Energy policy in Virginia

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Energy policy in Virginia
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Quick facts
Energy department:
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
State population:
8.3 million
Per capita income:
Energy consumption
Total energy consumption:
2,388 trillion BTU[1][2]
Per capita energy consumption:
295 million BTU
Energy spending
Total state energy spending:
$33,915 million
Per capita energy spending:
Residential natural gas price:
$11.38 per thousand cubic foot
Residential electricity price:
10.99 cents per kWh
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Energy PolicyEnergy policy in the United StatesFracking in VirginiaEnergy and environmental news

Energy policy in Virginia depends on geography, natural energy resources, how electricity is generated, how much energy consumers use, politics and the influence of groups such as environmental and industry organizations. Decisions by policymakers, such as state and local governments, utilities and regulatory agencies, affect all citizens economically and environmentally, and are generally geared toward providing reliable, affordable energy. The cost of energy affects not only home heating and electricity bills, and thus disposable income, but also economic growth, including jobs, investment and the cost of doing business in the state.

How energy is produced and consumed also has an impact on the environment and pollution. Energy policy in Virginia, and many other states, focuses on decreasing emissions and dependence on fossil fuels by increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. As the infrastructure for producing and delivering renewable energy sources is not as advanced as it is for energy generation from traditional sources, these policies often require subsidies to make the produced energy affordable, and their effects are difficult to measure.

Energy policy involves trade-offs between providing an affordable, consistent energy supply on the one hand, and limiting pollution and protecting the environment, on the other. How states attempt to balance these two differs between states, and often boils down to costs to consumers versus costs to the environment. This article provides general energy information about the state as the context within which energy policy is made, as well as information about major legislation and public and private groups that play a role in setting energy policy in the state.

See also: Energy policy in the United States for more information on energy policy.
See also: Fracking in Virginia

Energy overview

State facts

Below are quick facts about Virginia's energy climate.


In Virginia

  • electricity consumption and costs are higher for households than the national average, but similar to those in neighboring states where electricity is the most common heating fuel.
  • nuclear power has been the largest source of electrical generation since 2009.
  • electricity is the main source of energy used in home heating, with natural gas second.
  • biomass energy sources made up about 3 percent of net energy generation in 2013.
  • transportation is the largest energy-consuming sector in the state.[3]

Available energy resources

Virginia has traditional energy resources including oil, coal and natural gas. Virginia has some crude oil production in the extreme southwestern corner of the state, but those reserves are very small. Virginia has not been successful in drilling for oil and gas elsewhere. Virginia does not have any crude oil or liquefied petroleum gas pipelines. Two of Virginia's coalbed methane fields are among the nation's top 100 natural gas fields and natural gas production has increased more than tenfold in the past two decades. Virginia has more than 100 active coal mines, but recoverable coal reserves at producing mines are modest, contributing less than 2 percent of the nation's total. Virginia has the 12th most productive coal mines, among the 25 coal-producing states.[3]

Virginia has renewable energy resources that include biomass, hydropower and wind power. Virginia's Bath County Pumped Storage Station is the largest pumped-storage hydroelectric facility in the world. The state has both conventional and pumped hydroelectric facilities. Virginia has minimal onshore wind energy resources currently, but substantial wind energy potential exists off Virginia's Atlantic coast and in the Chesapeake Bay.[3]

Consumption and prices

Energy consumption in Virginia
VA energy consumption chart.png

     Transportation       Residential     Industrial       Commercial
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As shown on the pie chart in 2011, roughly one-quarter of Virginia's energy use was for residential purposes and one quarter for commercial purposes. About a fifth of Virginia's energy was consumed for industrial purposes. The largest source of energy consumption was transportation, which took up approximately 30 percent. Most of the energy used in the state is in the form of petroleum (used primarily for transportation), followed by natural gas, coal and then nuclear electric power. Per capita energy consumption in Virginia is below the national median.[3] Generally the price of gasoline in the state is slightly lower than the national average.[5][6] According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's February 2014 report, the federal excise tax is 18.40 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.40 cents per gallon of diesel fuel. In addition to that, Virginia collects a total tax of 19.9 cents on every gallon of gasoline, gasohol diesel fuel, which ranks it at the 40th highest in the United States.[7][8]

Comparisons tables

The table below compares Virginia's consumption and spending for energy, as well as prices for gas and electricity, and carbon emissions to those of North Carolina, which has similar population, resources and consumption needs because of climate and geography. Also given are the U.S. averages and the state rankings. All rankings are from highest to lowest, so, for example:

