Virginia passes 100% clean power mandate

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Virginia is the newest state to join the 100% clean energy mandate, as Gov. Ralph Northam has signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which requires the state to go fully renewable by 2050. The signing made Old Dominion the 30th state to establish a renewable mandate.

Additionally, the Virginia Clean Economy Act requires the state’s utilities to procure 16 GW of solar and onshore wind, accompanied by just over 3 GW of energy storage. On the distributed side, the bill expands net metering in a fashion that local installers have said will “exponentially grow the rooftop solar market in Virginia.” These procurement targets are anticipated to create 29,500 new jobs, with provisions that those jobs are given predominantly to local workers from historically disadvantaged communities.

As for interim goals, the bill directs Dominion Virginia and Appalachian Power Co. to supply 30% of their power from renewables by 2030. All coal plants in the state are now set to close by 2024, while all carbon-emitting power plants must be shut down by 2045 for Dominion and by 2050 for Appalachian. Any utilities that miss this date or the other targets outlined are subject to fines.

“This is historic, and there isn’t quite any other way to put it,” said Rachel Smucker, Virginia policy and development manager for the Maryland Delaware Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association in March, upon the bill’s passage in the state legislature. “The Virginia Clean Economy Act will transform the Commonwealth’s economy, usher in a new age of energy deployment that will create a market for distributed generation like we’ve never seen before, and help turn back the tide against climate change.”

Virginia currently ranks 18th in the country in terms of total installed solar capacity thus far, at 893 MW. While the 29,500 new jobs created will be across the spectrum of renewable technologies, that number will include a marked increase in the amount of solar jobs in the state, which currently sits at roughly 4,500.