Monday, April 27, 2020

Episode 522 (4-27-20): Virginia Enacts a New Energy Era

Click to listen to episode (4:59)

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 4-24-20.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 27, 2020.

SOUND – ~8 sec

This week, the sounds of an electricity transmission line and the James River serve to remind us that energy use, including electricity generation, is closely linked with water resources.  As stated by the U.S. Geological Survey, “Energy is required to withdraw, transport, and treat water for human consumption, [and] water is required to extract and process fossil fuels…; .grow biofuels…; and…cool thermoelectric power plants….”  In Virginia, thermoelectric power generation is by far the largest single use of surface water withdrawals. [Ed. note not in audio, added 4/27/20: Moreover, the global water cycle is predicted to be affected by climate changes attributed to fossil fuel use for energy.]

Recently some far-reaching decisions were made affecting Virginia’s energy, water and other natural resources, and economy.  Have a listen for about 15 seconds to some sounds connected to those decisions.

SOUND and VOICES – ~12 sec – “The House will come to order. Members please take their seats…The Senate will come to order. The senators will please take their seats.”

The 2020 Virginia General Assembly passed [and the governor approved] two major acts affecting electricity generation, carbon emissions from that generation, and responses to recurrent or repetitive flooding.  The more complex of the two is the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which was House Bill 1526 and identical Senate Bill 851.  With a summary running to over 1200 words, this act is big, detailed, and historic.  Here are six major things the act does.

1. Changes from voluntary to mandatory the renewable-energy portfolio standard for Dominion Energy Virginia and American Electric Power, or AEP, requiring those companies to produce 100-percent carbon-emission-free electricity by 2045 and 2050, respectively.

2. Sets an energy-efficiency standard and requires Dominion and AEP to make annual improvements toward that standard.

3. Removes the state’s declaration that new nuclear power facilities are considered in the public interest, and increases significantly the electricity-production capacity from wind and solar considered in the public interest.

4. Increases the allowances on electricity generation by utility customers.

5. Establishes the Percentage of Income Payment Program to cap monthly utility payments by low-income customers.


6. Establishes that state agencies must consider how energy facilities and programs affect low-income geographic areas and historically economically disadvantaged communities located near energy facilities.

The second major law is the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, which was House Bill 981 and identical Senate Bill 1207.  This act has two major components.  First, it establishes a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program, intended to reduce carbon emissions from electricity-generating plants, in compliance with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which currently includes 10 mid-Atlantic and New England states.  Second, it changes the current Shoreline Resiliency Fund to the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, as a low-interest loan program for inland and coastal communities that experience recurrent flooding, with the program to be funded by the sale of emission allowances from the carbon cap-and-trade program.

These acts passed by relatively close margins, they’ll be complicated to implement, and they’ll probably continue to generate considerable debate.  You can find more details about these acts aand all General Assembly legislation at the Legislative Information System Web site,, or from your local delegate or state senator.


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:
Power line at Appalachian Power’s Claytor Lake Hydroelectric Project on the New River in Pulaski County, Va., July 13, 2013;
James River at Lynchburg, June 5, 2013;
Virginia House of Delegates session March 5, 2020, accessed at the archive of the House’s live video stream, online at;
Virginia Senate session March 6, 2020, accessed at the archive of the Senate’s live video steam, online 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


Water withdrawals for power generation by state in 2015.  Image from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) “Thermoelectric Power Water Use,” online at, 4/27/20.

Solar panels on a neighborhood building in Blacksburg, Va., April 27, 2020.

Wind turbine in Wyoming, 2014.  Photo by Paul Cryan, made available on the U.S. Geologcial Survey (USGS) Multimedia Gallery, online at; specific URL for this image is, as of 4/27/20.


Following is the (quite long) summary of 2020 Virginia General Assembly House Bill (HB) 1526 and the identical Senate Bill (SB) 851, called the “Virginia Clean Economy Act,” quoting the Virginia Legislative Information System, online at (for HB 1526) and (for SB 851), accessed 4/23/20.

