Last month we talked about governments failing to act on climate change. While federal governments on a global level aren’t acting, states and cities are standing up in their place. Virginia has passed a sweeping “clean economy act” that will replace their fossil fuel driven utilities with clean energy. The bill which passed Friday (March 6th, 2020) sets in place a time line to move to 100% renewable energy by 2050.1
The new act passed Virginia’s House of Delegates by a 51-45 vote, and the state Senate by a 22-17 vote over a two day span. One democrat voted against the plan, and one republican voted for it. The bill will now be sent to Governor Ralph Northan, who is expected to sign it.
Critics of the bill cite concerns about the price increase for ratepayers, which may see rates climb as much as $23 a month. Proponents say that no changes are free, fossil fuels are over, and the climate emergency warrants these measures.
Clean energy has citizen support
According to a 2016 statewide survey, the people of Virginia have supported clean energy for a long time.2 92% of voters want their candidates to disclose their opinions on energy, and 65% wanted Virginia to put more emphasis on wind and other renewables.
Other reasons for disliking the bill include the fact that it leaves the utility in too much control. Dominion Virginia already commands an enormous share of the market in Virginia. Those who opposed the bill worry this will only give the utility more control. Advocates say they can amend the bill later if necessary, in order to resolve any problems that crop up.
As it is, the bill is a huge step forward for climate action. The bill gives citizens clean energy options, such as solar metering. Solar metering allows customers with solar powers to store the energy they produce on the grid.3 The bill also allows the state more oversight of large projects, such as the huge offshore wind farm Dominion Virginia has on the coast.4
This bill is a powerful statement made by Virginia and its people. It defines Virginia as a leader in today’s growing race to stop climate change, and is expected to create as many as 29,500 new jobs.5
It’s a wonderful opportunity for both climate and growth, and could be a model for other states as we move forward to a greener future.