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Inside Clean Energy: With a Pen Stroke, New Law Launches Virginia Into Landmark Clean Energy Transition

Posted by Dan Gearino on Apr 16, 2020

Inside Clean Energy covered the passage of the historic Virginia Clean Economy Act noting AEE's role, quoting bill patron Sen. Jennifer McClellan. Read excerpts below and the entire Inside Clean Energy piece here. 

During the months that Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan worked to pass a groundbreaking clean energy law, she liked to say that the process was like trying to land a plane that was on fire. Then, when it passed, she found a new metaphor: It was like landing on the moon. "I literally wanted to jump up and say, 'The eagle has landed,'" she said. The bill, which Gov. Ralph Northam signed on Sunday, makes Virginia the latest state to require a transition to 100 percent carbon-free or renewable energy, and the first in the South...

The Virginia law was made possible after Democrats gained control of the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate in last November's elections, to go along with the party's existing control of the governor's office. McClellan was a lead sponsor of the measure, which says the state must end the use of fossil fuels in the electricity system, by 2045 for large utilities and by 2050 for other electricity producers. This transition begins with a moratorium on new fossil fuel power plants that begins now and will last until 2022, at which time the legislature could extend it.

This is a big shift for a state that got 61 percent of its electricity from natural gas last year, plus 3 percent from coal. Nuclear is the other major source with 31 percent, and all renewables are in the low single digits. While closing the door to fossil fuels, the law sets the parameters for big expansion of renewable power. It says Virginia must develop 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2034, more than double the previous target. The law also increases caps that otherwise were limiting the growth of rooftop solar and allows for new financing methods for customers who want rooftop solar...

The law will have a transformative effect on Dominion Energy, the Virginia-based utility that serves a majority of the state's customers. Rather than oppose the bill, Dominion engaged in the process and helped to shape the measure in a way that gives the company an opportunity to grow by building and owning renewable energy projects.

McClellan said the bill was able to pass because its supporters built a coalition of clean energy businesses and environmentalists. One of the central players was Advanced Energy Economy, a trade group for clean energy companies that acted as a bridge to the broader business community, she said.

The coalition worked with lawmakers to come up with a bill that could get enough support to pass. It was the culmination of work McClellan had been doing since she was first elected to the legislature in 2006. "The real lesson is patience and persistence," she said. "You may not get what you want the first time, but you keep at it, you keep at it, you keep building that coalition..."

Read the entire Inside Clean Energy piece here. 

Topics: AEE In The News