LYNCHBURG, Va. — On Monday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin rolled out a new energy plan for Virginia.
The 35-page guideline covers everything from coal to nuclear power and highlights five goals: reliability, affordability, innovation, competition, and environmental stewardship.
Even with that last point, the plan severs Virginia from having to match California's electric vehicle standards and pivots from certain clean energy guidelines put in place by then-governor Ralph Northam in 2020.
"[Virginia Clean Economy Act]’s mandates are an inflexible, 30-year determination with a prescribed route that currently cannot be delivered and do not contain any guidelines ensuring reasonable energy costs for Virginian consumers," the report states. "Blindly complying with VCEA exposes Virginia families and businesses to outsized energy costs, risks the reliable delivery of energy, and closes Virginia to innovative energy sources and technologies."
A graph showing how Virginia's energy production broke down in 2020 showed most of the state's electricity coming from natural gas (61%), followed closely by nuclear power (29%). The state got about 4% of its energy from coal sources, and 1% from solar.
Youngkin's report said the energy in Virginia is affordable compared to other states, but the rate of Virginia's increases in energy costs has been faster than those of other states and is damaging the commonwealth's cost of living.
A large part of his administration's answer is nuclear.
Where the VCEA hoped to hold nuclear power levels steady and increase the use of renewable energy, the 2022 Energy Plan aims to make Virginia a nuclear hub. One of its goals is to open up a commercial nuclear plant in Southwestern Virginia.
"We need to shift to realistic and dynamic plans," Youngkin said. "The 2022 Energy Plan will meet the power demands of a growing economy and ensures Virginia has that reliable, affordable, clean and growing supply of power by embracing an all-of-the-above energy plan that includes natural gas, nuclear, renewables and the exploration of emerging sources to satisfy the growing needs of Commonwealth residents and businesses."
Republican Del. Kathy Byron, the House commerce and energy chair, said two of the country's biggest nuclear manufacturing companies were in Lynchburg, and the plan was a good fit for them.
"They offer exciting opportunities to research and develop cutting-edge nuclear generation technologies that will create new, high-paying jobs in the Commonwealth while delivering reliable energy to Virginians," she said. "I am also glad Governor Youngkin’s plan includes actions to protect our natural resources, including farmland, rivers, and streams."
Several environmental groups in Virginia criticized Youngkin's plan, arguing it reverses progress in shifting to renewable energy sources.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which advocates for policies to address climate change, said the plan favors coal, gas and nuclear energy, while rolling back Virginia law aiming to reduce carbon emissions.
"His ‘all-of-the-above’ approach would have been fine in 1950 but has no place in the year 2022," Mike Tidwell, the director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, wrote in a news release. "Methane gas is not ‘clean’ and nuclear power is fantastically expensive and will not protect consumers or the environment."
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) said the plan "unfairly" attributes clean energy as the cause of increasing energy costs.
SELC Senior Attorney Will Cleveland wrote that fossil fuels and Virginia's utility laws have driven most cost increases.
“Clean energy is not the problem here. The problem is a regulatory system that enables utilities to over-charge customers on the one hand and then drive rates even higher with new surcharges with the other hand," Cleveland wrote. "Years of bad legislation have handcuffed the State Corporation Commission’s ability to prevent these ratepayer abuses."
You can read the full details of his energy plan online.