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Focus on Fairfax Newsletter of Delegate David Bulova
August 2007

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

First, a very quick advertisement.  I will be kicking off my second annual informal office hours starting this Saturday (August 11th) at Main Street Bagel from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  Come join me for a cup of coffee to talk about issues and to ask questions about legislation affecting our community.  The format is casual and no appointment is needed.  Please visit my website for additional dates.

During weeks like this it is easy to visualize the enormous strain on our electric grid as air conditioners work overtime to keep us cool.  However, with demand for electricity in Northern Virginia jumping by 40% in the last decade, our system is increasingly strained even under normal conditions.  Regardless of why it is important (proposed new transmission lines, energy independence for national security reasons, global warming, etc.), most people agree that it is important to have a meaningful energy plan.

Over the next few months, you will begin to hear about Virginia’s proposed new energy plan.  Last month I had an opportunity to meet with Mr. Stephen A. Waltz, the Governor’s Senior Advisor for Energy Policy, to get an update on the planning effort and what mean it might mean to Northern Virginians.  As with many initiatives, the original bill passed by the General Assembly (SB262) contained wonderful language.  Included among the 12 policy statements is to “Ensure that the combination of energy supplies and energy-saving systems are sufficient to support the demands of economic growth.”  Further down the list is to “Promote the generation of electricity through technologies that do not contribute to greenhouse gases and global warming.”  All good stuff – but just words on paper. 

Making this a particularly important effort for Virginia is the fact that we are a net energy importer – by about 1,200 trillion BTUs annually!  Put another way, it is projected that Virginia will import 60% of its energy by 2016 if we do nothing.

So what proposals are on the table?  Energy conservation comes first.  The plan sets a goal of reducing consumption by 10% by the year 2022.  Although modest, the goal should be considered in the context that Virginia is expected to grow by more than 700,000 people between 2010 and 2020.  Remarkably, if the goal is achieved, consumers are projected to experience a gross savings of $9 billion over the life of the investments.  While it is not possible to list all of the strategies, some of the larger initiatives include expansion of tax incentives for energy efficient appliances, new requirements for electric utilities to implement conservation programs, improved energy efficiency standards for new buildings, and expansion of Virginia’s existing Weatherization Assistance Program.  One proposal is to make meeting energy conservation goals an explicit component of the local government development approval process. 

Next is the development of alternative domestic fuels.  Sample strategies include low-cost loans for investments in alternative energy facilities, an increase in the use of waste-to-energy technology, the development of on-shore and off-shore wind power (one wind farm proposal for the Virginia coast could generate up to 10% of Virginia’s power), and incentives to promote the development and use of biofuels.  Apparently, algae is being eyed as an even better base for biofuel than some of the existing alternatives.  Excess algae growth is a major cause of the decline of the Chesapeake Bay.  Who would imagine that it might one day be profitable to harvest algae for fuel, while at the same time helping to clean the Chesapeake Bay.  Very cool!

Finally, the draft plan also addresses needed improvements to the State’s gas and electric transmission infrastructure

Given the enormous challenges ahead, I am glad that Virginia is taking these first steps – and I hope that they won’t be our last.  In the southeast, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Texas have already adopted plans.  Unfortunately, implementation isn’t inexpensive.  It is estimated that about $35 million will be needed annually from a mix of public and private investment to implement energy conservation initiatives alone.  It will be vitally important to ensure transparency and accountability as we move forward – so that the consumers who are asked to foot the initial investment will also share in the long-term savings.

Worth mentioning is that some of these ideas are already being implemented.  For instance, the General Assembly passed legislation this year establishing a four-day tax holiday for the purchase of certain appliances that meet Energy Star qualifications (priced at $2,500 or less per item).  This will take place from October 5-8.

Please don’t hesitate to give me a call if you would like additional information.  I hope you will also take the time to explore The Virginia Energy Savers Handbook,” which provides excellent information on what you can do at home to save energy, money, and the environment.  Enjoy your Summer!


David Bulova

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Delegate David Bulova

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Richmond, VA 23219
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