Sen. Jennifer McClellan: In 2020, Let’s Be Ambitious on Energy and Climate

By Senator Jennifer McClellan

Last month, I joined Del. Rip Sullivan in introducing the Virginia Clean Economy Act -- an ambitious and comprehensive proposal that would transition Virginia’s entire electric grid to 100% clean energy by 2050. 

For too long, Virginia’s energy policies have been outdated. This bill will make Virginia a national leader in creating thousands of in-state clean energy jobs, making power less expensive in every corner of Virginia and fight the climate crisis that is impacting Virginia communities today.

On the campaign trail last year, addressing climate change this was the number one I heard about across generations, but especially from Gen Z.  And like all parents, I wonder if my generation is doing all it can to provide for a better world for our kids -- whether it’s making sure the economy provides new opportunities, whether we look after our most vulnerable communities, or whether we are living up to our responsibility to protect our natural resources. 

The Virginia Clean Economy Act will mean more jobs in the 21st century economy. This bill is expected to create up to 13,000 new jobs each year in the advanced energy industry right here in Virginia by investing in new energy efficiency programs.

As a state senator, I have seen Virginia communities that have paid the price for inaction on climate change -- including low-income communities and communities of color that have historically faced disproportionate health and economic impacts from pollution.

Addressing climate change isn’t just about ecology, it’s an issue of equality. That’s why the Virginia Clean Economy Act puts environmental justice front-and-center, including creating an Environmental Justice Review and dedicating 50% of energy efficiency revenue from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for low-income consumers.

It will also protect consumers like never before. Over the course of the plan, it will penalize utility monopolies for selling high-pollution energy sources to other states, and compel them to change their ways. This transition to clean, reliable energy and greater efficiency could help Virginia families save $3,500 over the decades ahead.

What’s more, the bill outlines specific year-by-year goals. As an example, this plan sets a goal of having at least 73% of Virginia’s electricity coming from clean sources like wind and locally-produced solar in the next 15 years, setting the stage for 100% clean energy just 15 years after that.

Finally, it will protect our natural resources to fight climate change right here at home. In addition to eliminating all carbon emissions from the Virginia power grid, this plan is designed to protect Virginia’s coastal communities by combating erosion and destruction on shorelines. 

I want my kids to grow up where they have access to jobs that stay true to the changing times, clean air and clean water. This bill sets a clean energy plan for the year 2050 – when both Jack and Samantha will be in their 30s. I want to make sure they don’t inherit a degraded environment, and have all the opportunities to succeed in the world. In the end, that’s what this is about to me.

Virginia needs to act now to grow clean energy jobs and protect the future for our children. We don’t have any longer to wait.