of not having enough is driving us over a cliff.

    If we open our energy industry to innovation and cost-savings, who knows what we will come up with by 2030 or 2050. But we can significantly overhaul our current system with existing technologies and rely less on the old combustion technologies from the 1800s.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    If you distill this down to a simple argument – that we can and should for both economic and environmental reasons – “burn” solar and wind – WHEN WE CAN – and when we cannot – then burn gas – until and unless we develop cost-effective storage – we should.

    what is the reason against this? There is nothing extreme about this argument – zero. It’s common sense. We have more than enough gas right now and for a long time – and the more we add solar and wind – the less gas we will need – but no question it will remain a critical fuel for a long time.

    we continue to make this issue one about extremes.. why?

  14. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Tom, while I have railed against foolish spending on energy efficiency, which merely enriches the utility and its contractors, I agree that plenty of demand can be squeezed out. I look forward to real time usage information from a smart meter, and time of day pricing, and additional efforts at active demand management (sure, send me $10 to set the thermostat somewhere else!). Like you I look at Dominion’s demand growth projections and laugh. And like you, I doubt that another 20 years can be squeezed out of North Anna and Surry without massive investments (and subsidies to try to keep PJM buying.) But without nukes beyond the mid 30s, I think we will be building some more gas plants. Lord willing I’ll be 80 something when those plants close. Need something to run the ventilator…..

    See, now that’s where we need a carbon tax – let’s put it on methane that escapes uselessly into the atmosphere. It seems the price of gas is so low there is no incentive to keep it all for the end use….I am surprised that preventing methane escape is not a higher priority, given its much more of a greenhouse gas than CO2.

    Larry, it is fools on the other side who promise 100 percent this or that, which will save the planet from destruction, and shout “denier!” when you point out that 20 years of model projections continue to be proven simply wrong and Green Germany is in recession. I’m all for adding solar, wind, want to see if the battery technology can help, and do not doubt we can get our power with far less (but never zero) emissions. Who knows, fusion may come. 🙂

  15. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Indeed, it seems odd that Northam would lave off nukes. It also raises questions about the pipelines and whatever markets there are more them. Those questions have never been answered adequately and I keep seeing m mirages of LNG export facilities on the coat.
    Also, I do not see the difference between what Northam wants to do and RGGI. Is it the tax thing? One thing that must come into play is Trump (who hopefully will leave in 2021). We need some kind of insurance that all federal programs will not be gutted. That’s why regional approaches and frameworks are needed. Or, thae California, which has tougher regs than the feds. Trump wants to undo them. I have done some research work involving California in the past couple of years and find it insightful how much more regional and local their approach is. And, please no putdowns on how Calf. is overregulated. It has a much bigger economy than Virginia’s and is much more of a leader.

  16. Stuboy1947 Avatar

    Hmmm. I’m wondering if the little country of Costa Rica can commit to eliminating all carbon emissions by 2050, why can’t the Old Dominion achieve carbon free electricity by then? Lots of work to do to get there. But hey we put men on the moon in about 10 years using technology not even invented when the commitment was made. Trouble today is mostly everyone protecting their parochial interests instead of committing to achieve the goal.
    Today’s electric utilities are facing the same problem as every industry whose time has passed. How do we change to meet the future? Seems to me they spend more time on protecting the status quo.

  17. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Committing to and doing are very different things. (Oddly, I recent saw one of the documentaries about the moon landing and as I saw the Saturn V launch started laughing about how today’s enviro’s would be freaking out over the emissions….)

  18. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Larry, it is fools on the other side who promise 100 percent this or that, which will save the planet from destruction, and shout “denier!” when you point out that 20 years of model projections continue to be proven simply wrong and Green Germany is in recession. I’m all for adding solar, wind, want to see if the battery technology can help, and do not doubt we can get our power with far less (but never zero) emissions. Who knows, fusion may come. ”

    I just continue to point out that the extreme left is NOT indicative of the mainstream more than the extreme right is indicative of mainstream GOP – which I think you are.

