Advanced energy momentum is building in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam met with 10 AEE member companies – executives from Apex Clean Energy, CLEAResult, EnelX, EVgo, Greenlots, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, Sun Tribe Solar, Veolia, and Volkswagen of North America. The Governor opened the meeting by asking the companies to share what Virginia can do to help them create more jobs in the Commonwealth. He had recently issued an Executive Order calling for 100% carbon-free energy by 2050, with 30% of Virginia’s electric power coming from renewable energy sources by 2030. Shortly thereafter, Virginia AEE released a study that showed the economic benefits – in bill savings, jobs, and economic growth – of meeting the 100% clean energy goal by 2050, if not before. There’s much work to be done, but the path to an advanced energy future for Virginia is clear.
On Sept. 17, Gov. Northam issued Executive Order 43, which also called for at least 3,000 MW of solar and onshore wind to be under development by 2022, along with 2,500 MW of offshore wind by 2026. “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 Gov. Northam, in issuing the order. “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.”
Virginia AEE hailed the Governor’s action. “We applaud the Governor for setting clear goals and driving Virginia's transition to 100% clean energy," said Harry Godfrey, Executive Director of Virginia AEE, in a statement. “We are confident that, using an array of advanced energy technologies, we can readily meet the Governor's goal while helping to save money for Virginia families and businesses and grow our economy."
That confidence was quickly validated, in a report produced for AEE by the Greenlink Group, in association with GridLab. "Virginia’s Energy Transition: Charting the Benefits and Tradeoffs of Virginia's Transition to a 100% Clean Grid” utilizes the ATHENIA Model – resource planning software similar to what is employed by utilities – to assess the impact of transitioning to zero-carbon electricity.
The report assesses three scenarios – reaching zero-emission electricity by 2030, 2040, or 2050, respectively – and compares them with a “business as usual” projection based on utility plans. The report finds that all three zero-carbon scenarios produce savings on electric bills for an average household; net benefits in job creation, labor income, and state GDP; and reduced local and global air pollution, over the period 2020 to 2050.
All three Zero Carbon Scenarios show net economic gains, as well as health and environmental benefits, over the 30-year period. The greatest economic benefits come from making the transition most rapidly – by 2030 – though initial electric bills are higher. By spreading decarbonization out over a longer time horizon (achieving 100% zero carbon by 2040 or 2050), Virginians realize household bill savings every year through 2050, with average households saving a total of $2,500 to $3,500 over the 30-year period, though the gains in jobs, income, and GDP are somewhat lower.
Findings of the report include:
- Residential electric bills are significantly lower over the 30-year period in every zero-carbon scenario. Compared to business as usual, the average total household savings from 2020 to 2050 range from $1,500 under the Zero Carbon 2030 Scenario to $3,500 under Zero Carbon 2050.
- Every major local and global air pollutant is reduced substantially. The cumulative value of avoiding the public health costs related to localized air pollution is greater than $3.5 billion and the value of avoiding greenhouse gas emissions is greater than $25 billion.
- All zero-carbon scenarios lead to net job growth from new energy efficiency measures and new renewable and battery storage resources. On average, Zero Carbon Scenario job creation exceeds business as usual by an average of 7,000 to 13,000 jobs per year.
- Based on cost-benefit analysis, the zero-carbon scenarios offer total benefits ranging from $80 billion to $106 billion as compared to business as usual, and net benefits ranging from $13.6 billion to $80 billion.
“This report shows that Virginia has everything to gain, and nothing to lose, by pursuing Gov. Northam’s goal of 100% clean energy,” said Godfrey. “By making the switch to advanced energy technologies, Virginians will see savings and economic growth while enjoying cleaner air. The only question before us is how quickly to make that happen.”
The report was released in a press event featuring a residential solar energy installation and energy efficiency audit by Sigora Solar in Warrenton, VA. “The news from this report is good for consumers, and good for Virginia’s economy,” said AEE Director Dylan Reed, at the event (video here).
Heather Burns, Vice President of Human Resources for Sigora Solar, spoke about the company’s “produce and reduce” program, a “whole home” approach to household energy performance that combines energy efficiency improvements with rooftop solar installation – and about Sigora’s rapid growth.
“Sigora employs over 200 employees and now we are looking to double in size over 2018,” said Burns. “We continue to hire in the Commonwealth of Virginia and we continue to invest in building partnerships to help grow and train people to get top talent in our organization.”