“Virginia Clean Economy Act. Establishes a schedule by which Dominion Energy Virginia and American Electric Power are required to retire electric generating units located in the Commonwealth that emit carbon as a by-product of combusting fuel to generate electricity and by which they are required to construct, acquire, or enter into agreements to purchase generating capacity located in the Commonwealth using energy derived from sunlight or onshore wind. The measure replaces the existing voluntary renewable energy portfolio standard program (RPS Program) with a mandatory RPS Program. Under the mandatory RPS Program, Dominion Energy Virginia and American Electric Power are required to produce their electricity from 100 percent renewable sources by 2045 and 2050, respectively. A utility that does not meet its targets is required to pay a specific deficiency payment or purchase renewable energy certificates. The proceeds from the deficiency payments are to be deposited into an account administered by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, which is directed to distribute specific percentages of the moneys to job training and renewable energy programs in historically economically disadvantaged communities, energy efficiency measures, and administrative costs. The measure requires the State Air Pollution Control Board to adopt regulations to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from certain electricity generating units in the Commonwealth and authorizes the Board to establish, implement, and manage an auction program to sell allowances to carry out the purposes of such regulations and to utilize its existing regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generating facilities. Among other things, the measure also (i) requires, by 2035, American Electric Power and Dominion Energy Virginia to construct or acquire 400 and 2,700 megawatts of energy storage capacity, respectively; (ii) establishes an energy efficiency standard under which each investor-owned incumbent electric utility is required to achieve incremental annual energy efficiency savings that start in 2022 at 0.5 percent for American Electric Power and 1.25 percent for Dominion Energy Virginia of the average annual energy retail sales by that utility in 2019 and increase those savings annually; (iii) exempts large general service customers from energy savings requirements; (iv) revises the incentive for electric utility energy efficiency programs; (v) provides that if the Commission finds in any triennial review that revenue reductions related to energy efficiency measures or programs approved and deployed since the utility's previous triennial review have caused the utility to earn more than 50 basis points below a fair combined rate of return on its generation and distribution services or, for any test period commencing after December 31, 2012, for Dominion Energy Virginia and after December 31, 2013, for American Electric Power, more than 70 basis points below a fair combined rate of return on its generation and distribution services, the Commission shall order increases to the utility's rates for generation and distribution services necessary to recover such revenue reductions; (vi) establishes requirements regarding the development by Dominion Energy Virginia of qualified offshore wind projects having an aggregate rated capacity of not less than 5,200 megawatts by January 1, 2034, and provides that in constructing any such facility, the utility shall (a) identify options for utilizing local workers; (b) identify the economic development benefits of the project for the Commonwealth, including capital investments and job creation; (c) consult with relevant governmental entities, including the Commonwealth's Chief Workforce Development Officer and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, on opportunities to advance the Commonwealth's workforce and economic development goals, including furtherance of apprenticeship and other workforce training programs; and (d) give priority to the hiring, apprenticeship, and training of veterans, local workers, and workers from historically economically disadvantaged communities; (vii) requires each utility to include, and the Commission to consider, in any application to construct a new generating facility the social cost of carbon, as determined by the Commission, as a benefit or cost, whichever is appropriate; (viii) removes provisions that authorize nuclear and offshore wind generating facilities to continue to be eligible for an enhanced rate of return on common equity during the construction phase of the facility and the approved first portion of its service life of between 12 and 25 years in the case of a facility utilizing nuclear power and for a service life of between five and 15 years in the case of a facility utilizing energy derived from offshore wind; (ix) removes a provision that declares that planning and development activities for new nuclear generation facilities are in the public interest; (x) increases the limit from 5,000 megawatts to 16,100 megawatts on those solar and onshore wind generation facilities that are declared to be in the public interest and increases the limit from 16 megawatts to 3,000 megawatts on those offshore wind generation facilities that are declared to be in the public interest; (xi) amends the net energy metering program by increasing the maximum capacity of renewable generation facilities of participating nonresidential eligible customer-generators from one to three megawatts, increases the cap on the capacity of generation from facilities from the customer's expected annual energy consumption to 150 percent of such amount for customers in Dominion Energy Virginia's service territory, increases each utility's systemwide cap from one percent of its adjusted Virginia peak-load forecast for the previous year to six percent of such amount, five percent of which is available to all customers and one percent of which is available only to low-income utility customers; (xii) establishes the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP), which caps the monthly electric utility payment of low-income participants at six percent, or, if the participant's home uses electric heat, 10 percent, of the participant's household income, requires the Commission to issue its final order regarding the PIPP by December 31, 2020, and requires the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Department of Social Services to convene a stakeholder group to develop recommendations for implementing the PIPP and to submit the stakeholder recommendations to the Chairs of the House Committee on Labor and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor by December 1, 2020; (xiii) increases the cap on third party power purchase agreements to 500 megawatts for jurisdictional customers and 500 megawatts for nonjurisdictional customers of Dominion Energy Virginia and to 40 megawatts for customers of American Electric Power; (xiv) requires each investor-owned utility to consult with the Clean Energy Advisory Board in how best to inform low-income customers of opportunities to lower electric bills through access to solar energy; (xv) requires the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, in consultation with the Council on Environmental Justice, to prepare a report to the Chairs of the House Committee on Labor and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor that determines if the implementation of the measure imposes a disproportionate burden on historically economically disadvantaged communities; (xvi) requires the Secretary of Natural Resources and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in consultation with the State Corporation Commission and the Council on Environmental Justice and appropriate stakeholders, to report to the General Assembly by January 1, 2022, any recommendations on how to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electric energy generation by 2045 at least cost for ratepayers; and (xvii) provides that it is the policy of the Commonwealth that the State Corporation Commission, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Virginia Council on Environmental Justice, and other applicable state agencies, in the development of energy programs, job training programs, and placement of renewable energy facilities, shall consider those facilities and programs being to the benefit of low-income geographic areas and historically economically disadvantaged communities that are located near previously and presently permitted fossil fuel facilities or coal mines.”

