Column: Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is not best approach
Written by: Barry DuVal, Virginia Chamber President & CEO
The Virginia Chamber has long supported policies that prioritize investments in energy that ensure competitive rates, attract economic development and protect the environment to move Virginia forward. Unfortunately, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is not consistent with these goals and is not the best approach at accomplishing the stated mission of this program.
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce is one of the largest business advocacy organizations in the commonwealth with more than 28,000 members. “Blueprint Virginia 2030” is the Virginia Chamber’s strategic plan to ensure the commonwealth secures its position as a leader in the global economy and remains a top state for business.
With input from over 7,000 business leaders, during the development process of “Blueprint Virginia,” the business community stressed the need for energy solutions that are sustainable, reliable, and affordable.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently released his energy plan for a growing Virginia. I was pleased to see that his plan stressed many of the same principles highlighted in “Blueprint Virginia 2030”— the importance of reliability, affordability, innovation, competition and environmental stewardship in meeting our energy needs in a responsible and economically competitive way.
The Virginia Chamber recognizes that a changing climate presents significant challenges to Virginia. Addressing these challenges will require the help of the private sector to develop innovative solutions, practices and technologies.
Many Virginia businesses are leading the way toward an environmentally friendly and economically sound energy future. We have seen how businesses have developed corporate sustainability practices to substantially reduce their carbon footprint and promote environmental best practices in their corporate culture. An “all-the-above” approach is needed to ensure Virginia meets the growing energy demands of businesses and our citizens.
We as a commonwealth can continue to be environmentally sustainable and economically competitive with the state’s support of natural gas, green hydrogen, advanced nuclear technology, biomass, renewables and other promising technologies.
While the objectives of RGGI are admirable, the initiative creates an unnecessary regulatory burden to achieving the goals delineated in “Blueprint Virginia 2030.” In 2020, Virginia became the first Southern state to join the RGGI, which is comprised of 11 other states. Reducing carbon emissions is an important endeavor.
More importantly, Virginia has made significant progress without RGGI. The carbon intensity of Virginia’s economy fell by about 36% over the 15-year period between 2004 and 2019, more than the average reduction across all states.
According to the report issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in response to Youngkin’s Executive Order 9, since 2010 there has been a 43% reduction in the average rate of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity, while in-state electricity generation has increased by about 30%.
It is expected that energy consumption in Virginia will continue to rise, reflecting an increase in population, economic growth and electrification of the transportation system. Therefore, to ensure a vibrant and growing economy, we must develop strategies for an ample supply of affordable and reliable energy to meet the growing needs of our population and business community.
RGGI is nothing more than a tax on electric ratepayers, which includes private citizens and businesses, at a time when the cost of energy has never been higher. These are unnecessary costs to employers at a time when they are struggling with supply-chain issues, labor shortages and inflation. In addition, the costs associated with RGGI will create an economic disincentive for energy-intensive industries to expand or locate facilities in Virginia.
The Virginia Chamber supports cost-effective public policies based on sound economic and environmental principles that are reasonable and technologically feasible. Virginia is currently a net importer of electricity. To be economically competitive, the commonwealth should focus on energy policies that generate an ample supply of affordable energy, strengthen our electric grid and protect the environment.
The governor’s plan is a balanced approach for the state to meet its energy security and environmental stewardship goals while prioritizing affordability for Virginia families and businesses.
The Virginia Chamber looks forward to working with our public officials, academia and the business community to build a diverse energy portfolio that is reliable and affordable. Working together, we can protect the environment and bring innovative solutions to our energy future.