Though the state is known as the Old Dominion, Virginians are no strangers to innovation when it comes to investing in their future. The Commonwealth is demonstrating that spirit of innovation in addressing the need for low carbon energy source. Combined with the rich natural gas resources concentrated in Virginia, the state is well-poised to meet the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan goals for reducing carbon emissions by 2030.
Currently, natural gas reserves cover more than one-third of Virginia’s power needs but as energy demands increase annually, Virginia will need to expand their energy supplies in order to keep the lights on. The state relies heavily on nuclear power, but the future of this technology is uncertain as facility closures become more frequent nationwide.
Without new energy capacity being produced, Virginia will face a 12-percent energy shortfall by the 2030 deadline. That would leave more than 896,000 homes without power — more than twice the number of homes in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Newport News and Virginia Beach combined.
Renewable resources will certainly make up some of that ground, but they cannot alleviate the entire gap. For solar power to cover the full deficit, for example, Virginia would need more than 33,000 acres of land — roughly the size of Richmond — to cover with solar panels, costing tax payers a total of $16 billion.
Natural gas expansion can help bear the burden while reliably supporting renewable infrastructure in Virginia. Expanding natural gas through projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would power as many as 180,000 homes in the state, contribute $4.2 million annually to state revenue, create more than 17,000 jobs for Virginia workers and help improve the state’s air quality, which is linked to diseases that kill as many as 2,400 Virginians prematurely each year.
These crucial economic, environmental and health benefits have Virginia stakeholders already endorsing an expanded role for natural gas as an important component of environmental progress. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg recently announced its intention to shift more of its energy consumption to natural gas, and last month the Virginia State Corporation Commission announced the extension of an energy efficiency rebate program for natural gas customers. Such steps towards natural gas have received praise from many respected institutions including the World Resources Institute, which recommended Virginia expand its use of natural gas as a step toward meeting Clean Power Plan goals.
Such diverse support demonstrates how a robust investment in expanding natural gas infrastructure in Virginia is the most pragmatic way for Virginians to light the path for the future.