    Further – all enviros are not far left. In fact, polls show that a lot of mainstream folks are “enviros” for moving towards more energy efficiency and less pollution…

    At some point – we’re going to have a breakthrough for energy – a game changer than even Dominion cannot impede…and they’ll end up like other corporations that could not change and refused to evolve.

    Germany, by the way, there problem is gas – it’s not that they foolishly thought they could go to 100% renewables – it’s that (unlike the US), they do not have secure access to gas. Even then, I would not discount the Germans – look at what they achieved in WWII – technology wise – and truth to be know – the US rocket and space program grew up with German scientists who came to the US after WWII.

    We are lucky – we have substantial gas reserves – and because of that – we have this dichotomy of why convert to solar or pretend we can 100% when we have ample supplies of gas – which most perceive as “cleaner” than coal.

    Renewables are still not ready for prime-time – consider the Island of EIGG:

    ” Renewable power generators
    Three hydroelectric generators produce electricity from running water. The biggest hydro above at Laig on the west side of the island is 100kW, with two smaller 5-6kW hydros on the east side.

    Four small 6kW wind turbines below An Sgurr

    50kW Photovoltaic array producing electricity from the sun.

    Although the capacity of the scheme is around 184kW, not all renewable resources produce their maximum output all the time or at the same time. However, by having a balanced scheme of all three, we can maximise the available renewable resources and ensure there’s enough to provide all or most of the island’s electricity needs. Renewable sources have provided around 95% of our electricity since the scheme was first switched on in 2008.

    The remaining 5% is generated by two 80kW diesel generators to provide back up when renewable resources are low or during maintenance.””

    okay – so the point here is that they STILL NEED diesel – but a lot less of it since they do have solar/wind now. They still need the diesel just like we still need gas – and we use twice as much electricity per capita than those on Eigg Island…. Each house on Eigg has a dashboard that shows how much electricity is being used versus demand – and people actually reduce their electricity use when the dashboard shows demand is outstripping supply.

    Smart Meters – are more draconian – basically they work like the dynamic tolling does – they’ll double/triple the price of electricity in high demand periods – and your choice will be to cut back or pay through the nose – most folks will not like it but it will spur demand side conservation – which if you think about it – Dominion does not want – and I think they’re going to delay or try to prevent the implemenation of smart meters.. it will lower electricity demand – ergo profits.

  19. J. Abbate Avatar

    LarrytheG makes a couple solid points. Current data shows that the majority of ratepayers have shown an interest in having clean energy over polluting fossil fuel energy or as LarrytheG notes, these are generally “mainstream folks [who] are “enviros” for moving towards more energy efficiency and less pollution…”. Many ratepayers have shown an interest for renewable energy generation to the point of willingness to pay a bit more for clean energy generated power than fossil fuel generated power. That’s a market issue to note going forward. The truth is that renewable energy power is increasingly less costly to generate and less costly for the consumer and is now producing more new energy jobs than the fossil fuel industry including coal, oil, and gas. That’s a growing market issue that’s not going away. Of course we will continue this transition and will not transform the energy market overnight no matter how desperately some may want to move to renewable energy, but science, innovation, market issues, and the climate facts are real and we are on a path forward, not backward or staying put…we are on the path to cleaner energy. As LarrytheG states, “at some point – we’re going to have a breakthrough for energy – a game changer than even Dominion cannot impede…and they’ll end up like other corporations that could not change and refused to evolve.” Already powerful developments in battery and storage technology are occurring at the large utility level and are moving forward at the smaller scale level for commercial and residential implementation. The cost of building and maintaining clean energy infrastructure are competitive to and getting less than fossil fuel energy infrastructure. We need to support government efforts to facilitate the growth of solar at all levels in Virginia, which could more widely allow for clean energy development, rather than waiting for Dominion to “let” us move forward and challenge their monopolistic protective strategy. Maybe behind the scene, Dominion is already changing their business model re: renewable energy to adjust to the new market forces and preserve a positive position in the new marketplace. As we experienced in the computer market, some companies in the big computer business were able to transition to the new small microcomputer market with new strategies with software, services, and equipment that took advantage of the advancing innovations, while others (like Digital) remained taking profits from the old technology for a time, ignoring or fighting against the rising tide of real technology development until they were left behind.

