Fresh Climate and Equity Leadership Emerges in Richmond

Virginia’s outdated utility system poses economic challenges, but with Delegates Aird and Jones and Senator Marsden leading the charge in 2020, better, cleaner, and less expensive days are ahead. 


Well ahead of the Virginia General Assembly’s 2020 legislative session, a fresh vision has emerged to right some of the historic wrongs on energy and equity issues, by checking the outsized influence of the state’s largest monopoly and climate polluter, Dominion Energy.

Delegates Lashrecse D. Aird and Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones, in their Sunday Washington Post OpEd, provide sharp focus on the troubling inequity in the state’s unnecessarily high electric bills (among the top-ten highest in the United States), their contribution to Virginia’s outsized energy burden, and steps Virginia needs to take in 2020 to address those challenges.

Senator Marsden, in a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch OpEd, provides a similarly clear-eyed assessment of our currently-moribund energy model and the need to dislodge our state's pent-up ability to tap cleaner resources like rooftop solar.

Solutions these leaders propose are long overdue: Virginia’s bloated utility model has not only resulted in an inequitable energy economy, excessive electric bills that are the 7th-highest in the nation, and economic waste to the tune of several hundreds of millions of dollars. On top of those troubling realities, Dominion is on track to increase, rather than decrease, the air pollution that worsens climate change, which drives the sea level rise imperiling our coastal communities, as well as the extreme weather and heat waves we, and especially our grandchildren, must endure. To do so, Dominion is still pushing hard to build their stalled, unnecessary, and costly Atlantic Coast Pipeline, in hopes their Virginia electric customers will pick up the tab. Dominion also hopes to scatter new fracked gas plants across the state, which would also sharply increase carbon pollution, the key driver of climate change. These plans are an environmental equity issue that fresh leadership in Richmond must address in 2020.

The good news is that Delegates Aird and Jones and Senator Marsden lay out a concise blueprint to do so, putting their sound leadership on track to make major strides next year.  These leaders propose to do so, for example, by ensuring Virginia catches up to the 21st century in the deployment of energy efficiency, which lowers climate-harming pollution by using less energy. That simply means updating technology—such as lighting, insulation, and HVAC systems—to make Virginia homes and businesses across the state run smoother, cheaper, and cleaner, every hour of every day.

Equitably deploying that updated technology will ensure that low-income citizens, in particular, can reduce the unfair energy burden they currently labor under, so that Dominion’s inflated monthly electric bills can no longer break the bank for the most vulnerable residents in Virginia. These benefits can be delivered, all while directly reducing the costly carbon pollution that threatens Virginia citizens today with rising seas and increasingly extreme weather.

As these right-on-target OpEds point out, Virginia’s creaky, outdated utility system poses economic challenges, but with Aird, Jones, Marsden, and many others leading the charge in Richmond in 2020, better, cleaner, and less expensive days are ahead.

About the Authors

Walton Shepherd

Virginia Policy Director, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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