By using existing infrastructure and expanding clean energy, Old Dominion State can reduce its emission rate 32% by 2020

WASHINGTON (December 11, 2014)— New analysis of Virginia’s power sector finds the state can meet proposed carbon pollution standards from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan by reducing the carbon-intensity of its power generation. The analysis, conducted by the World Resources Institute, shows that by increasing utilization of the state’s existing infrastructure and implementing new clean energy strategies, Virginia can reduce its emission rate 32 percent by 2020 and 37 percent by 2030 (below 2012 levels).

Under EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Virginia would need to reduce its CO2 emission rate by 32 percent below 2012 levels between 2020 and 2029 to be in line with the state’s interim target and by 38 percent below 2012 levels to meet its 2030 target. These are important actions that are part of the national Climate Action Plan announced by President Obama in June 2013.

“Even as electricity demand grows in Virginia, the grid is expected to get cleaner,” said Michael Obeiter, a senior associate at WRI who led the analysis. “Our analysis shows the potential for even greater reductions that can spur innovation and create new opportunities for businesses.”

Virginia can meet almost 80 percent of EPA’s emission rate target for the state between 2020 and 2030 with its planned coal plant retirements, as well as using available infrastructure, including:

  • Using more combined heat and power (CHP). Virginia can build more CHP systems—which use waste heat to generate electricity more efficiently than the average power plant—at sites like universities, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities.

  • Using more gas. Virginia’s most efficient natural gas plants—combined cycle (NGCC) units—generated much less electricity than they were capable of producing in 2012. Running existing and planned NGCC plants at 75 percent can help the state meet its emission rate target.

Virginia can get the rest of the way to its target by using more clean energy, including:

  • Improving energy efficiency. Virginia currently has a voluntary goal to reduce electricity use by 10 percent below 2006 levels by 2022, and studies have identified a large amount of energy efficiency opportunities that can also save customers money. Virginia can adopt efficiency measures that achieve 1.3 percent annual electricity savings to help meet its emission rate target.

  • Increasing use of renewable energy. Virginia generated only 3 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2012, most of which was from hydro and biomass sources, leaving considerable wind and solar potential untapped. Ensuring that all Virginia’s investor-owned utilities generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 (the level established by the state’s voluntary renewable program) can help Virginia meet its emission rate target.

Historically, Virginia has done little to promote energy efficiency. Virginia’s 2014 Energy Plan noted that robust energy efficiency policies could increase the gross state domestic product by $286 million and create 38,000 jobs by 2030.

“Improving energy efficiency programs and renewable energy production in Virginia would be a win-win,” Obeiter said. “Measures that reduce emissions can also create jobs, raise demand for in-state manufacturing, and lower consumers’ annual electric bills in the future.”

WRI’s Virginia fact sheet is available here:

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