By: Anne Lapera
These past four months working with VAEIC have been extremely rewarding and successful. We as an organization were successful in sharing our research and recommendations with Governor McAuliffe (governor of Virginia). Our goals included developing an Energy Plan that promoted open markets for clean advanced energy technologies, allowing for job creation, economic boosts, and a sustainable energy future. Although the plan does employ some policies that are not conducive to environmental sustainability such as reviving the state’s coal economy, increasing natural gas pipeline infrastructure, and drilling for oil and gas off the Virginia coast, he does express a commitment to develop wind and solar generation and increase statewide efficiency to decrease the need for new power plants. In addition, for the first time the quadrennial energy plan includes a cost benefit analysis to Virginia of U.S. EPA’s planned regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil-fuel-fired power plants
Solar does have sufficient standing in McAuliffe’s plan although McAuliffe did not decide to change the state’s voluntary renewable portfolio standard to a mandatory standard. Despite the stand-still he is supporting the use of third-party Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). McAuliffe also suggests increasing the current 50-megawatt cap on the amount of solar distributed generation. In spite of McAuliffe’s support of PPAs, it would still need approval by the General Assembly. This would however, allow for national companies to compete and meet the demand for rooftop solar.
The aforementioned policies are just some of steps Governor McAuliffe is taking toward environmental and economic sustainability. According to our founder, Francis Hodsoll, McAuliffe’s “plan is an opportunity to focus in on the deployment of clean energy technologies at scale, reducing pollution and gaining the economic benefits associated. We need a diverse, prudent energy supply that isn’t overreliant on any one fuel. It’s a very good start.”
Finally, in addition to the successfulness of our influence on Governor McAuliffe’s energy plan, I also developed several important skills and gained practice in leadership, time-management, and responsibility. I found it extremely beneficial to witness the real-life practice of the skills we have been learning at Bard Center for Environmental Policy. Seeing how economics, law, and science all affect policy helps to show how to take the skills learned in the classroom and apply them real-world issues.
I think one of the most valuable aspects of this internship was not only studying and witnessing effective policy but also being able to participate in creating effective policy. It takes developed and practiced skill to incorporate the many factors that effect environmental policy. I learned, throughout this process, that in the energy market there are many factors such as limitations in science and technology and social, political, and economic dynamics that determine the types policies that are employed.