Monday, September 30, 2019

Episode 492 (9-30-19): Virginia's Governor Places an Executive Order for Renewable Energy Sources

Click to listen to episode (4:31)

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 9-27-19.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 30, 2019.

SOUNDS - ~ 6 sec – Sounds from an electricity-generating plant.

This week, sounds from the Virginia Tech Central Steam Plant open an episode about energy and a recent Virginia executive order.  Have a listen for about 15 seconds to two mystery sounds, and see if you guess the major focus of that executive order. And here’s a hint: think of a third “e” word, and sustainable ways to generate it.

SOUNDS - ~16 sec – Power line buzz, then wind in trees.

If you guessed renewable sources of electricity, you’re right!  An electric power line and wind are two aspects of the September 16, 2019, executive order by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam titled “Expanding Access to Clean Energy and Growing the Clean Energy Jobs of the Future.” Building upon Senate Bill 966 in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly and the 2018 version of the Virginia Energy Plan, the executive order seeks to address climate change, electric grid modernization, inequities in energy access due to socioeconomic factors, and the job-growth potential of the clean energy sector.

The order directs all executive branch agencies and state higher education institutions to operate in accordance with four goals: 1. By 2030, produce 30 percent of Virginia’s electricity from renewable energy sources, and reach 100 percent by 2050, which compares to about 6% renewables in 2016; 2. Have at least 30 percent of the electricity the Commonwealth procures from Dominion Energy be from renewable sources by 2022; 3. Develop a plan to reduce electricity consumption by state agencies and institutions, as part of a statewide goal to reduce electricity use by 10 percent by 2022, compared to 2006 levels; and 4. Develop an energy workforce plan.  For the renewable electricity goals, the order calls on the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy to develop a plan focused on solar energy, onshore and offshore wind energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, and energy equity.

How Virginia gets and uses its energy affects the economy, politics, society, and the environment.  In that latter case, water’s a major part of the conversation, because power generation is by far the largest use of water withdrawals in Virginia.  So there’s a lot at stake as Virginia charts its energy future.

We close with some music for the Commonwealth’s energy way-finding.  Here’s part of “Cool Rumblins,” by Kat Mills of Blacksburg.

MUSIC - ~ 24 sec – Lyrics: “Which way now?” then closing instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The sounds heard in this Virginia Water Radio episode were as follows:
Virginia Tech Central Steam Plant in Blacksburg, September 5, 2014;
Power line at Appalachian Power’s Claytor Lake Hydroelectric Project on the New River in Pulaski County, Va., July 13, 2013;
Wind in leaves at Heritage Park in Blacksburg, March 15, 2013.

“Cool Rumblins,” from the 2015 album “Silver,” is copyright by Kat Mills, used with permission.  More information about Kat Mills is available online at at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Energy consumption in Virginia by sources, 2017.  Image from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Virginia State Profile and Energy Estimates,” online at, accessed 9/26/19.

Water withdrawals for power generation by state in 2015.  Image from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) “Thermoelectric Power Water Use,” online at, accessed 9/26/19. According to the USGS, “Water Use Data for Virginia,” online at, water withdrawals in Virginia in 2015 were about 5300 million gallons per day (MGD) for thermoelectric power generation, while withdrawals were about 1290 MGD combined for public water supply, industrial use, mining, livestock, aquaculture, and irrigation.


Following is the text of the September 17, 2019, news release from the Virginia Governor’s Office, “Governor Northam Signs Executive Order to Expand Access to Renewable Energy, Support Clean Energy Jobs of the Future,” online at

RICHMOND—Governor Northam has signed Executive Order Forty-Three, which establishes ambitious statewide goals and targets for clean energy deployment and expands upon the Commonwealth’s commitments to reduce our environmental impact, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and boost the clean energy economy in Virginia. Governor Northam made the announcement today at the Virginia Clean Energy Summit in Richmond.

The Executive Order lays out Virginia’s objectives for statewide energy production, which includes the goal that by 2030, 30 percent of Virginia’s electric system will be powered by renewable energy resources and by 2050, 100 percent of Virginia’s electricity will be produced from carbon-free sources such as wind, solar and nuclear. The path forward includes ensuring at least 3,000 megawatts of solar and onshore wind are under development by 2022, and that up to 2,500 megawatts of offshore wind are fully developed on an accelerated timeline by 2026.

“Since I took office, our administration has been focused on establishing a strong and bold vision for Virginia as we work to modernize our electric grid and reduce barriers to the development of clean energy resources,” said Governor Northam. “We know the importance of a true shift to reliance on renewable energy sources in reducing our carbon footprint, growing our economy, and creating the clean energy jobs of the future. This Executive Order will help ensure that Virginia remains at the forefront of clean energy innovation, meets the urgency of the challenges brought on by climate change, and captures the economic, environmental, and health benefits of this energy growth in an equitable way that benefits all Virginians.”

The Executive Order establishes lead-by-example targets for increasing energy efficiency and sets forth a goal of procuring at least 30 percent of the electricity consumed by the Commonwealth’s agencies and executive branch institutions from renewable resources by 2022.

“Virginia is already feeling the impacts of global warming in the form of rising sea levels, increased flooding, and more extreme weather events,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “The public health, public safety, and economic consequences of climate change are undeniable, and this Executive Order is a necessary piece of our strategy to reduce carbon pollution and related emissions and improve quality of life for all Virginians.”

