About the Power Sector Opportunties Fact Sheet Series

This series of fact sheets aims to shed light on these opportunities by illustrating the CO₂ emissions-reduction potential from measures in a variety of states. For example, states could build off of existing initiatives like renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency standards, and other policies as well as use tools like greater efficiency at coal plants, increased use of combined heat and power, and fuller utilization of unused capacity at natural gas plants. We show how emissions savings from these existing policies and infrastructure stack up against the reductions that could be required under forthcoming standards.


President Obama announced a national climate plan in June 2013, directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set carbon pollution standards for the power sector. Once EPA establishes those standards, states will implement their own plans for achieving those reductions.

In this fact sheet, WRI examines existing tools Virginia can use to reduce power plant emissions and help meet future standards.

Key Findings

Four Ways to Reduce the Power Sector Emission Rate in Virginia

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 like:

  • Improving energy efficiency Virginia currently has a voluntary goal to reduce electricity consumption by 10 percent below 2006 levels of consumption by 2022. However, electric generation in the state is actually projected to increase by 63 percent over this time period, due mostly to Dominion Power’s high demand expectations. Fortunately, studies have identified a large potential for energy efficiency to curb this demand growth, with the state able to adopt measures and policies that achieve 1.3 percent annual energy savings and help Virginia meet its emission rate target.

  • Increasing use of renewable energy. Virginia’s investor-owned utilities may participate in the state’s voluntary renewable portfolio standard program, which has a goal that by 2025, 15 percent of electricity sold (based on 2007 sales, excluding the average annual percentages of nuclear generation from 2004-2006) is from renewable sources. However, Virginia generated only 3 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2012, most of which was from hydro and biomass sources. The state has considerable untapped wind and solar potential, and ensuring that Virginia’s investor-owned utilities generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 can help Virginia meet its emission rate target.