Choose so­lar power, not cor­po­rate power

Rappahannock News - - COMMENT - VER­NON GRAS Chair, En­vi­ron­men­tal and So­cial Jus­tice Com­mit­tee Uni­tar­ian Universali­sts of the Blue Ridge (UUBRidge) Sper­ryville

An open let­ter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe: SEIA (So­lar En­ergy In­dus­tries As­so­ci­a­tion) has just re­vealed that so­lar ac­counted for 64 per­cent of new elec­tric­gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity in the U.S. dur­ing the first quar­ter of 2016. That was more than coal, nat­u­ral gas and nu­clear com­bined. Fur­ther­more, so­lar em­ploy­ment has grown by 123 per­cent in the past six years. To­tal em­ploy­ment in the so­lar in­dus­try will in­crease this year to about 239,625 work­ers. But less than 1 per­cent of those work­ers will be Vir­gini­ans, ac­cord­ing to so­lar­foun­da­tion.org.

Mary­land, by the end of 2015, had in­stalled 465 megawatts of so­lar en­ergy, enough to power 50,000 homes. Vir­ginia, by the end of 2015, had only in­stalled 22 megawatts of so­lar en­ergy, just enough to power 2,200 homes. Why this dis­par­ity? The only fu­ture so­lar boost in Vir­ginia had to come from out­siders like Mi­crosoft and Ama­zon, who chose Vir­ginia to build so­lar in­stal­la­tions to achieve their re­new­able en­ergy cred­its. Why can’t we have ex­ten­sive home-based so­lar ini­tia­tives? An­swer: Vir­ginia state laws act as bar­ri­ers to so­lar in­stal­la­tions, laws in­sti­gated by Do­min­ion

Power and its par­ent, Do­min­ion Re­sources.

Standby charges, pos­si­ble re­fusal to con­nect to the net, and no state tax re­bates have been pow­er­ful dis­in­cen­tives for home­own­ers to put so­lar on their roofs. Not only do our law­mak­ers not en­cour­age al­ter­na­tive en­ergy, they al­low, even pro­mote, fos­sil fuel to elec­trify Vir­ginia. And they do this even while our coastal ci­ties like Nor­folk, Hamp­ton Roads and Vir­ginia Beach flood re­peat­edly due to ris­ing ocean lev­els. When a heavy rain and high tide now co­in­cide, half of Nor­folk’s base­ments fill with water.

The fact that Do­min­ion Power, via CEO Bob Blue and ALEC (funded by the Koch broth­ers), fo­ments the dis­sem­i­na­tion of bo­gus cli­mate-change de­nials is un­der­stand­able. With their par­ent, Do­min­ion Re­sources, the util­ity is ac­tively build­ing nat­u­ral gas gen­er­at­ing plants with 4,300 megawatts gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity com­ing on­line be­tween now and 2019. And their lat­est re­source plan calls for 9,000 megawatts more.

Mean­while, they prom­ise a mere 400 megawatts of so­lar by 2020 (ac­cord­ing to pow­er­forthep­eo­pl­eva.com). Sure, if you own the gas, the pipe­line and the util­ity (which, as a mo­nop­oly, guar­an­tees cap­tive ratepay­ers), nev­er­mind cli­mate change with its cat­a­strophic re­sults for life as we know it. Cor­po­rate profit should be the ul­ti­mate value, al­ways. That’s the Amer­i­can way. With no limit on cam­paign-fi­nanc­ing from util­i­ties, what Do­min­ion wants, it usu­ally gets from leg­is­la­tors. View the sad fate of all the al­ter­na­tive en­ergy bills in the last Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion: Blocked and de­ferred to a “sub­com­mit­tee study” and re­port for 2017.

The re­cent re­ver­sals to po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment think­ing in the sur­pris­ing Trump, San­ders, Brexit events have their source in vot­ers re­al­iz­ing that their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives serve cor­po­rate in­ter­ests, not peo­ple’s (their) in­ter­ests. Vot­ers have ex­pe­ri­enced that what’s good for cor­po­ra­tions is not nec­es­sar­ily good for them, to which the wide­spread wealth in­equal­ity at­tests. (See how the 99-to-1-per­cent split emerged in Robert Reich’s “Be­yond Out­rage.”)

So, we sug­gest that, be­tween now and the next Gen­eral As­sem­bly, you use your bully pul­pit, Gov. McAuliffe, to make it dif­fi­cult for this cor­po­rate­con­trolled sub­com­mit­tee to sti­fle so­lar en­ergy once again at the be­hest of Do­min­ion Power. Push for­ward a state im­ple­men­ta­tion of EPA’s Clean Power Plan that puts a firm cap on to­tal car­bon emis­sions from the elec­tric sec­tor in Vir­ginia. Take a pub­lic stand on this most crit­i­cal point.

Ivy Main has beau­ti­fully de­scribed the na­ture of your choice: You can choose to be a cli­mate hero, fight­ing sea level rise, deadly heat waves and floods, cre­at­ing tens of thou­sands of clean en­ergy jobs, at­tract­ing pro­gres­sive com­pa­nies to the state, build­ing your na­tional rep­u­ta­tion and do­ing what’s right for all our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren — or you can make Do­min­ion happy. Democ­racy means a gov­ern­ment of, by, and for peo­ple, not a gov­ern­ment serv­ing cor­po­rate plu­toc­racy.

Choose democ­racy not plu­toc­racy. We want to love you.

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