On April 12, 2020, Governor Northam signed two signature energy bills into law: the Virginia Clean Economy Act (HB 1526/SB 851) and revisions to the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act (HB981/SB 1027). The laws advance several goals originally proposed by the Governor’s Office through Executive Order Forty-Three – Expanding Access to Clean Energy and Growing the Clean Energy Jobs of the Future.
“These new clean energy laws propel Virginia to leadership among the states in fighting climate change,” said Governor Northam in a press release issued by his office. “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.”
Each piece of legislation advances multiple goals for the energy sector and the fight against climate change. The Virginia Clean Economy Act sets a timeline for Investor-Owned Utilities to decarbonize their operations, with Dominion required to be carbon-free by 2045 and Appalachian Power by 2050. Nearly all coal-fired plants will be closed by 2024. It also establishes a new pilot program “to reduce the energy burden for low-income customers” through energy efficiency investments. The Act also promotes renewable energy generation through several actions, including the expansion of net metering compensation, doubling the state’s offshore wind target to 5.2 gigawatts by 2030 (including incentives for workforce and supply chain development), and requiring energy storage targets from each Investor-Owned Utility.
The revisions to the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act establish a statewide greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, enabling Virginia to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). It then directs the state sell all credits allocated to Virginia by RGGI in order to fund energy efficiency programs for low-income residents, and to finance loans and investments through the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund.