Cutting Carbon Pollution in Virginia


Extensive flooding caused by Hurricane Isabel, 2003. Credit: U.S. Navy

While nearby states are taking advantage of clean, sustainable energy sources, Virginia’s electric utilities are hooked on fossil fuels of the past. The state’s largest utility, Dominion Power, is projecting a 37% increase in carbon pollution from 2013 to 2028 as a result of relying largely on burning coal and natural gas.

To address carbon pollution and make progress toward a stable climate, Virginia utilities must develop carbon-free clean energy sources on a scale comparable to existing fossil fuel power plants. We can’t afford not to act.

Climate change impacts Virginia

In coastal Virginia, due to more intense storms and sea-level rise, residents of low-lying neighborhoods increasingly have to deal with flooded homes, cars, and roads, and the U.S. naval base in Hampton Roads is facing billions of dollars in retrofits. In central Virginia, farmers are seeing lower crop yields, and in western Virginia, foothill communities in the New River Valley face evacuations and school closings because of intense downpours.

As temperatures rise, summertime heat waves can cause health problems, such as heat stroke and cardiovascular disease, particularly for the elderly and children.

All across the state, severe thunderstorms, snowstorms, hurricanes, droughts and floods are affecting Virginians more frequently, and the costs associated with recovering from such disasters are growing. Over 25 disasters amounting to $1 billion in damages have impacted Virginia since 1980.

Most Virginians understand that climate change is happening, and support taking bold measures to address it.

Power-plant pollution threatens health

Cutting carbon emissions from power plants will not only help curb the warming trend, it will also significantly reduce other pollutants from burning fossil fuels that have a direct impact on human health. Soot and mercury, for example, are linked to asthma attacks, lung disease, and neurological disorders. In Virginia, more than 700,000 people, including more than 150,000 children, suffer from asthma.

Intensifying heat waves also pose a threat, especially to the elderly and ill. If carbon pollution continues to increase, Virginia is expected to see twice as many days above 90-degrees Fahrenheit in another 70 years.

Leading the way

Virginia has vast, untapped clean energy potential, and should be leading the way in adopting sustainable energy technologies and policies. Within ten years, energy efficiency, solar, and wind could power roughly 1 million Virginia homes, and create thriving industries that provide good jobs. Energy sources like wind and solar, where the fuel is essentially free, benefit customers by insulating them against price spikes in coal and natural gas during extreme hot and cold weather.

Appalachian Voices is committed to working with Virginians to push for a strong federal carbon rule, as well as continuing to promote greater state action on clean energy alternatives such as the following:

  • Efficiency first: Studies show Virginia could cut wasted energy by nearly one-third over the next decade by instituting energy efficiency programs, creating some 10,000 new jobs by 2050, and adding up to $900 million to Virginia’s economy.
  • Solar power: Virginia has the potential to generate roughly 19,000 megawatts from rooftop solar panels — enough to power about 6.65 million homes –yet a lack of state and utility incentives and financing for residential stymies the industry, which is growing fast in other parts of the U.S.
  • Wind power: Virginia is extremely well-positioned to reap the power of offshore wind — nearly 89,000 megawatts worth — and also to develop a supply chain for the East Coast offshore wind industry with a major port in Norfolk and the world’s largest shipbuilding industry in Hampton Roads.

Our Work

Appalachian Voices is working to cut carbon emissions in the region through our programs to promote energy efficiency and clean energy economies throughout the Southeast.