Renewable energy will power almost half of Virginia government by 2022

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Virginia’s state government will get 45 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022, officials announced Friday morning, exceeding a target established by Gov. Ralph Northam in a recent executive order committing the state to making its electric grid carbon free by 2050.

Both Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest electric utility, and the governor’s office hailed the agreement as the largest contract by a state government for renewable energy.

“Clean and renewable energy is a critical key to fighting climate change and is one of the most effective tools we have to address and mitigate these impacts,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Today’s announcement, along with several other clean energy related initiatives currently underway, clearly demonstrate that Virginia is serious about investing in clean energy, reducing carbon emissions, and cleaning up air pollution to improve our environment.”

The agreement marks the fulfillment of one prong of Northam’s Executive Order 43, issued on Sept. 16, that directed the state to negotiate amendments to its statewide contract with Dominion to ensure that at least 30 percent of its energy came from renewable sources by 2022.

Under the new contract, Dominion will supply Virginia with 420 additional megawatts of energy from wind and solar sources, the equivalent of providing power to about 100,000 homes.

Of that, 75 megawatts will come from the Rocky Forge Wind farm being developed by Apex Clean Energy in Botetourt County. The remainder will come from four solar projects: the Belcher Solar facility owned by Dominion in Louisa County, the Bedford Solar project being developed by Lincoln Clean Energy in Chesapeake, the Walnut Solar project being developed by Open Road Renewables in King and Queen County and a fourth solar project of about 100 megawatts that has not yet been identified.

The Bedford Solar farm received its final approval from the city of Chesapeake Tuesday, while the Walnut Solar project has not yet received the local approval necessary for construction. However, the agreement allows Dominion to propose that the energy be drawn from other solar facilities if those already identified have not begun commercial operations.

Dominion said that when the 420 megawatts are combined with previously announced solar projects, “the power produced is enough to meet the equivalent of 45 percent of the state government’s annual energy use.”

Customer rates are not expected to be impacted. Under the terms of the new agreement, Dominion will establish a new rider to pay for the costs associated with the renewable energy facilities that “will ensure that no other customers … will bear costs related to the Facilities.” Dominion spokesman Rayhan Daudani noted that this rider will not need to be approved by the State Corporation Commission but will be “just a new element on the Commonwealth’s bill as a non-jurisdictional customer.” According to Daudani, the state will “save money long-term on the deal.”

This story has been updated to include comments from a Dominion spokesperson.