Last week, Appalachian Voices and members of the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition attended the Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s Energy Conference. Looking at the agenda, we were prepared for what would surely be a biased conference. But we didn’t know it would be this bad.
At every stage of the conference, the coal companies and electric utilities that survive on dirty energy completely suppressed the arguments for investment in energy efficiency and renewable generation. The state’s largest utilities, Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Energy, along with mountaintop removal giant Alpha Natural Resources, were the conferences top sponsors. Those sponsorships influenced the agenda, just as they influence in the Virginia General Assembly.
Virginia's energy policy is so concerned with how to keep coal relevant, Gov. McDonnell might as well wear his sponsors on his sleeve.
Dominion spent more than $5.5 million during the last decade in exchange for a hand in writing the laws under which it is regulated. That investment has proven worthwhile considering that Dominion stands to take in a $76 million bonus for spending less than $8 million on “clean” energy from other states, while building no new wind or solar in Virginia. This is just one of examples of corporate influence on energy policy reported in a white paper written by Appalachian Voices, the Sierra Club, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Use of coal for electricity generation is declining in the Southeast, largely due to market forces. While there is a lot of natural gas coming out of some of our neighbor states, we do not have much in Virginia. What we do have is a vast potential for energy efficiency and renewable generation, yet this conference refused to acknowledge this or take the rapidly growing wind and solar industries seriously. (more…)
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