Virginia Clean Energy
Virginia's State Capitol - Image credit: Wikimedia

Two major goals, both set for 2050, and both from the state of Virginia have moved the US energy transition forward in recent days. Firstly, Dominion Energy, the state’s biggest power utility announced it’s plan to move to net-zero emission by the target date, but in another landmark move, the Virginia state legislature narrowly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, passing into law a requirement that all energy produced in the state be renewable by 2050.

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The new legislation, passed by a vote of 52 in favour, to 47 opposed in the House of Representatives, and by 21 in favour to 19 opposed in the state senate, also sets one of the largest energy storage targets in the country, at 2.4GW of storage by 2035, and also pushes state regulators to devise a carbon dioxide cap and trade programme compliant with Virginia’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The passage of the bill also sets targets for offshore wind, stating that the Virginia State Corporation Commission should approve new wind projects of up to 5.3GW of capacity by 2034, whilst the 2035, 2.4GW energy storage target includes interim targets in the run-up to the deadline. Dominion has already proposed a 2.6GW wind project off the coast planned for construction in 2024.

In addition to the RGGI, the bill prevents the commission from approving “any investor-owned utility to own, operate, or construct any electric generating unit that emits carbon as a byproduct of combusting fuel to generate electricity” pending review of a report by the Air Pollution Control Board, and further requires utilities and the commission to evaluate the social cost of carbon when considering a new power facility.

The Clean Economy Act “directs the [State Air Pollution Control Board] to adopt regulations establishing a carbon dioxide cap and trade program to limit and reduce the total carbon dioxide emissions released by electric generation facilities, which regulations shall comply with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative model rule,”

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