Clean Economy Act is too expensive

Published 10:10 am Saturday, May 9, 2020

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Everything in life should and must be balanced.

We can never let pursuit of the perfect destroy the opportunity and ability of others to achieve their needs. This is particularly true in government. Idealists want everything as they believe is ideal but, as elected representatives, we have a responsibility to serve all the people. We cannot allow the desires of some to prevent others from working and providing for their families.

Some in the General Assembly want 100% reliance on renewable power. They care not how the poorest among us will pay to heat and cool their homes much less power the appliances that are used in homes every day.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act that passed this session establishes a timeline of making Virginia’s electric grid carbon-free by 2045. Not a bad thing, but we have a responsibility to protect you – the ratepayers. Some of the proponents see no problem shifting some of those increased costs to the government. They ignore that government money comes from the taxpayer.

This bill was described by advocates as the most progressive climate legislation to come out of the South. It was a product of statewide elections that swept in Democratic majorities.

To quote one Democrat leader, “Virginia has gone from “zero to 100 overnight.” Just as with driving, however, high speed has many high risks. They ignored the fact that the growth of solar power production is growing exponentially currently. That growth has generally been at the expense of the tax base in rural counties. Likewise, it, for the most part, does not consider the cost to the ratepayers. Proponents simply refused to acknowledge a little more here, and there, and there adds up on your power bill.

The passage of the Clean Economy Act, which passed the House 51-45 and the Senate 22-17, represented the end of a session-long push by environmental groups to reach a compromise between their interests and what was acceptable to the state’s electric utilities – Dominion and Appalachian Power. That compromise, while satisfying the environmental and power companies’ interest, was less concerned about citizens.

The ratepayers’ concerns proved harder to address. Not only Republicans but some Democrats worried that the huge buildout of renewables directed by the Clean Economy Act, which includes 16,100 megawatts of solar, 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind and 2,700 megawatts of energy storage, will push electric bills to unsustainable levels.

According to Steve Haner with the Jefferson Institute “It was a banner moment for environmentalists. Among the promises they secured were state commitments to build out 24 gigawatts of solar, wind and energy storage by 2035 — almost 40 percent more than the existing capacity of the fossil fuel units owned by the state’s largest utility, Dominion Energy — and annual targets that would bind the utilities to progressively including more and more renewables in their energy portfolios. Almost 40 percent more than the existing capacity…”

That’s one key fact that keeps getting overlooked. The 2020 legislation should have been called the “Clean Energy We Don’t Actually Need Act.”

There is not a single scenario, even in Dominion Energy dreams, where that capacity is needed in Virginia over the next 25 years. The bill left in place all the new natural gas plants and two large coal plants owned by Dominion.

The State Corporation Commission estimates that these new projects will add almost $28 to the average monthly bill by 2027-2030. However, that number is way short of the real cost to Virginians after you calculate the costs of tax credits that will divert your tax dollars from other programs such as education. Shadowing the debates over the legislation’s true costs was suspicion among many that the Clean Economy Act is a financial gift to Dominion, an accusation that has concerned some since its inception.

One Democrat put it this way, “If we see that the consumer protections … aren’t sufficient, we have time to fix that,” she said. “We meet every year, so if we need to make adjustments, we can.”

This sounds too much like Nancy Pelosi and Obamacare.

For these reasons, I could not support this legislation, regardless of how noble it appears.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is