By Ed Reynolds
Reynolds is retired from a global engineering and technology company. He has worked in the Roanoke city cchools for the last eight years as a volunteer and substitute teacher. He lives in Roanoke.
Timing is crucial in the energy business. Timing helps create both winners and losers. Fifteen years ago fracked-gas was the winner. Renewables were a loser. Today that role has reversed, with renewables being the winner, and fracked gas being the loser.
As was “timing” in the case with both General Electric Company and Siemens Gas Turbine Controls Power Units, it appears that many Virginia business groups and the Northam Administration are plagued with poor “timing,” and shortsighted leadership when it comes to the future of the U.S. energy sector and the emerging trends and technologies that will be the economic drivers of the energy sector’s future for years to come.
The cost to General Electric Company’s shareholders alone was a staggering $21 billion,but the “hard and soft costs” for the poor timing and shortsighted leadership here in Virginia on this very important topic of “energy” will be staggering for hard-working Virginia families and their children across the commonwealth. Here’s why. Many of our country’s top economists have posited that a forthcoming transition and modernization of clean, grid-parity renewable energy onto this country’s electrical grid will be the economic development engine of our generation. Yet a mere five years ago, the governor’s administration and several Virginia business groups failed the “test of time,” and opted to throw their unequivocal “bulldog” support behind two dangerous, unnecessary and climate-damaging fracked-gas pipelines, which will forestall our necessary “climate-emissions/related” energy transition for decades. With renewables install/updates being the fastest growing, and one of the best-paying job growth sectors in our country today, the full opportunity cost to all Virginians will be felt for a lifetime.
These heavy opportunity-costs will ultimately include:
• Major humanitarian health, and societal issues precipitated by fracking, fracked-gas infrastructure, and an emboldened changing climate.
• Great-paying long-term jobs building a new economy for the national grid right here in Virginia.
• Grid-parity or below rates to hard-working Virginia families for decades to come.
• Opportunity incentive for much-sought-after tech companies demanding renewable energy for their operations.
• Continually-rising seas. Tidewater Virginians will suffer loss and disruption.
We can transition now without devastating Virginia’s beautiful mountains and streams.
Renewables sustain zero risk to our invaluable drinking water supplies.
Renewables offer a return to much cleaner air that we all breathe.
The “New Energy Economy” Ship is setting sail. It’s leaving the dock and Virginia’s not on board. Looks like our business and elected leaders bought the “wrong ticket.” Sadly, the Commonwealth of Virginia has apparently failed to commit to a “comprehensive total-economy” State Decarbonization Plan, with necessary dates and full parameters. While the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality did commit in April 2019 to a 30% reduction in carbon pollution specifically from “large fossil-fuel fired electric generation facilities by 2030,” the DEQ quickly and rather quietly approved air quality permits within days for two huge new natural gas generation facilities near Charles City, which will add nearly 11 million tons per year of carbon pollution to our atmosphere, and will be resourced by a tap to the Virginia natural gas pipeline, which is linked to the giant Transco pipeline that runs through from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast.
These two new facilities alone will add approximately 20% to the Virginia’s previously-established carbon emissions limits. Conversely, our neighboring states surrounding Virginia have set sail towards their “New Energy Economy” via utilizing renewable energy installations and related decarbonization technologies/updates to our electrical grid. North Carolina’s plan commits the state to 40% emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2025, and Maryland’s plan commits the state to 40% emissions reduction below 2006 levels by 2030.
Astoundingly, New York established a new renewable Eenergy gold-standard last week by committing to “100% carbon free generation by 2040, and “net-zero carbon emissions throughout the state economy by 2050”! So, the good news is that multiple other states and huge utilities across this great nation are on board with a comprehensive state decarbonization plan.and will benefit greatly from this journey. Meanwhile, others of us will still be standing at the dock.
To that end, I’ve included an “interactive state decarbonization tracker” for your information, and interactive learning pleasure — https://sepapower.org/decarbonization-tracker. It’s an amazing tool, and it will tell you a lot about what our state business and elected leadership has done to Virginia as opposed to what they could have done for Virginia! And yes, if it’s about “energy” it’s still all about the “timing.”