Virginia Clean Economy Act: Ambitious goals for environment

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Legislation to give Virginia a 100 percent carbon-free electricity grid by 2050 will be introduced in the Virginia General Assembly in January.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Del. Rip Sullivan, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and Del. Alfonso Lopez joined representatives from a broad coalition of advocacy groups Thursday to announce the introduction of the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

The bill would also set the goal to eliminate carbon pollution by Virginia’s utilities by 2050.

“It’s time for Virginia to take bold action and become a national leader with a strong 100% clean energy standard,” McClellan said. “The Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 will catapult Virginia’s clean energy economy, keep power costs low, and protect Virginia communities from the damaging impacts of climate change. We don’t have any longer to wait. We must act now to grow clean energy jobs and protect the future for our children.”

The legislation would use investments in energy efficiency to lower people’s power bills and reduce overall energy demand. It would also enact a Renewable Portfolio Standard that requires all power produced in Virginia be carbon-free by 2050, creating jobs and making power cheaper, and commit Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and eliminates all utility pollution throughout Virginia by 2050.

The bill would also ensure that the clean energy economy benefits all Virginians by reducing barriers to rooftop solar, allowing for community solar projects so renters and lower-income families can take advantage of solar power, and by directing the majority of energy efficiency investments to low-income communities.

“I have worked hard to move Virginia forward in the energy efficiency and renewable energy space since I first came to the House of Delegates,” Sullivan said. “Virginia’s progress has been much too slow, but an opportunity to up our game and meet this enormous challenge is upon us. The Virginia Clean Economy Act represents a historic step forward for the Commonwealth as we come together to improve our energy efficiency, reduce our carbon emissions, and provide better, cleaner choices for consumers.

“Climate change is a proven, imminent, and growing threat to all of us, and I am eager to see this important bill pass so that we can work on a large scale to mitigate its effects and finally develop a modern, reliable, clean energy portfolio,” Sullivan said.

“I am honored to be the chief co-patron on the Virginia Clean Economy Act,” Carroll Foy said. “Our climate is in crisis and need bold solutions. Climate change will disproportionately hurt people of color and low-income individuals. We need to lead from the front in order to address this issue.”

“This legislation represents a significant step forward for Virginia in the areas of clean and renewable energy,” Lopez said. “Today, Virginia is poised to make huge strides in the creation of clean energy jobs over the coming years. In significant ways, this bill will help spur clean energy workforce development in the Commonwealth and help Virginia become a leader in the new clean energy economy. I’m proud to be one of the Chief Co-Patrons.”

Industry, advocates respond

A broad coalition of nearly two dozen businesses, environmental and social justice groups also announced their support for the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

“Achieving the goals of Gov. Northam’s Executive Order on clean energy will be a win for Virginia consumers and our economy. The broadly supported bill introduced today will reach these goals and has the potential to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the Commonwealth while saving Virginia families an average of $3,500 over the life of the program,” said Harry Godfrey, executive director of business group Virginia Advanced Energy Economy. “By supporting this legislation, the General Assembly can deliver an equitable energy system that is run on clean, secure, and affordable energy.”

“We are thrilled to see Virginia consider moving toward a carbon-free electricity grid,” said Mark Goodwin, president and CEO of Apex Clean Energy. “As a Virginia-based renewable energy company, Apex is proud to be a part of the renewable energy economy and to provide jobs right here in our own backyard. We are encouraged by the leadership of the governor, the legislature, and the Virginia Advanced Energy Economy in their efforts to make this goal a reality, and we look forward to the continuing discussions.”

“I got up this morning and for the first time in as long as I can remember I was excited about the future of solar power access in Virginia,” said Richard Caperton, Arcadia Power’s senior director for policy and market development. “Solar energy has traditionally been available only to homeowners with the capital and perfect housing conditions to put panels on their roof, but the VCEA will make it possible for Arcadia to provide everyone in Virginia with access to the benefits of shared solar power. We can’t wait to get to work building a future where all Virginians have easy, affordable access to clean solar energy.”