Following is the summary of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly House Bill (HB) 981 and the identical Senate Bill (SB) 1207, called the “Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act,” quoting the Virginia Legislative Information System, online at (for HB 981) and (for SB 1207), accessed 4/23/20.

“Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act; fund. Directs the Department of Environmental Quality to incorporate into regulations previously adopted by the State Air Pollution Control Board certain provisions establishing a carbon dioxide cap and trade program to reduce emissions released by electric generation facilities. Such provisions are required to comply with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative model rule. The bill authorizes the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality to establish, implement, and manage an auction program to sell allowances into a market-based trading program. The bill requires revenues from the sale of carbon allowances, to the extent permitted by Article X, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, to be deposited in an interest-bearing account and to be distributed without further appropriation (i) to the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund; (ii) to the Department of Housing and Community Development for low-income energy efficiency programs; (iii) for administrative expenses; and (iv) to the Department of Housing and Community Development in partnership with the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to administer and implement low-income energy efficiency programs. The bill authorizes any locality using moneys in the Fund to provide a loan for a project in a low-income geographic area to forgive the principal of such loan, with the obligation of the locality to repay the loan remaining in effect. The bill also provides that if the Governor seeks to include the Commonwealth as a full participant in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the regulations shall require that certain purchasers be responsible for obtaining allowances under certain agreements. The bill authorizes the costs of allowances to be recovered by Phase I and Phase II Utilities from ratepayers and continues the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund as the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund for the purpose of creating a low-interest loan program to help inland and coastal communities that are subject to recurrent or repetitive flooding.”


Used for Audio

Andrew Cain, Northam signs sweeping measures on environment, voting, criminal justice, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/12/20.

