Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order that establishes a goal for the commonwealth to produce at least 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources in about 10 years. Currently, the commonwealth produces less than seven percent of its energy from these sources.
The costs associated with building the new infrastructure have not yet been determined.
Northam is also seeking a plan to eliminate all carbon-emitting energy sources by the year 2050, which would eliminate all natural gas and coal energy sources, and move toward renewable energy and nuclear energy. The governor’s plan would require that 3,000 megawatts of solar and onshore wind are under development by 2022 and that 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind are developed by 2026.
The executive order does not establish specific rules and regulations on how to get there, but rather compels The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and other state agencies to develop a plan that would be considered by the state legislature.
“Since I took office, our administration has been focused on establishing a strong and bold vision for Virginia as we work to modernize our electric grid and reduce barriers to the development of clean energy resources,” Northam said in a news release.
“We know the importance of a true shift to reliance on renewable energy sources in reducing our carbon footprint, growing our economy, and creating the clean energy jobs of the future,” he said. “This Executive Order will help ensure that Virginia remains at the forefront of clean energy innovation, meets the urgency of the challenges brought on by climate change, and captures the economic, environmental, and health benefits of this energy growth in an equitable way that benefits all Virginians.”
Chris Bast, chief deputy director of the DEQ, told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary.
“The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.
Steve Haner, a senior fellow for state and local tax policy at the Virginia-based, free-market Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, told The Center Square via email that he expects these goals to cost taxpayers a lot of money
Although he said the initial goal of 30 percent is likely achievable, Haner added that building the solar and wind power plants for the projects could become quite expensive.
“According to Energy Information Agency data, 90 mill megawatt hours of electricity produced in VA (all producers) and only 6 mil or so was ‘renewable,’” Haner said. “Getting that to 27 mil in ten years will be a very expensive building program.”
Haner said that the 30-year goal is harder to envision, but that this goal will long outrun Northam’s governorship and that he thinks this executive order is mostly a political document.
Along with these plans, Northam’s executive order also directs state agencies and public institutions to reduce their energy consumption by 10 percent by 2022 with 2006 levels being the baseline.