Blue Virginia reported on March 20, 2018, on a new poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosser Research, Virginia Voters Support Moving to 100% Clean Energy. The poll, in addition to showing that Virginians overwhelmingly (67%-27%) support moving towards 100% clean energy by 2030, also demonstrates how wildly out of touch the Virginia GOP, Dominion Energy, and the fossil fuel folks are. How about our elected officials instead listen to the 67%-27% majority of Virginians who want 100% solar, wind and energy efficiency – and soon?
Dominion says we need more fracked gas infrastructure. BUT….
Utility Dive for March 20, 2018, reported on major shifts in the US energy generation, including the battle between coal and natural gas and the rise of renewables. The decline in gas generation was three times as steep as coal’s:
- Changes to the United States’ power generation mix last year reflected fuel price fluctuations and the growth of renewable energy, though overall demand fell. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, total U.S. net generation fell by 1.5% in 2017, compared with the year before.
- Natural gas generation fell most steeply by 105,443 Gwh, or 7.7%, and coal generation declined 31,248 GWh, or 2.5%. More than 11 GW of capacity retired last year, with most of that being coal.
- Both wind and utility-scale solar cracked new records, according to EIA’s Electric Power Monthly. Wind accounted for 6.3% of total net generation, and utility-scale solar made up 1.3%.
Former Governor McAuliffe touted Virginia’s leadership in solar, speaking of “the great work we’re doing to build the new Virginia economy, one that is less reliant on federal spending and focuses on growth in innovative sectors like the solar industry,” and he and Todd Haymore, Secretary of Commerce and Trade, boasted in March 2017 that “Virginia now ranks in the top twenty in the nation for solar jobs.”
Due in no small part to Dominion’s coolness to solar and emphasis on fossil fuels, Virginia dropped in 2017 to 20th in use of solar – from 17th in 2016. Yes, McAuliffe and Haymore were boasting about a drop in ranking! A February 15, 2018, Blue Virginia article discusses the drop, citing a January 2018 report called Solar in Virginia, produced by Powered by Facts.
“Virginia now has 290.89 megawatts (MW) of solar installed, which represents approximately .037% of its total electricity generated. This is an increase from last year’s total of 192.4 MW, and represents the state moving more than half of the way towards Dominion’s goal of building facilities to generate 400 MW of solar energy by 2020. Despite the increase in MW, Virginia’s national ranking for solar and renewable energy slipped from 17th in 2016 to 20th in 2017. This indicates that other states have embraced this highly competitive industry and are reaping its rewards, while Virginia has lagged behind.”
The report points out part of Virginia’s difficulty: “Our largest utility – Dominion Energy – also falls short. In a recent annual benchmark review of clean energy published by the non-profit Ceres, Dominion consistently ranked last among 30 utility companies in the areas of Annual Energy Efficiency and Lifecycle Energy Efficiency. The latest numbers also show that Dominion Energy was ranked 24th out of 30 in renewable energy sales as a percentage of retail sales, 30 out of 30 in incremental energy efficiency and 29th out of 30 in life cycle energy efficiency, which are the estimated savings of all energy efficiency.”
The Blue Virginia article also discusses Virginia’s 2018 ranking by Solar Power Rocks, “a firm that focuses on helping homeowners and small businesses go solar, analyzes those 51 [states] as to solar attractiveness for those potential customers. “Virginia’s grade? A big fat D. “‘Solar in Virginia: about as bad as you might think!’ The state’s big utility company, Dominion Power, offers an anemic performance payments program, which will help homeowners now but isn’t guaranteed to be there in a few years. All in all, the “D” grade is earned.”
Explore the new Web page from Clean Virginia and learn [some truths] about Dominion: “Dominion Energy is a public utility providing a necessary service to customers throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, and employs thousands of hardworking Virginians who keep our lights on. But unlike other public utility companies, Dominion’s primary corporate objective is to maximize profit, not the public interest. What this means is that Dominion has consistently made choices directly in favor of its shareholders but directly opposed to the interests of Virginians. As a result, our pocketbook, health, and environment suffers.”
In a January 1, 2018, post we discussed the news release from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office announcing that New York was going to divest its vast pension-fund investments in fossil fuels and an almost simultaneous statement from the comptroller of the city of New York that the city was actively investigating methods for “ceasing additional investments in fossil fuels, divesting current holdings in fossil-fuel companies, and increasing investments in clean energy.” The NY state pension fund totals two hundred billion dollars, making it one of the twenty largest pools of money on Earth, and the city’s pension funds add up to a hundred and ninety billion dollars, also in the top twenty.
On January 11, 2018, The Guardian reported that on January 10 New York City leaders, “at a press conference in a neighborhood damaged over five years ago by Hurricane Sandy, announced that the city was divesting its massive pension fund from fossil fuels, and added for good measure that they were suing the five biggest oil companies for damages. Our planet’s most important city was now at war with its richest industry. And overnight, the battle to save the planet shifted from largely political to largely financial. …. Smart money has been pouring into renewables; dumb money has stuck with fossil fuel, even as it underperformed markets for the last half-decade. Just two months ago Norway’s vast sovereign wealth fund began to divest, which was a pretty good signal: if even an oil industry stalwart thought the game was up, they were probably right.”
In addition to divesting $5 billion in their funds from fossil fuels, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city had just filed a lawsuit against major five fossil fuel firms – BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell – for their contributions to climate change, saying they “knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits.”
According to a January 10 Guardian article, “Court documents state that New York has suffered from flooding and erosion due to climate change and because of looming future threats it is seeking to ‘shift the costs of protecting the city from climate change impacts back on to the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat.’ The court filing claims that just 100 fossil fuel producers are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution, with the five targeted companies the largest contributors. The case will also point to evidence that firms such as Exxon knew of the impact of climate change for decades, only to downplay and even deny this in public. New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is investigating Exxon over this alleged deception.”
Writing in The Intercept on January 11, 2018, Naomi Klein says, “Now, with New York City’s lawsuit for climate damages, the market is confronting the prospect of a cascade of similar legal actions — cities, towns, and countries all suing the industry for billions or even (combined) trillions of dollars in damages caused by sea-level rise and extreme weather events. The more suits that get filed, the more the market will have to factor in the possibility of fossil fuel companies having to pay out huge settlements in the near to medium term, much as the tobacco companies were forced to in past decades. As that threat becomes more credible, with more players taking New York City’s lead, the investor case for dumping these stocks as overly high risk will be strengthened, thereby lending a potent new tool to the fossil fuel divestment movement. A virtuous cycle. Oh, and the more we are able to hit the industry in the pocketbook, the less likely costly new drilling and pipeline projects will be to go ahead….”
Cities across America are making the switch to renewable energy. Who will be next?