Gov. Ralph Northam released his 2018 Virginia Energy Plan on Tuesday and, as expected, it’s heavy on renewables, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and modernizing the electric grid.
Northam calls his 10-year strategic vision for energy policy an “ambitious path forward” that could bolster both the state’s economy and energy security.
“The clean energy sector has the power to create new business opportunities, expand customer access to renewable energy and spark the high-demand jobs of the 21st century,” Northam said in a statement.
Virginia could take the lead in a critical industry, he added, by shifting to a modern electric grid that’s “reliable, affordable, resilient and environmentally responsible.”
The plan makes policy recommendations in five key areas: solar and onshore wind, offshore wind, energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicles and advanced transportation.
Among its recommendations:
• Achieve at least 3,000 megawatts of solar and offshore wind energy by 2022; expand the state’s net metering, power purchase agreement and community solar programs; and double the state’s renewable energy procurement target to 16 percent by 2022.
• Develop 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2028, and support Dominion Energy’s planned 12 megawatt offshore wind turbine demonstration project.
• Expand state-sponsored efficiency programs and financing; set a 16 percent renewable procurement target and a 20 percent energy efficiency target for state agencies; and increase annual investments by utilities in energy-efficiency programs – to $100 million a year by Dominion and $15 million by the Appalachian Power Co.
• Increase collaboration on and evaluation of emerging energy storage technologies.
• Continue to promote alternative-fuel vehicles; adopt an Advanced Clean Cars program; develop a comprehensive electric vehicle transportation plan, with set targets for charging stations and the state’s vehicle fleet; make the state’s electric grid more resilient and ensure investments don’t unfairly impact low-income and minority communities.
The state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy was charged with developing the energy plan and submitting it to the governor, the State Corporation Commission and the General Assembly by Oct. 1.
To gather input, DMME held five public listening sessions earlier this year throughout the state, including one in Hampton Roads in July that focused on offshore wind energy.
DMME Director John Warren said his agency “made a diligent effort to ensure every stakeholder and citizen had a say.”
Dominion spokesman Dan Genest said Tuesday the company is still reviewing the plan, but that it has already made strides in many areas.
Among utility holding companies, he said, Dominion owns the fourth-largest solar fleet in the country, growing its solar fleet from 1 megawatt to more than 700 megawatts in operation or in development in Virginia.
The company is still working toward a small wind turbine demonstration project in a federal lease area off Virginia to determine the feasibility of a full-scale commercial wind farm that one day could power more than half a million homes.
And it’s expanding its use of renewables, battery storage and energy efficiency during the next 10 years, plus looking to better incorporate wind and solar energy into the grid, Genest said.
Northam’s plan is less popular with the Virginia Petroleum Council in Richmond. On Tuesday, VPC Executive Director Miles Morin noted that petroleum used in transportation makes up more than 40 percent of the total energy the state harnesses each year, while natural gas generated more than half of the state’s electricity in March 2018.
“It is myopic to ignore the necessity of natural gas and oil for the commonwealth’s energy future,” Morin said.
Even the solar and wind power industries are dependent on petroleum, he said, which makes up 25 percent to 40 percent of the materials used to produce a solar panel and up to 42 percent of a wind turbine.
He urged maintaining a “robust natural gas and oil transportation network” to prevent supply bottlenecks and keep electricity prices low.
State law requires that the governor’s energy plan “ensure the availability of affordable natural gas.”
“An ‘all of the above’ strategy is the only option for a diversified, clean and reliable energy portfolio,” Morin said.