Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the signing of an Executive Order last week which establishes ambitious statewide clean energy goals and targets intended to ensure that 30% of the Commonwealth’s electricity is secured from renewable electricity sources by 2030, and that 100% of its electricity will be powered by carbon-free sources by 2050.
Northam, the Democratic Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia who took his seat in the 2018 elections, has had a mixed tenure as Governor but has made significant strides to ensure Virginia’s future is based on carbon-free energy sources. Signed last week, Executive Order Forty-Three establishes statewide goals and targets which set the Commonwealth on a path to 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2050. Governor Northam made the announcement last week at the Virginia Clean Energy Summit in Richmond, Virginia.
While some will likely take issue with the Governor’s plan to include nuclear generation in the Commonwealth’s long-term plans, the goals are nevertheless striking, putting Virginia on the same pathway as a number of other US states who have taken the lead in committing to renewable energy or carbon-free futures. Virginia will now move towards ensuring 30% of its electricity system is powered by renewable energy sources by 2030, and that 100% of its electricity will be produced by carbon-free sources by 2050 — which will include both renewable energy sources like wind and solar, but also the ‘carbon-free’ nuclear power.
“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,” said Governor Northam. “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. 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.”
“Virginia is already feeling the impacts of global warming in the form of rising sea levels, increased flooding, and more extreme weather events,” added Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “The public health, public safety, and economic consequences of climate change are undeniable, and this Executive Order is a necessary piece of our strategy to reduce carbon pollution and related emissions and improve quality of life for all Virginians.”
Already a number of US states and territories have announced their own 100% pathways — with some preferring to rely solely on renewable energy, and others allowing for nuclear in their carbon-free targets. Preceding Virginia are the States of Hawaii, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, New Mexico, Washington DC, and New York, as well as the territory of Puerto Rico.
Included within the Governor’s plans is at least 3,000 megawatts (MW) of solar and onshore wind to be under development by 2022, and up to 2,500 MW of offshore wind to be fully developed on an “accelerated timeline” by 2026.
“We applaud Governor Northam’s ambitious goal of 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind by 2026 and Dominion Energy’s announcement of a large-scale project that’s up to the challenge,” said Laura Smith Morton, Senior Director, Offshore Wind at the American Wind Energy Association. “Offshore wind will strengthen Virginia’s economy with many highly-skilled careers and new investments in the shipbuilding, port and coastal infrastructure needed to deploy and maintain this new American energy source.”
US electricity utility Dominion Energy, with nearly 7.5 million customers in 18 states including Virginia, has also joined the party and is proposing the development of a 2,600 MW offshore wind farm — easily the largest offshore wind development in the country. The company filed an application last week with the regional transmission organisation PJM.
“Offshore wind is an excellent renewable energy source and this filing with PJM shows how serious we are about bringing commercial-scale offshore wind to Virginia, giving our customers what they have asked for – more renewable energy,” said Mark D. Mitchell, vice president of generation construction. “Governor Ralph Northam has made it clear Virginia is committed to leading the way in offshore wind. We are rising to this challenge with this 2,600-megawatt commercial offshore wind development.”
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