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Green energy may flourish even with Republicans dominating Richmond

offshore wind
As Virginia aims to dominate a new wind energy industry, observers say green energy is now a bi-partisan issue.

When Republicans ruled Richmond, they backed energy plans that relied on coal and natural gas – fossil fuels that promote climate change, but at Virginia’s chapter of the Sierra Club, Conservation Director Ivy Main says she doesn’t expect the Youngkin Administration to pull the plug on solar.

“In 2020 Virginia was the fourth biggest state in terms of solar development. Nobody wants to be the guy who stops jobs from coming to Virginia.”

Ivy Main
Ivy Main
Ivy Main is Conservation Director for the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter.

She predicts we’ll be seeing more solar panels on rooftops. In fact, she thinks the new legislature may pass measures to promote that.

“I’m optimistic about some of the provisions that will require new schools to have high efficiency standards, solar on the roof," Main says. "These are things that save money for taxpayers, and that should be a bipartisan position.”

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin is already on the record, supporting offshore wind. Main says it’s just too good for the economy.

“Siemens-Cabeza, the largest offshore wind blade manufacturer in the world is now going to be locating in Portsmouth, and so nobody is going to want to kill that golden goose," she explains. "You’re developing this huge new industry in the U.S. and Virginia is going to be one of the leaders of it.”

Nor does she expect Virginia to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a cooperative formed by 11 states to cap and reduce carbon emissions.

“We’ve already got more than $100 million coming into the state from the initiative, and that money is going to low income efficiency projects and also to coastal adaptation projects, and no other funding source has been identified, so it would be really leaving money on the table to step back and say we’re not going to do that anymore.”

Likewise, the legislature probably won’t back away from a requirement that the auto industry sell more electric cars here.

“It’s going to happen because the economics are there, because the technology is better than internal combustion engines, and so it’s just a matter of do you help it along? Do you plan for it? Do you put in the charging stations? You make sure that you’ve got funding for electric school buses. Everybody sees that makes perfect sense. I’m always hopeful that everybody understands this is the right direction to go and won’t want to back off it.”

Environmentalists may, however, be disappointed on another front – even before Ralph Northam and a number of Democratic delegates leave office. The Sierra Club’s Ivy Main says she won’t be surprised if the Mountain Valley Pipeline is approved.

“The Department of Environmental Quality is due to decide whether it’s going to give these stream permits that are the last piece that MVP needs. They’ll decide that before Glenn Youngkin takes office and we have the changeover of the general assembly, so I think that’s going to be decided one way or the other. I’m concerned that DEQ will give them the permits.”

And while some communities are asking Richmond for permission to enact tougher building codes requiring more energy efficiency and less damaging building materials, Main doubts the Virginia house – dominated by Republicans -- will agree to do that.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.