What Is Virginia's Clean Energy Transition?

The Cooper Center is helping the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy create an Action Plan for the Commonwealth's transition towards a clean energy economy. The Plan will evaluate how to expand renewable energy, storage, energy efficiency, equity and justice, and clean energy jobs, as mandated under an executive order issued by Governor Northam.

The University of Virginia and The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) have signed an agreement to help the Commonwealth meet the goals of Governor Northam’s Executive Order 43, which calls for expanding access to clean energy and growing clean energy jobs.

Under the agreement, the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at UVA will provide research and technical support to help DMME craft a plan for shifting to Commonwealth's electricity system towards sharply increased use of renewable and clean energy sources. The Governor's order calls for 30% of Virginia's electricity to be produced from renewable sources by 2030, and 100% from carbon-free sources by 2050. 

Professor Bill Shobe, Director of UVA's Center for Economic and Policy Studies framed the stakes: "Governor Northam has announced an ambitious policy goal of eliminating damaging emissions from the electricity sector in Virginia. Achieving this goal in a cost-effective way will require careful planning and analysis.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to work with DMME on finding feasible pathways to a clean energy future," Shobe said.

Economist Arthur Small, who will lead the project together with Shobe, sees the work as a natural fit between the Commonwealth's needs and the university's strengths. "Our challenge is to offer actionable guidance about how to reduce carbon emissions from electricity production while increasing jobs in the growing clean energy sector. We'll need to address energy efficiency, power storage, impacts on communities - so many issues. Fortunately, UVA offers unsurpassed, world-class expertise in engineering, public policy, law, and other relevant domains. We will build on existing efforts like the Virginia Solar Initiative, which is assisting localities with the challenges of siting solar installations, and the Environmental Resilience Institute, which is helping to catalyze a wide range of energy- and climate-related research. 

"We're so excited to be working with DMME on this work. This is in the best tradition of research in the public interest," Small added.

Since a clean energy transition will touch on many parts of Virginia's economy and society, UVA's Institute for Engagement & Negotiation will be seeking input for the action plan from a broad range of stakeholders and the public.

“Increasing renewables, decreasing emissions, increasing jobs in Virginia's clean energy sector: these are significant,” said DMME Director John Warren. “It is natural to bring the Cooper Center on board to assist us in researching the ways to ensure these goals are reached. The University’s Center has a wealth of experience and resources available for a successful end result.”

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