All Eyes on Va. Senate for Moment of Truth on Climate Action

The House has done its job and passed the visionary "Clean Economy Act": now it's the Senate's turn to deliver for all Virginians, and pass HB1526.
Cleaner Air Days Are Ahead If Va. Senate Follows the House's Lead on Climate Action
Credit: Bill Dickinson via Flickr

Quick pro tip for finding the most important climate action item in 2020’s Virginia General Assembly: it’s on line 1800 in the House of Delegates’ Virginia Clean Economy Act, or HB 1526. That’s where you’ll see the single-most impactful component of Virginia’s marquee climate action bill.

Right there on line 1800, see that number, 5.0%? That unassuming single digit is in fact the foundational cornerstone of immediate but long-lasting climate action in Virginia. That 5% is the amount of energy efficiency savings—and therefore upstream carbon reductions—that Dominion must deliver by 2025, through commonsense energy-sipping and bill-lowering measures for its customers, like better lighting, heating, and cooling.

The Climate Action Number to Beat: "5 by ‘25"

Hitting 5% in efficiency savings—five years from now—is the kind of ambitious but gettable number that Dominion can hit. All it has to do is scale up its existing and planned customer efficiency programs, in a way that matches the scale of Virginia’s climate action ambition, and what utilities in many, many other states are already doing. Because simply put, energy efficiency is the single Virginia resource explicitly designed and proven to deliver major ratepayer savings and carbon reductions, starting immediately, on the urgent timeline needed to tackle our climate crisis.

Make no mistake, there are several visionary climate action provisions in HB 1526 that together will drive Virginia’s nation-leading response to a changing climate, across the decades to come and at the scale of ambition we need. In particular, slashing power plant carbon pollution to absolute zero by 2045 (see line 159) will vault Virginia to among the Top 5 leading states on climate action.

But Virginia doesn’t just need serious climate action in the next three decades…we need it now: by immediately boosting energy efficiency, the Virginia House’s visionary but smartly-calculated HB 1526 delivers near-term but long-lasting carbon reductions—starting ASAP, to hit 5% by '25. And that is what makes the House of Delegates' Clean Economy Act the truly nation-leading climate action strategy.

The House’s Clean Economy Act Will Also Deliver for Ratepayers

The efficiency target the House just passed can deliver over $17 per month in electric bill savings by 2030. Those bill reductions will be a powerful economic hedge against Dominion’s ceaseless avalanche of past and planned ratepayer cost markups, which combine to make Virginia’s electric rates no longer regionally competitive with our neighbors, and our swollen electric bills the seventh-highest in the nation.

Indeed, that’s the very premise of SCC-approved energy efficiency programs: they’re only approved if they deliver bill reductions. That will be a welcome contrast to the SCC-approved $14 billion dollars in additional fossil fuel plant and fuel costs ratepayers have shouldered in the last decade alone, to fuel such a historically inefficient state economy. With HB 1526, the House-passed Clean Economy Act will leave those costly and polluting days behind us.

The House’s Clean Economy Act also packs a significant punch in Virginia’s already ongoing fight against climate change: HB 1526’s 5% efficiency target, if maintained at the same pace through 2030, will deliver a full third of Virginia’s planned 2030 carbon pollution cuts under RGGI, all while reducing—rather than hiking—ratepayer costs.

So it is, with the modest-seeming but paradigm-shifting number “5.0” buried in HB 1526, that the House has passed from its chamber one of Virginia’s most historic pieces of legislation. That’s huge climate progress, and Virginians will be safer and more prosperous as a result. 

And that’s exactly why we and our allies are going to fight to make sure HB 1526 gets to the Governor’s desk soon. But first, the Senate.

It Is Now the Virginia Senate’s Moment to Take Climate Action

Our climate champs in the House have good company on the other side of George Washington's statue in our Capitol rotunda.

The Senate, in doing the job it was elected to do—address the growing dangers and costs of climate change—must now accept the House’s visionary version of the Clean Economy Act by passing HB 1526.

That's why, in the legislative days ahead, the Senate is where it’s at: that chamber must finish the House’s hard work and guarantee real climate action and lower costs to Virginia ratepayers, by passing HB 1526 in its fine “5 by ‘25” form for the Governor’s signature, ASAP.

When that happens, all Virginians can breathe easy, knowing that we weren't all dreaming after all: it truly is a new day in Virginia.

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