RICHMOND — Virginia’s new energy plan takes an “all of the above” approach, although it is not as all-encompassing as it seems. Much of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s plan will involve consideration of a variety of energy sources such as natural gas, biomass, nuclear power or renewables, and experts contended the plan includes a few drawbacks.
Dallas Burtraw, senior fellow at Resources for the Future, said the plan has minimal discussion about utilizing more renewable-energy sources. Instead, there’s an increased discussion on alternative energy sources.
“They do say they preserve a role for renewables, but explicitly and strongly suggest a role for natural gas and nuclear,” Burtraw pointed out. “What’s inconsistent about that is the history over the last decade or 15 years with nuclear is very poor.”
He recalled the abandonment of the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina, and the $9 billion cost associated with it.
Burtraw acknowledged one beneficial element of the plan is expanding the role of expert analysis and citizen participation through Virginia’s State Corporation Commission. He remains wary given the agency’s past issues with transparency, but he hopes reforms within the agency by the state Legislature will improve the chances of success.
The new plan comes just as Youngkin has announced Virginia will be pulling out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate cap-and trade-program aimed at reducing pollution from fossil-fuel power plants.
Burtraw noted the initiative has reduced costs for ratepayers in other states, and there will be implications from Virginia’s decision to leave.
“It will raise the cost for the state to achieve its greenhouse-gas reduction goals,” Burtraw emphasized. “It will raise the costs for ratepayers, there’s no question about that. Virginia is actually well positioned; an advantage within RGGI, such that by being a part of the RGGI region, there were actually benefits flowing to the state and to Virginia ratepayers.”
Given Virginia has a goal of being carbon-neutral by 2045, leaving the initiative seemed to stifle the goal. A 2018 study found the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has created a $4.7 billion net benefit for consumers, in addition to creating more than 40,000 jobs. Burtraw feels it is a part of the plan which needs to be reversed to help Virginians save on energy costs.