Lulia Gheorghiu, Gov. Northam signs clean energy bill in dramatic transition for Virginia amid dispute over customer costs, Utility Dive, 4/13/20.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “Earth Observatory/The Water Cycle and Climate Change,” online at

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, online at

U.S. General Accountability Office, “Key Issues/Energy-Water Nexus,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Water Use Data for Virginia,” online at  According to this source, 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.

U.S. Geological Survey, “The Water-Energy Nexus: An Earth Science Perspective,” 4/10/15, online at  This is the source of the quote used in this episode’s audio. The full quote is as follows: “Water and energy resources are linked in the most basic ways. Energy is required to withdraw, transport, and treat water for human consumption. A rural homeowner who looks out at his or her backyard might be able to see the electrical pump that withdraws water from underground; an urban dweller can appreciate the energy it takes to operate a large water treatment plant. At the same time, water is required to extract and process fossil fuels (e.g. mining coal or hydraulic fracturing for oil or natural gas); to grow biofuels (corn or sugar cane for ethanol); and to cool thermoelectric power plants that produce electricity.”

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Power Plants in Virginia,” online at

Virginia Governor’s Office, “Governor Northam Signs Clean Energy Legislation,” 4/12/20 News Release, online at

Virginia Legislative Information System, “[2020] Virginia Clean Economy Act 2020,” online at (House Bill 1526) and (Senate Bill 851); and “[2020] Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act,” online at (House Bill 981) and (Senate Bill 1207).

Sarah Vogelsong, Virginia Clean Economy Act clears General Assembly, aided by beefed-up ratepayer protections, Virginia Mercury, 3/6/20.

For More Information about the Virginia General Assembly

The General Assembly’s main Web site is

During sessions, live streaming video is available, and archived recordings are available.  The House of Delegates live video stream Web site is; the Senate live video steam Web site is  Live streaming of committee meetings also is available.  Information on live streaming of House committee meetings is online at; for Senate committee meetings, online at

If you do not know your representatives or their contact information, you can use the online “Who’s My Legislator” service, available at  You can find members’ contact information at these links:

Virginia Water Resources Research Center inventories of water-related legislation for each session from 1998 through 2020 are available online at

Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts on the Virginia General Assembly are available online at  Items are categorized by the year of each session, from 2012 to 2020.

An overview of environmental legislation in the 2020 Virginia General Assembly is available in Virginia legislature wraps of session packed with environmental issues, by Jeremy Cox and Whitney Pipkin, Bay Journal, 3/17/20. 


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

Following are links to other episodes on electric power generation.

Episode 410, 3-5-18 – on electricity regulation legislation in the 2018 Virginia General Assembly.
Episode 492, 9-30-19 – on Virginia governor’s executive order on renewable energy.
Episode 170, 7-15-13 – on hydroelectric power.

Following are links to other episodes on the Virginia General Assembly.

Episode 143, 1-7-13 – annual session preview.
Episode 147, 2-4-13 – on General Assembly committees.
Episode 196, 1-13-14 – annual session preview.
Episode 247, 1-5-15 – annual session preview, with special focus on state budget.
Episode 252, 2-9-15 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 297, 1-4-16 – annual session preview.
Episode 302, 2-8-16 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 350, 1-9-17 – annual session preview.
Episode 353, 1-30-17 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 359, 3-13-17 – on General Assembly subcommittees.
Episode 402, 1-8-18 – annual session preview.
Episode 405, 1-29-18 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 454, 1-7-19 – annual session preview.
Episode 460, 2-18-19 – annual “voting on water” episode.
Episode 506, 1-6-20 – annual session preview.
Episode 510, 2-3-20 – annual “voting on water” episode.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources of information, or other materials in the Show Notes.

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.
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, and cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia 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.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, with reference to the hydrologic cycle.

2015 Social Studies SOLs
Grades K-3 Economics Theme
3.8 – understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

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.

Virginia and United States History Course
VUS.14 – political and social conditions in the 21st Century.

Government Course
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.