“When the people of Virginia elected a clean energy majority this fall, they sent a message calling for strong action on climate. This bill answers that call,” said Harrison Wallace, Virginia director of the CCAN Action Fund. “The Virginia Clean Economy Act prioritizes investing in energy efficiency, which will lower bills and benefit ratepayers over utility monopolies like Dominion, all while making Virginia a trailblazer on climate action in the South.”

“Ceres welcomes the introduction of the Virginia Clean Economy Act as a smart, business-friendly way to tackle carbon pollution,” said Alli Gold Roberts, director of state policy at Ceres. “More than 56 companies across Virginia have goals to power their operations with 100% renewable energy because they understand that economic growth and emissions reduction go hand-in-hand. Greening Virginia’s electricity mix will help attract major companies working to meet ambitious sustainability goals and unlock private sector investments in Virginia’s clean energy economy.”

“The Virginia Clean Economy Act quashes the tired contention that the transition to a carbon-free future requires raising prices for customers,” said Lizzie Hylton, the political director at Clean Virginia. “By unleashing distributed energy, prioritizing energy efficiency, and implementing overdue common-sense policies like closing loopholes that keep polluting plants running, this legislation allows Virginia to lead in the fight to combat climate change while also saving Virginia families money now and in the long run.”

“Sustainable and renewable energy growth and practices are a critical component of securing a safe and reliable energy grid and world for future generations,” said Leigh Anne Ratliff, account executive with CPower. “CPower is proud that we can help the State of Virginia and its organizations toward achieving this exceptional goal.”

“During the 2020 General Assembly, Virginia has a real opportunity to take an important step to grapple with the existential threat of our time: climate change,” said Elly Boehmer, Environment Virginia state director. “The Virginia Clean Economy Act would put Virginia on the path to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050 through breaking down barriers to distributed power and capping dirty fossil fuel emissions while also lowering overall energy needs through investments in energy efficiency. This would mean less pollution and more clean energy in Virginia. The Virginia Clean Economy Act incorporates best-practice policies with data-driven roadmaps that will put Virginia on an aggressive but practical path to curb emissions while protecting rate-payers. We urge the 2020 General Assembly to pass the Virginia Clean Economy Act and take historic steps in moving Virginia in the right direction to protect our health and climate.”

“We all know the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow all the time, which is why energy storage has such a critical role in Virginia’s future vision for a clean energy economy,” said Ray Hohenstein, market applications director at Fluence. “We applaud this bold proposal to deploy cost-effective, clean energy technologies in our home state, and look forward to supporting these efforts to make Virginia a national model for smart, sustainable energy.”

“Just a few weeks ago, over 70 Virginia faith communities and congregations participated in Climate in the Pulpits, an effort to uplift the moral responsibility to act on the issues of climate change and environmental justice,” said Kendyl Crawford, director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. “Setting standards for clean energy and energy efficiency while addressing the weight of energy burden on low-income families lays a powerful foundation for moving toward climate justice.”

“MDV-SEIA is proud to be a coalition partner of the Virginia Clean Economy Act that will activate the solar market in the Commonwealth, spurring thousands of new well-paying jobs while eliminating arbitrary barriers to solar for all Virginians, including renters and low-to-moderate income communities,” said Rachel Smucker, Virginia policy and development manager for MDV-Solar Energy Industries Association.

“I support the Virginia Clean Economy Act as a mother and a member of Mothers Out Front,” said Mothers Out Front Volunteer Leader Jessica Bull. “This is one more step towards the healthy environment we work so hard to build for future generations. Virginia deserves the clean economy this bill hopes to create, along with mindfulness for the environmental effects on frontline communities and the job growth it promises. I am grateful to Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Reps. Rip Sullivan and Jennifer Carroll Foy as well as all other co-sponsors.”

