Signer Releases "Green Energy and a Clean Environment: A 5-Point Strategy for Virginia"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I got an advance copy of Mike Signer's plan, being released today, "Green Energy and a Clean Environment: A 5-Point Strategy for Virginia." Here's an excerpt:
Greening our energy policy is a win-win proposition for Virginia. We can create thousands of new green jobs by creating wind power off the coast and improving efficiency inland. We can cut carbon emissions and help combat global warming—a vital interest to Virginians, with our miles of beautiful coastline and our strong agricultural sector. We can reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And we can preserve the natural beauty of our hills and shores, decrease environmentally caused diseases, and provide healthier spaces to live, work, and enjoy the outdoors—for hunters and fishers, for those enjoying or profiting from Virginia's tourism industry, and for the children who will inherit the earth.
Signer's plan includes the following key elements:

1. "Reduce energy consumption by 20% per person by 2025" as "a sure way to cut billions of dollars from our energy bills, create thousands of jobs and clean up the environment." This is crucial, and I'm glad to see it as item #1, as energy efficiency is by far and away gives us the biggest bang for the buck (note: it takes far less to save a watt of power than to generate one, hence the term by Amory Lovins, "negawatts").

2. "Generate 25% of our energy from clean, renewable sources by 2025" by setting a 25% mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2025 and by promoting investment in renewable energy ("Virginia has one of the best sources of wind power in the U.S. off Hampton Roads, where wind turbines could provide 12 percent of the state’s energy—at a cost competitive with that of new coal-fired generation and well below the cost of a new nuclear facility"). To my mind, a 25% mandatory RPS is the MINIMUM we should be shooting for, but let's get moving on that and see if we can beat it...hopefully by a wide margin.

3 "Don’t double down on the most harmful fuel technologies." What this means is ENDING mountaintop removal coal mining (yes, thank you!) and imposing "a moratorium on investments in new coalfired generating plants unless they can show pollution-capture technology has substantially reduced carbon dioxide emissions and meet stringent standards for particulate and mercury emissions" (also very good, although I'd define "substantially reduced" as "as close to zero as possible").

4. "Build a smart energy grid" by using federal funds and "bring[ing] utilities and the legislature together to promote a statewide rollout of smart grid technology." This is crucial if we're ever going to move from a 19th/20th century energy grid to a modern, digital grid that will form the backbone for tremendous energy progress moving forward.

5. "Create at least 13,000 green jobs by 2011" in weatherization, smart grid, and a "wind farm off Hampton Roads." The potential for "green jobs" may be a lot higher than that, particularly if Virginia can establish itself as a leader in energy R&D, using its top-notch research universities and educated workforce as a huge "comparative advantage" over other states and countries.

All in all, Mike's plan isn't tremendously lengthy but it hits the right notes. I'm very happy to see it, and am also thrilled to see how far the political discussion on environmental has evolved in just the past four years, with almost every politician at least TALKING about "clean tech" and "green jobs" these days. The question is, which of the candidate for governor and lieutenant governor will be most effective in getting Virginia where it needs to go in the short time we've got? That's why I'm not just looking at the plans the candidates put out, I'm listening to what they have to say, looking at their past voting records, and pushing them constantly to do more on this crucial issue.

P.S. Also, see Jon Bowerbank's energy plan and Terry McAuliffe's, both of which are detailed and strong.