Virginia’s Landmark Zero-Carbon Bill Calls for 5.2 Gigawatts of Offshore Wind, 2.7 Gigawatts of Energy Storage

The final version of Virginia’s Clean Economy Act cleared the state’s House of Delegates and Senate on March 7, and now awaits Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s signature. The legislation codifies the 2050 clean energy goal that Governor Northam laid out in an executive order issued last September. The bill calls for more wind and solar power, including net metering provisions to boost rooftop solar, and lowering energy waste through efficiency standards. The law sets an offshore wind target of 5.2 gigawatts by 2034, the third-largest state commitment in the U.S. Further, the bill requires utilities Appalachian Power Co. and Dominion Energy Inc. to procure at least 400 megawatts and 2.7 gigawatts of energy storage capacity, respectively, by 2035.

Among other provisions, the bill calls for regulations establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program to limit and reduce the emissions released by electric generation facilities, consistent with the model rule of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nine-state compact that established the nation’s first mandatory emissions-trading program to limit power sector emissions.

The offshore wind target is next only to New York’s 9 gigawatts by 2035 and New Jersey’s 7.5 gigawatts by 2035. The law also declares that more than 16 gigawatts of onshore wind and solar power is in the public interest.

The bill establishes an energy efficiency standard, requiring each investor-owned incumbent electric utility to achieve incremental annual energy efficiency savings that start in 2021 at 0.35 percent, increasing annually until 2027 to achieve at least two percent of its average annual retail sales in the three preceding calendar years.