Commentary: Pragmatic energy policies key to state’s prosperity

By Adam Waldeck

Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial election is likely to be one of the most important to be held in the past decade. The commonwealth has been named one of the top five states in which to do business in each of the past five years. In fact, our business-friendly climate helped the state’s gross domestic product reach a record $445 million last year. While many factors contribute to this success, none are more important than Virginia’s balanced energy policies.

These policies are the result of electing pragmatic leaders eager to pursue energy development of all types. Indeed, this leadership has enabled Virginia to move toward an “all of the above” energy policy approach that serves as a model for the nation.

According to the Energy Information Administration, nearly 40 percent of the state’s electricity is provided by nuclear energy and 34 percent is generated using natural gas. At the same time, energy from renewable sources has doubled in recent years and now provides 5 percent of Virginia’s electricity supply. Add it all up and nearly 80 percent of the commonwealth’s electricity is sourced from low, or zero, emission sources.

The remainder of the state’s electricity is provided by coal. This industry is not only of great importance — in 2012 it directly supported $2.9 billion in economic activity and 10,637 jobs — but also helps keep our energy costs low while providing the stability needed for continued economic growth.

This is a critical point when considering that the commonwealth’s electricity use is expected to grow by 1.5 percent each year. At this rate, Virginia will need to grow its energy supply by 14.6 percent to meet expected demand through 2020. While the state’s renewable energy portfolio target will help meet some of this need, coal will continue to be an important part of Virginia’s energy portfolio.

However, if out of state anti-development activists have their way, Virginia’s energy pragmatism, and continued economic growth, could be at risk. In fact, Californian billionaire activist Tom Steyer recently announced he intends to pump millions of dollars into the state’s gubernatorial election to “send a national message about the power of climate-oriented politics.”

Regardless of this, Virginians already know that the state is an energy leader. This is evident by the state’s diversity in electricity production, its renewable electricity objectives and the fact that, in 2010, the commonwealth’s vehicle fleet was ranked eighth for the number of alternative-fueled vehicles in use.

For this reason, Consumer Energy Alliance is proud to host the “2013 Virginia Energy & Opportunity Forum: A Discussion with Virginia’s Gubernatorial Candidates.” The forum, being held at George Mason’s School of Law at 9 a.m. Aug. 29, will allow both Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe to engage with energy consumers in a wide-ranging discussion about Virginia’s energy future.

With the importance of ensuring access to affordable, reliable electricity, and Virginia’s opportunities for offshore oil, natural gas and renewable energy development, it is critical that we hear from both candidates about their energy platforms and policies.

This election, and the development and implementation of policies that ensure access to affordable and reliable energy, will be key to continuing Virginia’s economic success.

Now, more than ever, we need to move forward with pragmatic energy policies that support energy innovation and economic growth. After all, whether you’re a manufacturer in Virginia Beach or a stay-at-home mom in Charlottesville, energy has a huge impact on your everyday life and the state’s continued growth.

Adam Waldeck of Arlington is the executive director of Southeast Energy Alliance a regional chapter of the Consumer Energy Alliance, which is based in Houston.