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Letter: Dominion Power Must Do More

— To the Editor:

Virginia is stuck in the past depending almost entirely on dirty, polluting energy sources like coal that make our kids sick, put our communities at risk and cost us millions in health care expenses each year. Dominion Virginia Power, our state’s largest utility, is arguably the biggest culprit by failing to develop a single wind farm or large-scale solar project in our state.

Now, Dominion is proposing a woefully small solar program that would do more for its image than for Virginia families. Its 30 MW “Community Solar Program” would allow them to lease rooftops and small pieces of land, most likely in northern Virginia, to install solar panels the company would own and operate. While the Sierra Club strongly supports solar, this unambitious plan would do relatively little to create new jobs, attract new industries, cut harmful air pollution or build a clean energy future for our kids.

The State Corporation Commission (SCC) will decide at a hearing starting Wednesday, Sept. 19 whether or not to approve the Dominion solar proposal. We hope they will use this opportunity to tell Dominion that Virginia’s families deserve better and urge them to develop large-scale solar, wind and energy efficiency to power our homes, schools and businesses.

Dominion’s current solar proposal should be the beginning rather than the entirety of its clean energy plan. Unfortunately, this 30 MW of solar represents nearly all of the clean energy it plans to develop. In fact, Dominion’s own 15-year energy plan, termed the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), includes just 33 MW of solar compared to 5,075 MW of new dirty energy developments — and no wind power at all. That means Dominion is planning to make less than one percent of new power in our state from clean, renewable energy sources over the next decade and a half — a decision that will cost us jobs, money and our health.

Solar is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. employing over 100,000 Americans in over 5,600 businesses. The amount of installed solar capacity in the U.S. is soaring as the cost of solar is steadily decreasing. States like New Jersey are surging ahead with more than 800 MW of solar power in the state including over 100 MW installed in just the past few months. And with this rapid solar growth they’re creating new jobs, stronger local economies and reducing the need for dirty power plants.

Virginia could do the same and Dominion has the power to make it happen. Its Community Solar Project is a step in the right direction, but Dominion must do more. With 3,000 MW of clean, renewable energy including solar, wind and energy efficiency, Dominion could meet their renewable energy commitments with Virginian-made clean energy. That’s enough to power more than 700,000 Virginia homes and offset the need for new dirty power plants that would pollute our air for decades to come.

Dominion has the opportunity to make Virginia a clean energy leader by ramping up its solar program, bringing wind power to our state and making energy efficiency a priority for all of their customers. The SCC should use this hearing to send Dominion a clear message that Virginia deserves better than this small step.

Phillip Ellis

Sierra Club Field Organizer

Alexandria