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Virginia Signs Blockbuster Renewable Energy Contract With Dominion. That’s The Good News

The state of Virginia has signed a 20-year deal to purchase renewable energy from solar farms operated by Dominion Energy. It’s an encouraging first step.

The state of Virginia has signed a deal with Dominion Energy that it calls the largest single renewable energy agreement by any of the 50 US states. Virginia has lagged behind other states when it comes to renewable energy. For instance, it is one of only 9 states without a single wind turbine within its borders. Recently, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple complained loudly to Virginia’s State Corporation Commission, saying that Dominion refuses to supply them with the electricity from renewable sources they crave for their operations within the state.

Renewable Energy Dominion

Image credit: Dominion Energy

The agreement calls for Virginia to purchase 420 megawatts of renewable energy, 345 megawatts of which will come from solar installations owned by Dominion. An additional 75 megawatts will come from a new wind energy project planned by Apex Clean Energy of Charlottesville. The 20-year agreement calls for a base rate of $34 per megawatt-hour for the solar power and $35 per megawatt-hour for the first five years of the wind energy. The wind base rate will increase to $53 per megawatt-hour in the sixth year and rise further over time.

Governor Ralph Northam says, “Virginia is leading by example and demonstrating how states can step up to combat climate change and advance a clean energy economy.” The electricity will supply about 30% of the needs of all state government buildings by 2022.

“Based on market projections and safety built into the contract, we expect the state will save millions over the contract term,” Alena Yarmosky, a spokesperson for the governor, tells the Washington Post.  “We view this as a win win. Not only are we investing in renewable energy and moving towards a cleaner energy economy, we are saving the state money at the same time.”

What could possibly be wrong with this picture? Dominion Energy has been dogged in its opposition to renewable energy for years, adopting the “It’s our electricity, damn it, and we will decide how to make, distribute it, and how much to charge for it” philosophy so prevalent throughout much of the US utility industry. It has been especially hostile to rooftop solar.

“Today’s announcement is like a moment of sunshine on a rainy day,”says  Sierra Club Virginia director Kate Addleson. “If Dominion wants to do right by the customers and communities they serve, then they will cancel projects like the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Union Hill compressor station, support access to customer-owned solar, and stop opposing pollution reduction plans.”

That $7.8 billion pipeline will carry natural gas derived from fracking and has divided the people of Virginia into warring camps, especially in rural Buckingham county where the route will run through Union Hill, an historic African American community. Construction is on hold after opponents won federal court decisions saying that permits had been awarded hastily and improperly.

New legislation last year modified the way the Corporation Commission regulates the utility industry and allows Dominion to take some of the money it would otherwise return to customers and use it to invest in renewable projects. As a result, Dominion is now planning the largest offshore wind farm in the nation 27 miles out in the Atlantic ocean east of Virginia Beach. One can only imagine the benefits that would accrue to the people of Virginia if the $7.8 billion budgeted for Atlantic Coast pipeline were invested in renewable energy resources instead.

 

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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