Gov. Northam signs ‘energy efficiency law’, Virginia first southern state with ‘100% clean energy standard’

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Governor Northam is continuing efforts to make Virginia an energy-efficient state as he signed a bill Sunday making the Commonwealth the first southern state to transition to clean energy by 2050.

The governor signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act that commits to providing 100% carbon-free electricity by removing harmful carbon emissions and obtaining clean energy from renewable sources such as solar or wind generation.

Northam announced he is also amending the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act that requires Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which is the first U.S. mandatory market-based program to limit carbon dioxide from power plants.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act was passed as Delegate Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan Jr.’s sponsored House Bill 1526 and Senator Jennifer McClellan’s sponsored Senate Bill 851 both of which regulate electric utilities. The Act also covers Executive Order Forty-Three issued by the governor in Septemeber 2019. The order expands access to clean energy and the growth of energy-related jobs.

“These new clean energy laws propel Virginia to leadership among the states in fighting climate change,” said Governor Northam. “They advance environmental justice and help create clean energy jobs. In Virginia, we are proving that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.”

The legislation covers energy efficiency promotions and puts a timeline standard stating that coal-fired plants are to close by 2024, and Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power will be 100% carbon-free by 2045 and 2050, respectively.

Energy companies will pay penalties for not meeting the objectives and the revenue from the penalties will go towards job training and programs in disadvantaged communities.

According to the legislation, there will be a reduction of energy burned for low-income users and all energy-efficient standards and pilot programs are to be “in the public interest.”

The statement released says the Act may potentially create thousands of new jobs as Dominion Energy will now be required to hire local workers from “disadvantaged communities” and open apprenticeship and job training.