Virginia Emerging as Clean Energy Front-Runner

Virginia is for lovers – and clean energy enthusiasts. The state is becoming a leader in the green energy movement through its policies, public support and commitment by the state’s largest utility.

Dominion Energy’s Commitment to Renewables

In September, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order, which called for the state to source 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, and become entirely carbon-free by 2050. Dominion Energy, the state’s largest utility signed a record renewable energy deal with Virginia in October. In its deal, the utility company pledged to supply the entire state with renewable power from wind and solar to cover the 30 percent goal eight years ahead of schedule – by 2022. This move, according to Dominion, is the “largest procurement of renewable energy by a state.”

How will the state’s largest utility accomplish this? Dominion Energy has vowed to generate 420 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy over the next three years from:

  • 75 megawatts of wind projects
  • Four solar projects totaling 345 MW

As it stands today, Virginia generates 6.8 percent of its electricity from renewable power – a majority of which comes from nuclear energy and includes burning biomass.

Support from Conservatives and Liberals Alike

In Virginia, which leans conservative, public support for renewable power comes from both sides of the political spectrum. Lee Vogler, Vice-Mayor of Danville, who serves on the advisory board for Conservatives for Clean Energy Virginia, says that much of the state’s growth in clean energy technology is due to resident support. He writes in an op-ed:

“From our most recent public opinion poll, 88% of voters agree that we should accelerate the growth of clean energy to allow innovation and entrepreneurs to drive economic growth and job creation. Eighty-six percent of voters agree that Virginia should give businesses and consumers more choices about how to transition to clean energy.”

Volger recognizes the importance of diversified generation, and the impact renewable technology has on jobs for the state of 8.5 million.

“Our capacity for safe and reliable energy generation from wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, hydro, geothermal, biofuels and carbon capture technologies are driving a clean energy renaissance that’s creating jobs, strengthening national security and preserving our environment,” Volver writes.

Sustained Clean Energy Growth

As of mid-2019, Virginia had 802 MW of solar installed statewide, or enough to power 90,000 homes, reports the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). In addition, there are over 3,800 jobs directly linked to the solar industry – a total investment of roughly $1.06 billion, Volger reveals. With prices having fallen more than 30 percent in the past five years, solar is becoming more affordable for both Virginia residents and commercial customers.

Offshore wind is set to explode in Virginia. Dominion Energy recently launched a pilot program with Orsted to build two 6MW wind turbines. This is only the second offshore project in the U.S., and reportedly the first fully permitted wind project in federal U.S. waters.

In order to sustain this growth, Devin Welch, chief strategy officer at Charlottesville-based Sun Tribe Solar, says the state needs more “common-sense advanced energy policies.” To start, he recommends that Virginia expand its Power Purchase Agreement pilot program to allow each of the state’s nonprofits, schools and faith-based organizations access affordable solar power. A clean energy standard, he adds, will also help residents become more energy efficient, while saving on their utility bills.  

Job Creation Across the Commonwealth

Virginia, home to 8.5 million Americans, ranks 10th in the nation in terms of clean energy jobs. At the end of 2018, the Commonwealth had about 95,100 of its residents employed in clean energy, according to E2’s Clean Jobs America 2019 report (released in April). The state’s energy efficiency jobs employed the most people, at 78,670. Clean vehicles had the second-highest rates at 5,436 of Virginia’s working class, followed by solar at 4,241 and wind jobs at 1,628.

The Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), released a factsheet in August that took data from the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. The AEE says that jobs in Virginia’s “advanced energy” grew at 4 percent, which was three times the state’s overall job growth last year (1.5 percent).

As the demand for clean energy increases, public policies to prompt smarter energy investments can help the state move forward in achieving its aggressive renewable energy goals.

If you want to find a career in Virginia’s clean energy economy, start by creating your free professional profile, and begin your job search today!

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