  • Virginia's rank of 17th in carbon emissions means that carbon emissions are lower in Virginia than in North Carolina, which has a ranking of 13th.
  • Likewise, per capita income in North Carolina is lower than the national average, and much lower than in Virginia, which at ninth ranks ahead of North Carolina's ranking of 39th in per capita income.
  • These two states are very similarly placed in the upper-rank on population, overall consumption and overall spending. Per capita energy consumption in Virginia (at 31st) is somewhat higher than in North Carolina (at 38th).
  • Per capita spending in Virginia is significantly higher since it ranks 34th to North Carolina's ranking of 44th.
  • Virginia's rank of 18th for natural gas prices is very similar to North Carolina's rank of 20th.
Consumption and Expenditures Comparisons Summary
Type VirginiaNorth CarolinaU.S. Figures
FigureU.S. Rank*FigureU.S. Rank*Totals
Population8.3 million129.8 million10313.9 million
Per Capita Income Average$47,0829$37,04939$42,693
Total Consumption2,388 trillion BTU142,573 trillion BTU1297,301 quadrillion BTU
Per Capita Energy Consumption295 million BTU31267 million BTU38312 million BTU
Total Spending on Energy$33,915 million13$36,102 million12$1,394,088 million
Per Capita Spending on Energy$4,18534$3,74144$4,474
Price of Residential Natural Gas, dollar per thousand cubic feet$11.3818$11.2220$12.48
Price of Electricity, cents per kWh10.993010.933012.31
Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions, million metric tons (2010)109.817142.9135,631
*Rank is from highest to lowest.

Almost 34 percent of homes in Virginia are heated with natural gas. The most common home heating sources is electricity, which heats over 50 percent of homes in the state. Fuel oil and LPG are the next most common sources, followed by other sources.

See also: State Energy Rankings to compare all 50 states
Consumption of energy for heating homes in Virginia
Source Virginia 2011 U.S. average 2011
Natural gas 33.9% 49.5%
Fuel oil 6.5% 6.5%
Electricity 51.6% 35.4%
Liquid Petroleum Gases (LPG) 4.4% 5%
Other/none 3.6% 3.6%

Production and transmission

Virginia produced 1,087.8 trillion BTU of energy in 2011. Of that just under 25 percent came from nuclear and just over 50 percent came from coal. Less than one percent came from crude oil. About 14 percent came from natural gas. The remaining 9 percent came from what the U.S. Energy Information Administration classifies as 'other,' which is "assumed to equal consumption of all renewable energies except biofuels."[9]

Energy production by type in Virginia, 2011
Type Amount Generated
(trillion BTU)
% of State % of USA
Crude oil 0.1 0.01% 0%
Natural gas 155.2 14.27% 0.59%
Coal 562.8 51.74% 2.55%
Nuclear 267.3 24.57% 3.23%
Other 102.5 9.42% 1.44%

In 2010, Virginia's coal production made up 5 percent of the total U.S. coal production east of the Mississippi River. The seaport in Norfolk, Virginia is America's largest coal exporting facility, which processed 38 percent of U.S. coal exports in 2011. Virginia's two nuclear power plants produced 38 percent of the net electricity generation in the state in 2011. The two nuclear power plants each contain two reactors. Although Virginia has the largest known undeveloped deposit of uranium in the nation, no production has occurred.[3]

Natural gas surpassed coal-fired generation for the first time in 2012. Similar to most states on the East Coast, the majority of Virginia's natural gas supply is transported through several major interstate pipelines. Virginia receives its natural gas supplies from the Gulf Coast region and the Appalachians. However, increased natural gas production in Pennsylvania has led to proposals to reverse flow on interstate pipelines that deliver natural gas to the Northeast. This would allow natural gas supplies to flow from Pennsylvania to Virginia. Pipelines in Virginia include Columbia Gas Transmission Corp., Cove Point LNG LP., Dominion Transmission Co., East Tennessee Natural Gas Co. and Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Co.[3]

Where electricity comes from in Virginia[10]
Type Amount generated (MWh) % of state** % of U.S.**
Petroleum-fired 12 0.19% 0%
Natural gas-fired 1,850 29.94% 0%
Coal-fired 1,786 28.91% 0%
Nuclear 2,222 35.97% 0%
Hydroelectric 72 1.17% 0%
Other renewables 282 4.56% 0%
Total net electricity generation 6,178 100% 0%
**Note: Because the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not include all of a state's energy production in these figures, the EIA totals do not equal 100 percent. Instead, we have generated our own percentages.

