Editor: Over the next 15 years, Dominion Energy plans to build at least eight new gas power plants to meet the growing electricity needs of Virginians. Yes, eight.
This represents a massive investment that Virginia ratepayers will be obligated to pay and locks us in to 20+ years of harmful, dirty, fossil fuel generation. In addition, the rapid advances in renewable energy will likely make these investments obsolete long before their planned lifetime. In fact, solar photovoltaic technology is now “cost-competitive” with natural gas according to Dominion’s own 2018 Integrated Resource Plan. Moreover, recent legislation states that 5,500MW of solar and wind energy is in the “public interest”, effectively guaranteeing their approval.
According to the federally mandated National Climate Assessment that was just released in November, climate change is having significant harmful effects in the U.S. right now. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and overall human health have already been negatively impacted. Major damage to property and infrastructure has already occurred. In the absence of substantial greenhouse gas emissions reduction, climate change will continue to impede economic growth as the cost of agriculture, energy production, industry, and recreation go up for Americans. It’s all there, in the report summary (nca2018.globalchange.gov/).
Recognizing the urgent need to address this issue, Del. David Reid has introduced the Renewables First Act (HB 1686). This law would require that the next 5,500 MW of new electricity capacity come from renewable energy sources before any new fossil fuel facility is constructed.
Is this feasible? In 2017, less than one percent of Virginia’s total electricity generation came from solar sources. Our neighbor, North Carolina, generates more than seven times as much electricity from solar as we do. They pulled it off. So can we.
Natural gas is not “clean” as some purport. It is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, and leaks associated with its drilling, transportation and use negate its lower-carbon advantage over coal. There is another way and it’s cost neutral. The Renewables First Act would redirect the millions of dollars slated for fossil fuel plants to 5,500 MW of clean, renewable sources of electricity such as solar and wind.
Paying for electricity bills is never a joy, but if we pass the Renewables First Act at least we could take a breath of fresher air, have a sip of cleaner water, and know we are taking concrete measures to reduce property damage and stabilize our economy. Zero Carbon Virginia urges all Virginians to reach out to their representatives in the Virginia General Assembly and ask them to pass the Renewables First Act.
[The writers are members of Zero Carbon Virginia (zerocarbonvirginia.com)]