“Seeing a large, influential state like Virginia take serious strides to achieve a 100% clean energy standard shows growing demand for achieving net-zero emissions economy wide,” said Renee Stone, vice president for climate at the National Audubon Society. “We support this practical, ambitious approach, as we support all climate solutions that reduce harmful emissions at the speed and scale necessary to deal with this serious threat.”

“Virginians deserve long-delayed climate action in 2020 on three fronts – energy efficiency, emissions-reductions, and equity – and the Clean Economy Act will deliver on each one, for a cheaper, cleaner, and fairer economy for all,” said Walton Shepherd, Virginia policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

 

“The Virginia Clean Economy Act provides our commonwealth with a pathway to a 100% carbon free future that protects vulnerable communities, who shoulder the burden of energy costs and environmental impacts. This bill will create healthier communities and reduce energy burdens for Virginians, regardless of where they live,” said Corrina Beall, legislative and political director of the Sierra Club Virginia chapter.

“Sigora Solar is excited to support the Virginia Clean Economy Act and its advancements in distributed generation solar and energy efficiency,” said Karla Loeb, chief policy and development officer at Sigora Solar. “This legislation will increase access to distributed generation solar in ways not previously possible, growing the residential, commercial, shared, and low-to-moderate income markets exponentially. The growth will create jobs, improve energy efficiency, and allow Sigora to fulfill its commitments to our neighbors, partners and customers. We look forward to working with our coalition partners to shepherd this bill through the legislative process and to supporting an equitable clean energy transformation in Virginia.”

“The announcement of the Virginia Clean Economy Act marks a critical moment in the development of clean energy in the Commonwealth. If passed, it will move the solar industry forward by leaps and bounds in the state. It creates jobs, cleans the air, reduces utility bills and combats climate change — this is a bill all Virginians can support,” said Tony Clifford, chief development officer at Standard Solar Inc.

“One thing is clear: the time to act is now, and passing this legislation will create jobs, save money, and ensure Virginia remains a national leader in building a 21st century economy,” said Devin Welch, chief strategy officer of Sun Tribe Solar. “Lawmakers in Richmond ready to lead on this issue will find that the Commonwealth is home to a clean energy sector with the experience, skill, and willingness to make Virginia’s goals a reality.”

“The inclusion of an energy storage target in the Virginia Clean Economy Act will ensure that the Commonwealth is able to reliably and affordably meet its clean energy and environmental goals,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the U.S. Energy Storage Association. “The 2.4 gigawatt energy storage target in the Virginia Clean Economy Act derives from robust analysis in a recent study of energy storage potential costs and benefits, which was conducted by the Virginia Solar and Energy Storage Development Authority. Passing this legislation will send the necessary long-term policy signal for energy storage companies to invest in the Commonwealth and develop a local storage industry, securing Virginia’s place as a leader in energy storage policy.”

“Clean energy is healthy energy. Doctors, nurses and allied health professionals across the Commonwealth strongly support a 100% carbon-free electric grid to protect Virginians’ health today and our future tomorrow,” said Samantha Ahdoot, MD, chair of Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action

“The Virginia Clean Economy Act sends a clear message: Virginians want the Commonwealth to take bold action on climate change,” said Mary Rafferty, executive director for Virginia Conservation Network. “We need to take our polluting power plants offline, increase investments in energy efficiency, and allow our neighbors to put solar on their rooftops. Moreover, we need to do this while protecting ratepayers and ensuring that no community bears disproportionate impacts from our energy production. It can be done, and we look forward to working with the General Assembly this session to make climate action a reality.”

“We don’t have time to waste to address the climate crisis, and this legislation is the most comprehensive and commonsense approach to climate action yet. The voters have spoken – they want bold leadership on climate change and it’s time for the General Assembly to deliver results,” said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “We thank our patrons for pushing this ambitious package and look forward to securing strong safeguards for our health, economy, and our climate in 2020.”


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