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EGEB: Virginia governor signs groundbreaking green energy act

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) has signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act.
  • Ten years on, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill still contaminates the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Boston-based Eversource now provides virtual energy assessments in response to COVID-19.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Virginia’s new green energy era

Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act on Sunday. He also amended the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act that requires Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act requires new measures to promote energy efficiency, sets a schedule for closing old fossil-fuel power plants, and requires electricity to come from 100% green energy.

Dominion Energy Virginia must be 100% carbon-free by 2045 and Appalachian Power must be 100% carbon-free by 2050. It requires nearly all coal-fired plants to close by the end of 2024. Energy companies must pay penalties if they miss their targets, and part of that revenue would fund job training and green energy programs in historically disadvantaged communities.

The Act says that 5.2GW of offshore wind generation and 16.1GW of solar and onshore wind are in the public interest. Virginia’s largest energy companies will also have to construct or acquire more than 3.1GW of energy storage capacity.

Further, Dominion is required to prioritize hiring local workers from historically disadvantaged communities, work to advance apprenticeship and job training, and to include an environmental and fisheries mitigation plan.

Northam said:

These new clean energy laws propel Virginia to leadership among the states in fighting climate change. They advance environmental justice and help create clean energy jobs. In Virginia, we are proving that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.

Long-term oil contamination

BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig spilled around 4.9 million barrels of oil after a methane explosion on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico — the largest marine oil spill in history. And a decade later, scientists are finding oil from that spill in the livers of fish, and on the deep ocean floor.

Scientists at the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE) at the University of South Florida have been studying the consequences of this marine fossil-fuel disaster since 2011. Marine scientists Steven Murawski and Sherryl Gilbert published their two main findings on the Conversation yesterday. The goal of the extensive study is to quantify the impacts of oil spills and prevent them in the future.

Researchers have spent nearly 250 days at sea, sampling over 15,000 fishes and taking over 2,500 sediment cores off the US, Mexican, and Cuban coasts. The sediment cores prove that the oil has settled into the seabed floor.

No fish in the Gulf have been free of hydrocarbons, the chief components of petroleum. This includes species such as grouper, hake, and red snapper.

Deepwater fish that live from depths of about 650 to 3,300 feet were also affected. They are a food source for other fish, mammals, and birds. So this is a red flag for the occurrence of ongoing oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill also deposited large quantities of crude at the bottom of the deep sea:

It was carried there by marine snow — clumps of plankton, fecal pellets, biominerals, and soil particles washed into the Gulf from land… In the Gulf, they attached to oil droplets as they descended.

Post-spill studies found that levels of oil compounds on the seafloor in the area affected by the spill were two to three times higher than background levels elsewhere in the Gulf.

Researchers project that it will take perhaps 50 to 100 years for the deep ocean ecosystem to recover.

Virtual energy efficiency

Boston-based electric services company Eversource, which serves New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, isn’t letting the coronavirus lockdown get in the way of energy efficiency. Eversource energy specialists are now providing virtual energy assessments by phone or video service.

Eversource Energy senior vice president and chief customer officer Penni Conner said:

One of the highlights we’re offering customers is that we will pay 100% of the cost of insulation, which will help customers save money during these financially difficult times.

Customers who participate in the virtual Home Energy Assessment will also receive a custom report outlining energy-saving recommendations. This virtual service allows us to continue to serve them and provide them with ways to save.

Customers will also receive a delivery of recommended energy-saving products such as LED light bulbs, advanced power strips, and thermostats.

This is a great initiative to reduce emissions and save people money, demonstrating that the two go hand in hand.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.