Virginia has more than 100 active coal mines, which produce mostly bituminous bituminous coal. The majority of the coal that is mined in Virginia is exported to other states. Most of the coal used within Virginia is consumed by electric power generators. A substantial amount of coal is brought into Virginia, which comes primarily from Kentucky and West Virginia. Virginia coal is sent to about 20 states, and a considerable amount of it is exported to other countries. Virginia ports are the leading exporters of U.S. coal, typically shipping more than one-third of the nation's total.[3]

Energy policy

Policy Issues

Virginia established a voluntary Renewable Portfolio Standard. These standards encourage investor-owned utilities to obtain a part of the electricity sold in Virginia from renewable energy resources. The program’s goal is to have investor-owned utilities acquire 15 percent of 2007 sales from eligible technologies by 2025.[3][11]

See also: Fracking in Virginia

Energy policy is made, executed and influenced by many organizations, both public and private, and is codified in the laws and regulations of the state. Each state’s energy policy involves trade-offs in which energy production and prices are weighed against environmental concerns and efficiency. In 2007, Virginia enacted a mandatory utility green power option to give utility customers the option of purchasing all their electricity from renewables. In 2011, 5.1 percent of the state's net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources.[12] Over half of that renewable generation was from biomass. Average electricity consumption (14 megawatt hours per year) and costs ($1,584 per year) are higher for Virginia households than the national average.[3] Some studies claim that higher electricity prices are in part the result of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that mandates a minimum amount of renewable energy (which is more expensive than coal or natural gas) be used for generating electricity.[13][14][15]

Virginia has made legislative progress in energy efficiency, but the implementation process has been difficult. The state is much lower than the national average on energy efficiency program spending and energy savings. Virginia set a legislative goal in 2007 to reduce electricity consumption by 10 percent from 2006 levels by 2022. In 2008, the state legislature mandated that utilities submit integrated resource plans that lay out demand-side resources. There are differing estimates about the economic impact of these mandates in terms of costs that may affect prices and jobs, as well as the impact on the environment and pollution. Thus, for example, there are many new studies of what is called the "rebound effect" which refers to the fact that "some of the theoretically estimated gains in energy efficiency will be eroded as consumers consume additional goods and services."[16][17] Virginia ranked 36 on the Energy Efficiency Scorecard produced by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.[18][19]

Major legislation

  • 2009 Small Renewable Energy Project is a law that directs the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to develop regulations for renewable energy projects. Permits by rule (PBR) for wind, solar and combustion-based resources are required. The DEQ also develops a PBR for water-related resources if considered by the DEQ to be necessary and appropriate. The Water-Related Regulatory Advisory Panel recommended that it is not necessary or appropriate at this time and under current conditions for DEQ to develop a PBR regulation for projects that generate electricity from falling water, wave motion, tides or geothermal resources. The DEQ director agreed with this recommendation.[20]
  • Virginia Coal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (1979) is a law to promote the reclamation of coal-mined areas, and areas which have been affected by such mining, which were not adequately reclaimed. It is also designed to exercise police power in a coordinated statewide program to effectively control present and future problems associated with coal surface mining and provide for the reclamation of disturbed lands to ensure the protection of the public welfare and safety.[21]
  • Virginia Gas and Oil Act is a law that gives the responsibility to regulate gas, oil, or geophysical operations, collect fees and perform other responsibilities to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy or the Virginia Gas and Oil Board.[22]
  • Energy Efficient Building Tax Exemption is a statute that allows any county, city, or town to exempt or partially exempt energy efficient buildings from local property taxes. Eligible buildings are those that: exceed the energy efficiency standards prescribed in the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code by 30 percent; meet or exceed performance standards of the Green Globes Green Building Rating System of the Green Building Initiative; meet or exceed performance standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System of the U.S. Green Building Council; meet or exceed performance standards or guidelines under the EarthCraft House Program; or, are Energy Star qualified homes. Currently, only three locations in the state are offering the exemptions: Charlottesville, Roanoke and Spotsylvania.[23]
  • Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program (CMIG) is a statute that created a program to provide financial incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems, or products used to produce renewable or nuclear energy. Financial incentives are also available for products used for energy conservation, storage, or grid efficiency purposes. The CMIG repealed the Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program and the Biofuels Production Incentive Grant Program. In order to be considered for a grant, the manufacturer must make a capital investment greater than $50 million and create at least 200 full-time jobs that pay at least the prevailing wage. A wind energy supplier must make a capital investment of greater than $10 million and create at least 30 full-time jobs that pay at least the prevailing wage to be eligible for a grant.[24]

Ballot measures

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State energy policy

State fracking policy

Energy policy terms

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State environmental policy

Energy and Environmental News

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Below is a list of energy related ballot measures across Virginia. These ballot measures cover issues from fracking bans, to utilities and related tax questions.

