Last year, the Virginia Legislature passed, on a party line vote, a law misleadingly labeled the “Virginia Clean Economy Act” (VCEA). This bill radically changed Virginia’s energy policy, which for many years supported a balanced portfolio of electricity sources – coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, and a smattering of renewables. Instead, it replaced this regime with a mandate requiring Virginia’s two primary electric utilities – Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power – to generate all of their electricity exclusively from wind and solar sources by 2045. This action, Democrats maintained, was necessary to “fight climate change.”
Starting in early-2021, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), published a series of articles exposing the harmful consequences imposed on Virginia by this radical legislation. The most notable impacts were:
– an increase of $800 per year for the electricity bill of the average VA consumer.
– the clearcutting of forests and elimination of productive farmland, which will require solar panel coverage of 490 square miles, an area equal to 237,000 football fields, or 20 times the size of New York City.
– the removal of historic State Corporation Commission regulatory authority over excessive electricity rates, by declaring that all solar and wind factories are automatically “in the public interest.”
Based on these facts, numerous state legislators now view this issue as one which would not only galvanize low-income communities, but also resonate with suburban voters concerned about the destruction of trees and harm to the environment. Because Virginia is one of only two States with Statewide elections in 2021, SUVGOP hoped to gain national attention to this campaign, and to demonstrate that exposing the adverse consequences of wind and solar energy is a winning message.
Republicans, in particular, undertook an effort to create a website called RepealVCEA.com to bolster public opposition. The website includes two videos, one of which documents the recent clearcutting of a mature forest in Spotsylvania County, just outside the city of Fredericksburg, to create the massive 6,300 acre Fawn Lake solar facility, the largest solar project east of the Mississippi. The other video, entitled “Things I Didn’t Know,” highlights the hidden costs which the VCEA imposes on the average Virginia family.
This effort bore fruit, as all the Republican candidates for state-wide office ultimately incorporated the “Repeal VCEA” message into their policy positions on energy.
Glenn Youngkin, who won the GOP nomination for Governor against six other candidates, was all on board the “Repeal VCEA” bandwagon. He said, “We need an electrical grid which is stable, and we absolutely have to change direction. We must change direction from the ‘clean energy’ plan that was passed. We must change direction because it is not doable, affordable, or good for Virginia.”
E&E News, a leading publication covering environment and climate issues, summed up the GOP position succinctly with the headline: “GOP united in ire over energy law in VA Governor’s race.” It also added, “GOP candidates generally agree on one thing: They hate the state’s new energy law and want to repeal it.”
As for the Democrats, their candidate is digging his heels in to not only defend the VCEA, but promises to go even further. Unveiling a new plan to battle purported climate change, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said, “I promise you that Virginia will lead the nation in tackling climate change and transitioning to clean energy…We’re going to get Virginia to 100% clean energy by 2035 by partnering with President Biden and investing critical federal dollars, secure our vital coastal communities like Hampton Roads, tackle inequities and environmental racism, and build a brighter future for all Virginians.”
With the State-wide election in Virginia only two months away, it will be interesting to see how much the issue of “renewable energy” plays in the election. Voters in the Old Dominion will soon have an opportunity to express opposition to the economic and environmental burdens imposed by the VCEA, or to ratify such measures with their public stamp of approval.
September 3, 2021