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Virginia lawmakers unveil clean energy legislation

The Virginia Clean Economy Act aims to lower utility bills, create tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs, and allow for cleaner air.

RICHMOND, Va. — Ahead of the next legislative session, some Virginia lawmakers are unveiling an ambitious plan that seeks to eliminate the Commonwealth's fossil fuel emissions by 2050.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act aims to lower utility bills, create tens of thousands of new clean energy jobs, and provide cleaner air.

Environmental advocates are pushing new investments in renewable energy projects, and the bill would require 30 percent of all energy in the Commonwealth to be provided by renewable sources by 2030.

"Everybody sees the signal from this legislation which is that ultimately, the state is going to be moving toward zero percent fossil fuel infrastructure," said Richard Caperton, a senior director at Arcadia and a contributor to the legislation. "It's going to ultimately save customers money as renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil fuel energy." 

The VCEA would set renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. It would also expand a shared solar program, giving more people access to solar energy even without panels at home.

"The cost of solar energy has come down 35 percent in the last five years so that means a whole host of people can save money by using solar energy today," Caperton said.

State Senator Jennifer McClellan, along with Delegates Rip Sullivan, Jennifer Carroll Foy, and Alfonso Lopez formally announced the act on December 19 in Richmond.

Earlier this year, Governor Ralph Northam set a goal for Virginia to produce 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050 - meaning renewable and nuclear energy.

RELATED: Virginia governor sets renewable energy goal: 100% by 2050

Previously under Republican control, the General Assembly thwarted Northam's attempts to pass legislation limiting carbon emissions from power plants. But Democrats, having retaken both the House of Delegates and Senate in the November elections, have a stronger chance of passing new regulations in the upcoming session.

RELATED: Northam announces budget will include $733 million for environment, clean energy