On Wednesday November 30, dozens of Virginia residents and clean energy business owners held a “Rally for Renewables” in front of Dominion Virginia Power office building and marched to the State Corporation Commission to deliver over 2,500 public comments from across Virginia on Dominion’s Integrated Resource Plan. The comments urged the agency to phase out two coal-fired power plants and support job-creating investments in solar power, wind farms, and energy efficiency. On the eve of the deadline for public comments on Dominion’s long-term energy plan, rally participants unfurled and delivered a 300-foot-long banner constructed out of all the public comments, demonstrating broad-based public support for developing clean energy in Virginia and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Speakers at the rally urged the Commission to approve Dominion’s proposal to retire the outdated Yorktown and Chesapeake coal-burning power stations, which have deteriorated public health in the region for over 50 years. Clean-energy business owners highlighted the abject lack of renewable energy in Dominion’s long-term plan as well as Dominion’s recent attempts to discourage customers from investing in solar energy. Pointing to the sustained growth of clean energy jobs in other states, speakers called on Dominion and the Commission to craft a smart, forward-thinking energy plan that takes advantage of Virginia’s potential for clean energy. Solar and land-based wind are cost-competitive with coal and could create high-wage, career-length jobs throughout the state.
“Virginians want clean air and water as much as they want affordable, reliable power. We are here today to urge Dominion and the State Corporation Comission to make and approve investments in Virginia-made renewable power and energy efficiency, that will create jobs, save customers money and reduce harmful pollution,” said Kate Pollard, Virginia Beyond Coal Campaign Organizer for the Sierra Club. “The Commission should not hesitate to approve the retirement of the Chesapeake and Yorktown coal plants, whose pollution contributes to 1,400 asthma attacks and 85 premature deaths in the region every year.”
“Clean energy sources, like solar, are poised to take off in this decade and become a significant part of our energy system. Solar is successful, profitable and cost reducing, and as a result, will lower rates for customers in the long run,” said James Huff, CEO of Richmond-based Abakus Solar USA. “The U.S. solar energy sector has grown by 6.8% in the past year and directly employs 118,000 people, more than the U.S. steel industry. Another 24,000 jobs are anticipated to be created in the next year, but without Dominion’s leadership and the State Corporation Commission’s support for clean energy, Virginia will miss out.”
“Virginia has some of the best offshore wind potential in the nation. An aggressive build-out of offshore wind farms would create at least 10,000 high-wage, high-skill, permanent jobs, and contribute $1.9 billion a year to Virginia’s GDP,” said Ivy Main, Vice Chair of the Virginia Sierra Club. “To make this happen, Dominion and the State Corporation Commission must craft a long-term energy plan that capitalizes on these job-creating resources. Virginia cannot afford to continue with business-as-usual energy planning.”
“Young people understand that climate change is the defining issue facing our generation, and we have a crucial role to play in the clean energy revolution,” said Caroline Hansley, Vice President of GreenUR at the Univeristy of Richmond. “I am studying engineering, because I want to build wind turbines. These clean energy jobs will be created – whether it’s in Ohio or India, but we need them in Virginia. Strong investments in Virginia’s solar and wind sector will guarantee the job opportunities are located here.”
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