This Executive Order directs the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, the Secretary of Natural Resources, and the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, to develop a plan of action to meet these renewable energy goals. The plan will also address issues related to energy storage, energy efficiency, equity, and environmental justice.

“These energy goals send a clear signal to renewable energy industries that the Commonwealth is open for business, and that we will be a trailblazer in the development solar and wind energy,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball.

The Chief Workforce Advisor and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade will work with stakeholders to develop an energy workforce plan that supports the growing needs of the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector and creates career pathways for the communities that need them the most by aligning current curriculum and training programs with job opportunities.

The full text of Executive Order Forty-Three can be online (as a PDF) at


The following information is from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source?” online at

U.S. Electricity Generation by Source and Percentage of Total in 2018*

Fossil Fuels (Total) = 63.5%
—Natural Gas = 35.1%
—Coal = 27.4%
—Petroleum = 0.6%
—Other Gases = 0.3%

Nuclear = 19.3%

Renewables (Total) = 17.1%
—Hydropower = 7.0%
—Wind = 6.6%
—Biomass = 1.5 % (includes wood, landfill gas, municipal solid waste, and other)
—Solar (Total - photovoltaic plus solar thermal) = 1.6%
—Geothermal = 0.4%

Pumped Storage Hydropower** = -0.1%

Other Sources = 0.3%

*Includes utility-scale electricity generation, which is electricity generation from power plants with at least one megawatt (or 1,000 kilowatts) of total electricity generating capacity.
**Pumped storage hydroelectricity generation is negative because most pumped storage electricity generation facilities use more electricity than they produce on an annual basis. Most pumped storage systems use fossil fuels or nuclear energy for pumping water to the storage component of the system. For more on pumped storage hydroelectric, see


Used for Audio

Mel Leonor, Dominion plans to build nation’s largest offshore wind farm off coast of Virginia, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/19/19.

Mel Leonor, Northam lays out renewable energy goals for Virginia, calls for carbon-free electricity by 2050, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 9/17/19.

U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Virginia State Profile and Energy Estimates,” online at

Virginia Clean Energy Summit, September 17, 2019, Richmond, Va., online at  Va. Gov. Ralph Northam announced his September 2019 executive order on clean energy at this forum.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Status of Virginia’s Water Resources—A Report on Virginia’s Water Management Activities,” October 2018, online at  The report PDF is online at See p. 19 for water withdrawals from 2013 to 2017 for all use categories except power generation; see p. 46 for water withdrawals for power generation.

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, “2018 Virginia Energy Plan,” online at  The 91-page document is available online (as PDF) at  Along with the plan for the future, the document includes an analysis of Virginia’ energy system, as of 2016.

Virginia Governor’s Office, Executive Order No. 43 (2019), “Expanding Access to Clean Energy and Growing the Clean Energy Jobs of the Future,” online (as PDF) at

Virginia Governor’s Office, “Governor Northam Signs Executive Order to Expand Access to Renewable Energy, Support Clean Energy Jobs of the Future,” 9/17/19 News Release, online at

Virginia Legislative Information System, “Virginia General Assembly Session 2018—Senate Bill 966: Electric utility regulation; grid modernization, energy efficiency,” online at  This large, complicated bill, also called the “Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018,” made changes to the electricity rate-review arrangement and transitional rate period established in 2015, and it included various provisions related to electricity grid infrastructure, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Virginia Tech Facilities Department, “Central Steam Plant,” online at

For More Information about Energy in Virginia and Elsewhere

Appalachian Power (APCO), online at

Dominion Energy, online at

Union of Concerned Scientists, “Energy and Water Use,” online at

U.S. Department of Energy, online at

U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Electric Power Annual,” online at  See Table 3.1.A., Net Generation by Energy Source: Total (All Sectors), 2007-2017, online at; and Table 3.1.B, Net Generation from Renewable Sources: Total (All Sectors), 2007-2017, online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Water Use in the United States,” online at  Information on thermoelectric power use is online at

Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, “Virginia Energy Patterns and Trends,” online at  This project stopped in 2009, but the Web site maintains historical data.

Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, online at

Virginia State Corporation Commission/Division of Public Utility Regulation, “Energy Regulation in Virginia,” online at; and “Electric Companies Regulated by the SCC,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Energy” subject category.

Following are links to some other episodes on energy.

Episode 97, 1-30-12; Episode 98, 2-6-12; Episode 99, 2-13-12 – on water quality and coal.
Episode 170, 7-15-13 – on hydroelectric power.
Episode 380, 8-7-17 – on natural gas pipelines.
Episode 240, 11-17-14 – on solid-waste recycling, energy, and water.
Episode 316, 5-16-16 – on the American Power Suite.
Episode 410, 3-5-18 – on electricity regulation legislation in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly.


The episode—the audio, extra information, or sources—may help with the following Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs).

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme 3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
3.11 – sources of energy.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Force, Motion, and Energy Theme
6.2 – energy sources, transformations, and uses.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Physical Science Course
PS.6 – energy forms, transfer, and transformations.

Earth Science Course
ES.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
ES.6 – renewable vs. non-renewable resources (including energy resources).
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History: 1865-to-Present Course
USII.9 – domestic and international issues during the second half of the 20th Century and the early 21st Century.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.4 – types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Government Course

GOVT.1 – skills for historical thinking, geographical analysis, economic decision-making, and responsible citizenship.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.15 – role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.