By: Charles Hernick, CRES Director of Policy & Advocacy
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie recently announced his “Energy to Power Families, Jobs and Investment Plan” to widespread approval. The ideas he described in his plan are generally market-based and demonstrate a true “all-of-the-above” approach to energy, including strong support for clean energy development here in the commonwealth.
Mr. Gillespie, the former chair of both the Republican Party of Virginia and the Republican National Committee, joins a growing chorus of members of his party getting behind clean energy.
Perhaps more importantly, his plan reflects the changing views of GOP voters as well. A poll commissioned this summer by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions found that clean energy enjoys high levels of support across a broad ideological range—including a majority of Republicans, self-identified conservatives, and those who voted for President Trump. And this trend won’t change anytime soon as nearly two-thirds of likely Republican voters under the age of 45 favor the government taking steps to reduce carbon dioxide and methane emissions.
Mr. Gillespie’s plan has broad appeal because it empowers different categories of consumers so they can make individual clean energy choices. For example, the plan would expand existing pilot programs for Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), which have been particularly effective for facilitating growth in local, or distributed, clean energy generation and meeting the demands of communities and businesses in other states.
For residents across the Commonwealth, Mr. Gillespie’s commitment to a “smart grid” and energy storage will improve information and increase reliability. It means, among other things, that Virginia residents will eventually be better able to manage their own household energy usage thanks to smart meters capable of two-way communication with the central system. And more energy storage projects would improve service to residents by reducing the number and duration of outages.
Meanwhile for businesses, his plan seeks to expand large-scale clean energy choices for Virginia’s corporate consumers. He is looking to provide more flexible renewable energy purchasing options that are cost-competitive and reflective of actual market pricing. This is critical step for continuing to attract top-tier companies that demand clean power as a part of their business model.
True to an “all of the above” approach Mr. Gillespie isn’t abandoning traditional energy sources because he realizes clean energy resources aren’t mutually exclusive – in fact, they are complementary. Virginia has active coal mines and real coal jobs. By reinstating the coal tax credit and advancing carbon capture technologies his approach could begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions over time, while creating a bridge between the coal jobs of the past and the high-tech, clean energy jobs of the future.
While Mr. Gillespie’s plan proposes to walk away from Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order seeking a cap on greenhouse gas emission, my hope is that a Gillespie Administration will look carefully at the results of the Governor’s efforts and learn from other Republican-led states before deciding what to do.
GOP Governors and policy-makers in the Northeast and across the border in Maryland have recently re-affirmed their commitment to the decade-old Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) because it’s working. RGGI has reduced carbon emissions faster and cheaper than expected, created jobs in an emerging sector of the economy, and—as mentioned previously—it’s what voters want.
One needn’t be a climate change devotee to see the commonsense benefit of diversifying power and utilizing more clean energy. Energy innovation will create jobs here at home and help to grow the Commonwealth’s economy and keep us globally competitive; and it improves efficiency and lowers costs. Those are all fundamentally conservative values, so it makes sense that greater numbers of Republicans are coming around to clean energy. Mr. Gillespie is wise to capitalize on this trend during the gubernatorial race.
Charles Hernick is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit founded to engage Republican policymakers and the public about commonsense, conservative solutions to address our nation’s need for abundant, reliable energy while preserving our environment. Charles was the Republican candidate for U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia’s 8th District in 2016.