Supplier of Virginia’s electric co-ops pledges net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

Electric meters. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, which supplies electricity to nine of Virginia’s 13 electric cooperatives, on Thursday announced a goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The target is in line with a requirement of the Virginia Clean Economy Act that bars the state from issuing power plants carbon allowances after 2050. 

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative “plans to vigorously pursue its carbon reduction and clean energy expansion goals but will also ensure that achieving that goal will not disrupt the reliable electric service it has provided for more than 70 years,” said President and CEO Marcus Harris in a news release. 

Under the VCEA and other legislation passed during the 2020 General Assembly session authorizing Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-invest carbon market, all power plants that rely on fossil fuels will be subject to RGGI carbon caps. Facilities will be required to purchase an allowance for each ton of carbon they emit, with the pool of allowances shrinking over time. 

ODEC currently operates three fossil fuel plants in Virginia: the coal-fired Clover Power Station, which it owns jointly with Dominion Energy, and the natural gas-fired Louisa and Marsh Run plants.

In 2019, the three facilities produced roughly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. 

The cooperative said Thursday that its reliance on coal from the Clover plant has declined from 25 percent of its power supply in 2005 to 5 percent last year. Over the same period, it calculates that carbon emissions fell 46 percent.

Renewables use has also grown: ODEC said more than 35 percent of its energy was generated by non-carbon-emitting sources in 2020.