    By the way, solar panels generally require very little maintenance. They are very durable and should last around 25-30 years with no maintenance. The only maintenance you should need to perform is to wash them clean of dirt and dust a few times a year at most, which you can easily do with a garden hose. They are built and installed to standards that protect against the normal climate elements of wind, rain and snow. When a solar panel rarely requires a replacement due to damage, that is accomplished easily and usually provides an upgrade of performance at a lessor cost.

    We are past the point of returning to a dirty energy past and now the market is turning…with major global investment firms like Rothschild moving away from fossil fuel long term investments and funding transition and major investments in renewable energy. Every major automaker around the globe is moving electric. The U.S. military, our country’s major institutional energy consumer, is on top of this transition as well. While the military has no plans to fully do away with fossil fuels, support for renewable energy has risen in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Pentagon relies on renewables both for military installations at home and in combat zones.

    The renewable energy train has left the station…now it’s just a matter of time.

  20. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    Late with this … Sorry … computer down

    Certainly, the promise by Dominion to proceed from the VOTAP project to building out the full 2013 offshore lease is a good sign. However, it is only a statement, as is the Governor’s Executive Order describing strong new goals for carbon-free power. Two questions remain: what is possible? and do we have the monies to change course?

    The state currently generates 6.8% of our electricity from renewables, mostly from nuclear. The Governor is designating 30% renewable by 2030. Two projections analyses of future renewable energy possibilities find plenty of opportunities to reach that goal. One is from NREL using GIF, and the other is “The Solutions Project” from Mark Jacobson’s team at Stanford University.

    The NREL analysis has listed GW potential generation as:
    PV solar urban utility scale 16
    Rural utility scale solar 1074
    Rooftop 19
    Onshore wind 2 Gov wants 5.5GW by 2028
    Offshore wind 89 2.5GW by 2026
    Total Renewable potential 1200 GW

    The Solutions Projects speaks in “percent of future generation.” They see Virginia’s opportunity to develop:
    Solar PV 25.5%
    Rooftop PV 7.7
    Onshore Wind 10.0
    Offshore Wind 50.0
    Hydro 1.3
    CSP 5.0
    Tidal .6

    The “Solutions” analysis makes choices while the NREL analysis just evaluates potentials. What is clear is that Virginia has a variety of potentials available for generating clean energy and yet we have not seen a schedule for retiring our 4.5GWs of coal. Both the emission statistics and the financial costs of coal show our coal plants should be closed as soon as possible.

    Electricity production is not a small part of our emissions. It creates 27.5 percent of 2017 greenhouse gas emissions. 62.9 percent of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, and that coal represents 67.9 percent of CO2 emissions from the sector. The low hanging fruit!

    The economics of coal … from Forbes … “in 2018, more than 42% of the world’s coal-fired power stations are running at a loss, and by 2030 it will be cheaper to build new renewable energy capacity than to keep coal plants running, according to the latest study from research group Carbon Tracker…. when coal plants will be forced to shut unless they can secure government subsidies or a delay or reduction in environmental regulations.”

    Here is the financial analysis of economics of Virginia’s coal regardless of the climate consideration ..
    1. 100% of Dominion Energy’s coal fleet has a negative EBITDA and we anticipate 100% will have a negative EBITDA by 2030; and
    2. 100% of Dominion Energy’s coal capacity has a higher long-run marginal cost (LRMC) than the levelized cost (LCOE) of either utility-sale solar photovoltaics (PV) or onshore wind and we anticipate this will be 100% by 2030.

    So, we have what we need to create clean energy. Breakthrough are not required, although by 2050 there surely will be some. The monies are there from the overcharges of the past few years, from the billions projected to be spent on outdated projects like the ACP and the planned additional gas plants and from the crazed hydro project in SW VA.

    Rent-seeking policy comes, not from non-profits, but from the industries themselves who are refusing to change in the attempt to protect the profits they receive for services that can now be provided more cheaply by other providers, as Tom has said. The Governor has taken a step forward. Where is the Legislature, the SCC and the public?

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