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Virginia Needs a 21st Century Energy Plan-NOW

Between 1980 and 2005 Virginia increased its electricity use at an annual rate of 3.2 percent, a pace that would double in 22 years and then again in 44. Our per capita consumption of gasoline held at a fairly steady 530 gallons over that same 25 year time period. Currently, 20 percent of our electricity is imported, as are most of our transportation fuels. While conservation, efficiency gains and the move to electric vehicles will change the dynamics, Virginia will still need a substantial increase in production. It is also important to cut electrical imports to as little as possible. In fact a goal to be an energy exporter would be even better.

Virginia is currently ranked number one as a business friendly state and our natural resources provide us with a tourism attraction second to none. However,we cannot maintain this level unless we have a consistent, high quality supply of electricity and transportation fuels.Virginia needs a 21st century energy plan that takes these factors into consideration and provides definitive action items to ensure that our electricity and fuels needs are met. Putting new electrical and fuel resources in place is a time consuming process; new power plants take 10 to 20 years from planning to startup. Moving from upgrading our current grids to a series of smart grids will take many years. Because of that, we need an energy plan that covers the short term (up to 15 years), the mid term (up to 30 years) and the long term (up to 50 years).

The VEP21 should contain sections on the following:

1.Demand

a.Electricity

i.Base-load – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

ii.Peaking – high demand (hot summer; cold winter)

Decision makers need reliable analyses to indicate low, middle and upper bounds for our energy needs. An example may be to use the low projection based on the results of conservation and efficiency analyses included in the 2007 Virginia Energy Plan. The upper bound could be the annual rate of increase adjusted for additional electrical use in vehicles. The mid range would be in between the two. Both Virginia and the U. S. Department of Energy maintain excellent records on energy use in Virginia. What we need are analyses to project energy use for the next 50 years.

b.Transportation fuels

i.Gasoline

ii.Diesel

iii.Natural gas

iv.Biofuels

v.Electricity

Transportation fuels include those used for personal, commercial and rail needs. Virginia and the Federal Government maintain records of fuel use. Projecting fuel use will be complicated due to the introduction of electricity, use of hybrid fuel (diesel/natural gas engines) and biofuels.

2.Supply

a.Electricity

i.Base-load

1.Coal

2.Nuclear

ii.Peaking

1.Natural gas

2.Oil

3.Renewables

b.Transportation fuels

i.Gasoline

ii.Diesel

iii.Natural gas

iv.Biofuels

v.Electricity

There are currently 22 coal-fired power plants, two in planning, four nuclear plants and one in planning. There are a number of peaking plants around the state and 20 percent (base-load and peaking) is imported. Projections need to include replacing older plants and decreasing imports.  Transportation fuels are mostly in place except for electricity and biofuels.

3.Delivery

a.Electrical grids

i.Existing

ii.Smart grids and meters

b.Transportation fuels

i.Existing

ii.Biofuels

iii.Electricity

Electrical grids are an important area to analyze. Our grids from the 1960s and 70s are old and outdated. They are analog and many feel that for smart grids to work we need digital. The plan also needs to analyze the application of smart meters that communicate both ways. Adding in new forms of energy production and a very complicated analysis will be required.Transportation fuels will require changes and updates to accept new fuels, especially electricity.

4.Conservation/efficiency

a.Electricity use

b.Transportation fuels use

Virginia’s 2007 energy plan had extensive discussions on conservation and efficiency that involve a significant investment of funds ($200M per year for ten years by consumers and $100M per year for ten years by utilities). This plan needs to conduct analyses that present multiple inputs that involve a range of funds varying from amounts much smaller than the 2007 plan up to those included in the plan. The analysis would also benefit from separating all new construction from existing.

5.Conclusions

6.Action items

The plan must have action items that are measurable and have a lead owner. If government has a lead or important support role, then that action must be assigned to a position/person senior enough to carry it through. Leads controlled by industry, co-ops or non-profits must also have a decision maker capable of seeing actions to their conclusion and the funds necessary to ensure it happens.

Virginia is at a crossroad. Either we decide to plan for the next 50 years now or we face energy shortages in the future. Those shortages will be caused by a lack of adequate capacity and an inadequate grid system. Virginia needs to be a leader in this effort and work with the various energy providers and grid owners. At the same time we need to find innovative ways to promote conservation and make our systems and structures more efficient.

 

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