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Cleaning Up Virginia's Energy Grid Could Have a Hefty Price Tag

Solar panels gather sunlight in Florida.
John Raoux
Solar panels gather sunlight.

The cost of energy is on the rise across Virginia, prompting a debate about the cost of addressing climate change.

Virginia is already above the national average in terms of the percentage of income that people pay for their electric bill. And now that bill is about to rise again – potentially by hundreds of dollars over the next few years. That's because Virginia's transition away from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy won’t be cheap.

Stephen Haner at the Thomas Jefferson Institute says when people see the bill they'll have second thoughts about the Clean Economy Act.

"As people discover what the costs are, there's going to be more and more pushback," explains Haner. "And I think it's just getting started."

Those costs need to be balanced against the benefits of addressing climate change, says Dana Wiggins at the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

"The more that we can reduce energy use, energy waste, and the more that we can help our low-income neighbors to meet their energy needs, it actually does help the entire system to stay more stabilized," Wiggins says. "And it actually costs less money in the long run to do that."

The deadline for Virginia to ditch fossil fuels is 2050, although many people are calling for meeting that goal even earlier — potentially 2035, although changing that deadline would create a new set of issues and costs.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.