A wise person said if you don’t follow a map to where you want to go, you’ll definitely end up somewhere else. Virginia’s new 2018 energy plan is like a map to lead us farther down the road to clean energy progress. It’s newly released via Governor Northam’s administration. The content is by the state Dept. of Mines Minerals and Energy. A citizen input process which collected dozens of in-person statements at 6 different sessions and over 1,000 written comments. Here’s our analysis of why it’s important.
Why We Need an Energy Plan: We Have a Ways to Go
Let’s approach the state like Ipsun Power would approach a home pursuing a more affordable, cleaner energy future. The first step is always checking out your energy efficiency. Virginia, with an aging housing stock and limited utility programs to help save energy, needs attention in this department.
According to the ACEEE, Virginia now ranks 29th in energy efficiency among states. The 2018 Virginia Energy Plan calls on the state’s investor-owned electric providers to put $115 million annually into programs that improve energy efficiency. Examples of past programs include incentives to briefly cycle off air conditioners, heat pump and furnace tune-ups, LED light bulb giveaways, comprehensive efficiency assessments that look at insulation and seals, and extra refrigerator or freezer buybacks.
Blowin’ in the Wind, and Soak up the Sun (Apologies)
To further reduce dependence on fossil fuels while creating new economic activity, the next step is to increase renewable energy in the state. The plan recommends building out 3,000 MegaWatts of solar and land-based wind power by 2022. Today, Virginia has only 635 MegaWatts of solar, leaving us 17th in the nation (SEIA). By contrast, North Carolina already has over 4,490 MW of solar installed, according to SEIA.
Legislation in Virginia which passed earlier this year and the Governor recently signed into law states that up to 5,000 MW of clean energy can and should be added over coming years. It even designates this investment as “in the public interest” which is critically important language for making sure that state regulators can and do approve proposals to construct large scale installations.
As a solar installer, we know it will take friendly policies and streamlined paperwork to help us do our part to contribute to these robust goals. We look forward to seeing the Virginia General Assembly take steps to expand and safeguard net energy metering, protecting the full and equal crediting for solar customers for energy their systems produce, because solar is so valuable to our communities and residents.
Wind off the coast
Plus we are glad to see the recommendation for developing a full 2 GigaWatts of wind offshore of Hampton Roads, because the constant wind resource out there, especially at night, is a great complement to all the solar we’re building that produces during the day. (Have you wondered if offshore wind will be visible from the beach? It probably won’t, unless you visit in winter when there’s no haze and have incredibly good eyes! The turbines will be too far out. How do they plan to get the power to shore? Drop a thick cable to the floor of the continental shelf and connect to a grid hub that’s conveniently close by.)
Enhancement and modernization of the electric grid which the energy plan also discusses will help make these resources in different places with different capacities jive together.
95% of new energy added in 2017 was clean and renewable. These resources and the technology to use them are proven and Virginians can build these systems well and score major opportunities while doing so. The Virginia Energy Plan states that the agencies of the commonwealth will be leading by example with targets like 20% energy efficiency and 16% renewable energy procurement by 2022. New bills are adding to the conversation as well. As legislation develops in favor of solar and other renewable energy, our mission becomes more of a reality.
For everyone who commented during the listening sessions and feedback period, you made an impact. It feels great to have so much support for what we do every day, and we give Governor Northam and his administration tremendous credit for their leadership and look forward to helping blow past these goals in record time.
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