Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 25, 2012, 9:05 a.m. EST by Gillian
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By now most of the members of the General Assembly understand that Virginia's renewable energy law is broken. Although the 2007 law was intended to stimulate investments in high-quality renewable energy like wind and solar, we've see no such investments in Virginia. Instead of building a wind farm here, for example, Dominion Virginia Power has mostly bought "renewable energy certificates" (rather than the power itself) from low-quality projects like pre-World War II hydroelectric dams, a lot of them purchased from out of state. For this they are now entitled to charge their residential customers not just the cost of the renewable energy, but also tens of millions of dollars every year as a "bonus" for being such good corporate citizens.
But while they may understand how the law is being abused, Virginia politicians show no sign that they understand the remedy. On Jan. 19, the House Commerce and Labor committee passed two bills that make a further mockery of Virginia's renewable energy goals by adding options to the utility feed trough, making it even less likely that Virginia-made wind and solar will be the chosen morsels.
HB1102, patroned by Del. Jackson H. Miller, R-Manassas, allows utilities to satisfy part of the renewable goals with research and development. R&D is great, but if the General Assembly deems it worthy of public support, why doesn't it appropriate money for it? How on earth is it a kind of electricity that residential ratepayers should pay extra for?
HB232, patroned by Del. John A. Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, is equally baffling. It appears to benefit a single corporation that uses landfill gas in its process. All the energy is used onsite; none of it goes onto the grid in the form of electricity to be used by Virginia households. So why do committee members think we should pay for it?
Committee members made it clear they don't believe in wind and solar energy, in spite of testimony from the solar industry that it actively wants to expand in Virginia, and in spite of the presence at the General Assembly on Jan. 19 of dozens of representatives from the wind and solar industries who are ready to replicate their huge growth in other states. If legislators don't really believe in wind and solar, though, why do we bother with a renewable energy law? Let's skip the charade, repeal the law, and refund the ratepayers' money.
As it happens, wind and solar energy are two of the fastest growing industries in America today, creating thousands of new jobs annually and replacing dirty sources of energy that cause asthma and mercury poisoning and emit greenhouse gases. Virginians want to see wind and solar succeed in our state. We recognize that these investments cost money, and we are ready to pay for them.
What we don't want to do is pay millions of dollars in extra profit to utilities as a reward for buying us stuff we don't want. Thanks to House Commerce and Labor, now we can include on the list of stuff we don't want two new categories of "certificates" from projects that don't actually put any electricity on the grid for us to use, much less wind and solar.
Only one bill in the legislature this year tightens the rules for what counts as renewable energy under the law. HB657, patroned by Del. Thomas Davis Rust, R-Fairfax, would insist that utilities that want the extra cash actually include new, Virginia-made renewable energy, and that by 2017 they include wind and/or solar.
Including Virginia-made wind and solar doesn't seem like too much to ask in return for the tens of millions of dollars of extra profit Dominion will be collecting from us ratepayers. But if it is, just repeal the law. Thanks anyway, but if we can't buy wind and solar, we'd rather keep the cash.