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Legislature must act now to support Virginia’s green economy

By Bruce Stewart

immediate action by the Virginia legislaturethe Commonwealth risks losing affordable green energy choice options needed to achieve Governor Northam’s goal of ensuring 100% of its electricity will be powered by carbon-free sources by 2050. 


Today, business and industrial customers in Virginia are able to choose 100% renewable electricity from the energy supplier of their choice. Not only is this paving the way towards a greener energy future for Virginia, but the green option is more affordable than the non-renewable option offered by the utility. Thousands have already seized the opportunity to switch to renewable energy - more than 10,000 business customers across Virginia have made the switch to 100% renewable power offered by retail power sellers. To put that into perspective, that’s enough energy to power the city of Richmond for a year. 


The momentum among commercial and industrial customers is driven by a desire to support their corporate sustainability goals while saving money on their monthly billsIn fact, customers of Direct Energy’s 100% renewable plans have publicly stated that their electricity rates are 17-18% lower than the non-renewable power offered by Dominion Energy. 


Retail power companies like Direct Energy are eager to give residential customers the same 100% renewable option. Green choice is allowing Virginia businesses to win, and frankly, Virginia residents should be able to benefit from inexpensive green power at home, too. 


Maintaining options for green choice would allow any Virginia customer – residential or commercial – to switch to affordable, 100% renewable energy. We need to allow customers to keep their ability to choose, it is the quickest and most competitive way to “green” Virginia’s economy.    


To further support the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals and increased demand, Direct Energy recently placed bid to secure new solar generation in Virginia.  


But all these gains – current and future – are in jeopardy. 


Last Monday the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to block bills that would have allowed green electricity choice to flourish in the Commonwealth. This was vote against the thousands of Virginia businesses and consumers who want to choose 100% renewable energy. 


Those bills – Bourne HB 868 and Mullin HB 889 – passed in the House of Delegates with bipartisan support and were backed by one of the largest and diverse coalitions seen during this legislative session. Supporters of this legislation range from the Governor’s office to the Virginia League of Conservation VotersSierra Club and trade associations like the Virginia Food Industry and Virginia Apartment and Office Buildings, to the private sector with companies like TargetCostco, and Sprint, that have sustainability goals.  


At this timeVirginia utilities are beholden to expensive, non-renewable legacy assets that slow their ability to innovate and provide renewable energy alternativesBy putting the brakes on the ability for consumers to expand their right to choose renewable energy from those who can offer it affordablythe Senate Commerce and Labor Committee has effectively put the future of the Commonwealth’s green economy in the hands of only one provider – the utilities.  

Reducing the options you have to switch to green energy is the slowest, most expensive approach possible. Sadly, it’s a win for Dominion Energy, and a major loss for the people of Virginia. 


If you support a green economy for Virginia, one that boosts growth while reducing carbon emissions and lowering your monthly bill, join us in urging the Senate to reconsider this issue in the remaining days of this session. 


And if the Senate refuses to act on behalf of the people of Virginia, we encourage the Governor or the State Corporation Commission to do so. Allow residential and business customers to continue to benefit from renewable energy today; it makes absolutely no sense to eliminate their current ability to do so.  


The Commonwealth’s future depends on it. 


Bruce Stewart is President of North America Home for Direct Energy, a subsidiary of Centrica plc, an international energy and services company.

Direct Energy is one of North America’s largest retail providers of electricity, natural gas and energy-related services to over three million homes and business. It is part of Centrica plc (LSE: CNA), a leading international energy services and solutions provider that is founded on a 200-year heritage of serving people. Direct Energy, its subsidiaries and/or affiliates, operate in 50 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and 8 provinces in Canada. We are focused on satisfying the changing needs of our customers, enabling them to transition to a lower carbon future. Our aim is to reduce emissions in line with Paris goals by 2030 and develop a path to net zero by 2050.

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