News | April 15, 2009

Virginia Moves Closer to a Clean Energy Future

SELC and its allies helped shepherd bills through the 2009 General Assembly that make it more attractive for power companies to invest in robust energy efficiency programs, one of the top recommendations of Governor Tim Kaine’s Commission on Climate Change.

The legislation establishes a framework for Virginia utilities to develop customer-based programs that curb overall electricity consumption while granting power providers a fair rate of return on their investments in these programs. By compensating electric companies for lost sales, the measure removes a major impediment to utility-based energy efficiency. It also helps to level the playing field between energy efficiency and new power generation―a vital issue as we strive to keep the region from being saddled with more coal-fired power plants that lock us into decades of increased air pollution and global warming emissions.

While the new legislation is a good start, more work needs to be done. Lawmakers narrowly rejected an amendment from the governor—which we strongly championed—that set a voluntary goal of meeting 19 percent of projected electricity needs through energy efficiency by 2025. Found to be achievable by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, and recommended as a mandatory goal by the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change, this sizeable reduction in energy use would shrink Virginians’ cumulative carbon footprint by 240 million tons. 

Utility involvement is key to reaching this target, but financial incentives alone will not be sufficient to go the distance. SELC and its allies are already discussing goals for next year’s legislative session, and with the assistance of our Washington, D.C., office, we are striving to advance climate legislation in Congress that would mandate national energy efficiency targets for the first time.