While the federal Clean Power Plan is on hold, Virginia has an opportunity to build on the progress it already has made in reducing energy waste, lowering electric bills, cutting harmful pollution, and boosting the state's economy.
That is the message sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a letter signed by a diverse group of businesses and organizations, with signatories ranging from Dow Chemical to NRDC.
The letter--similar to letters sent to other governors--urges McAuliffe to maximize energy efficiency investments to reduce the carbon pollution that is turbocharging climate chaos.
Climate change is already endangering Virginia's coastal communities, its residents' health and the state's economy: rising sea levels, for example, threaten to render the homes of more than 35,000 families uninhabitable by the end of the century. And the state is at particularly high risk of economic harm to oystermen from ocean acidification, the result of oceans absorbing growing amounts of carbon dioxide.
The Commonwealth can implement a number of energy efficiency measures now that will put it on the path to achieving the governor's goal of providing for a lower carbon future that also grows the state's economy.
Additionally, strong state action now to implement energy-efficiency measures--the low-hanging fruit in the fight against climate change--will reduce the cost of meeting the Clean Power Plan's targets.
For example, Virginia can meet 85 percent of its 2030 carbon-reduction target under the Clean Power Plan with a few common energy-efficiency policies, such as adopting an energy-savings target, updated building energy codes, and increasing the use of combined heat and power generation.
Those measures alone would save Virginians more than $1.8 billion in electricity costs by 2030, keep 7 million tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere and reduce other power plant emissions that cause health problems.
The governor already has demonstrated a commitment to expanding energy efficiency, including moving up by two years, to 2020, the Commonwealth's goal of reducing electricity consumption by 10 percent below 2006 levels.
That commitment is not surprising, given that McAuliffe has also said: ``Climate change is real. Climate change is happening. It's going to have a dramatic impact on the Virginia economy."
Since energy efficiency will be a cornerstone of Virginia's response to reducing the carbon pollution that drives climate chaos, McAuliffe is taking the first step toward a safer future. Here's to him taking many more as he continues to implement the Clean Power Plan.