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Jacobson: Virginia Poised to Lead on Green Energy

September 26, 2015, PilotOnline.com
By: Lisa Jacobson, President, Business Council for Sustainable Energy

With today's changing electricity markets, Virginia is well-prepared to meet the carbon-reduction goals established in the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan.

The nation's electricity sector is undergoing a sweeping transition that will provide consumers with far more choices in the way they buy and consume energy.

Through a combination of exciting new technologies, changing consumer behavior and smart public policies, these choices not only provide more options for affordable and reliable energy, they also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

By embracing these changes, Virginia will find that there is now an abundance of commercially available energy choices that will help the commonwealth meet the new EPA goals.

Virginia, like much of the country, is already shifting away from coal to low-cost, low-carbon natural gas.

And while renewables account for a small fraction of Virginia's power mix today, a study commissioned by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and written by Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that the state has several renewable technologies that compare favorably on cost with more traditional energy sources.

The study found that in Virginia, ratepayers have several clean energy options on the verge of being economically viable without incentives, including small hydro, combined heat and power and onshore wind. Further, subsidized solar and waste-to-energy are both cheaper than nuclear in Virginia.

The Bloomberg study also found that Virginia ranks near the bottom of the list in terms of overall efficiency efforts: State utilities spend a small fraction of electricity revenues toward achieving voluntary efficiency goals.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe's recent announcement to invest $20 million to improve energy efficiency in Virginia through the VirginiaSAVES program is a welcome start. Not only will these and other efficiency investments lower carbon emissions, but, done right, they also will lower customers' bills.

The Business Council on Sustainable Energy represents many of the Virginia companies that will provide the technology and solutions envisioned by McAuliffe's economic development strategy. Its diverse membership represents the three fastest-growing segments of the country's energy sector - energy efficiency, natural gas and renewables - and our members recognize Virginia's potential as a growing market for clean energy and the cost savings and jobs it brings.

Council-Board member Kingspan Insulated Panels provides high-efficiency building materials to an array of commercial businesses in Virginia, including ones in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

According to Paul Bertram, Kingspan's director of Environment, Sustainability and Government Affairs: "The country is at a crossroads when it comes to energy, and Virginia is ready to head in the right direction.

"Consumers across the state are already saving money thanks to Virginia's smart energy efficiency policies. We are confident that energy efficiency can and should play a central role in helping the state meet its Clean Power Plan targets, saving consumers even more money while helping to create jobs across the state."

Market forces mean that less-polluting - and often cheaper - power is inevitable. Through smart and timely implementation of the Clean Power Plan, Virginia is well-positioned to be a leader in the power shift that is unfolding across the nation.