Government agencies and committees

See previous Governor Bob McDonnell's views on energy policy in Virginia.
See current Governor Terry McAuliffe's views on energy policy in Virginia.
  • The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), has control of energy regulation under the Division of Energy Regulation. The Division of Energy Regulation assists the SCC's three commissioners in regulating Virginia's investor-owned electric, natural gas, water and sewer utilities, and member-owned electric cooperatives. Its chief purpose is supporting the commission to ensure Virginia consumers receive adequate utility services at reasonable rates. The "Energy Regulation in Virginia" section of the SCC site provides information on rate regulation, as well as competitive service and aggregation.[27]
  • The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is the department in charge of protecting and improving the environment for the well-being of Virginians. In 2009, the Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation that instructed the DEQ to develop regulations for the construction and operation of renewable energy projects of 100 megawatts and less. The DEQ's regulations must take the form of permits by rule (PBR). The first permit by rule for wind energy projects went into effect on December 22, 2010. The permit by rule for solar projects became effective on July 18, 2012. The combustion permit by rule became effective on August 28, 2013.[28][29]

Major organizations

  • Environment Virginia is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. The organization seeks to defend the environment through independent research, advocacy and grassroots action. The organization researches the challenges to Virginia's environment and educates the public on these issues. Environment Virginia seeks to raise awareness of environmental issues and promote solutions through research reports, news conferences, interviews with reporters, op-ed pieces, letters to the editor, etc.[30]
  • Virginia League of Conservation Voters is the statewide nonpartisan political arm of Virginia's conservation community. The Virginia League is the only organization dedicated solely to legislative advocacy and direct political action on behalf of the conservation issues defined by local, regional and state organizations. The league attempts to protect Virginia's natural resources, wildlife and historic sites.[31]
  • The Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research (VCCER) is an interdisciplinary research, information and resource facility for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The center was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly on March 30, 1977. The mission of the VCCER involves five primary functions: research in interdisciplinary energy and coal-related issues, coordination of coal and energy research, dissemination of coal and energy research information and data, examination of socio-economic implications related to energy and coal development and associated environmental impacts and, assisting the Commonwealth of Virginia in implementing the Commonwealth's energy plan. The VCCER has three locations in the state to respond to state, national and international energy research needs.[32]
  • Virginia Energy Sense is Virginia's energy education program under the guidance of the State Corporation Commission. The organization's mission is to help all Virginians understand their energy use and how to save energy easily and cost effectively. Virginia Energy Sense is focused on reducing energy consumption in order to save money and help the state's economy. It is also focused on maintaining clean air, land and water.[33]

In the news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Virginia+Energy+Policy"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Virginia Energy News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. These figures come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's State Profiles and Energy Estimates, Virginia Overview. Statistics for population and per capita income are for the year 2012; consumption and spending estimates are for 2011; and prices are for October 2013. Updated pricing information is available on the state's EIA profile. Prices will be updated on this page biannually.
  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration, " Virginia Overview," accessed February 14, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Virginia Profile Analysis, updated December 18, 2013
  4. This chart depicts the state's energy consumption as reported by the EIA for 2011. Click the image to enlarge.
  5. Gas Buddy, "Historical Gas Charts," accessed February 26, 2014
  6. To compare current gasoline prices in Virginia to the U.S average, go to
  7. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Petroleum Marketing Monthly," February 2014," accessed February 14, 2014
  8. The Tax Foundation, "State Gasoline Tax Rates, 2009-2013," March 21, 2013
  9. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "State Energy Data System, Production," accessed February 18, 2014
  10. These figures come from the EIA State Profiles and Energy Estimates U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Virginia Profile Overview," accessed March 2, 2014
  11. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Virginia Profile Analysis," December 18, 2013
  12. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Virginia Profile Analysis," December 18, 2013
  13. According to a report called "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," by the free-market Institute for Energy Research, the cost of electricity in states with RPS were on average 38 percent higher in 2010 than in states without a RPS.
  14. Institute for Energy Research, "The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States," accessed March 24, 2014
  15. Manhattan Institute, "The High Cost of Renewable-Energy Mandates," February 2012
  16. International Risk Governance Council, "The Rebound Effect: Implications of Consumer Behavior for Robust Energy Policies," accessed March 3, 2014
  17. Scientific American, "How Bad Is the Rebound from Energy Efficiency Efforts?," May 21, 2013, accessed March 3, 2014
  18. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, "State Energy Efficiency Policy Database," accessed February 27, 2014
  19. For a full explanation of how the ACEEE calculates this ranking see the executive summary of their report here: [1]
  20. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, "Renewable Energy," accessed March 3, 2014
  21. Code of Virginia, "Virginia Coal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1979," accessed March 2, 2009
  22. Code of Virginia, "Virginia Gas and Oil Act," accessed March 2, 2014
  23. Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, "Home," accessed March 2, 2013
  24. Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, "Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program," accessed March 2, 2013
  25. Virginia House of Delegate, "Commerce and Labor, Special Committee on Energy," accessed March 17, 2014
  26. Virginia's Legislative Information System, "Senate Commerce and Labor Subcommittee: Utilities," accessed March 17, 2014
  27. State Corporation Commission, "Division of Energy Regulation," accessed March 3, 2014
  28. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, "Renewable Energy," accessed March 3, 2014
  29. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, "About Us," accessed March 17, 2014
  30. Environment Virginia, "About Us," accessed March 2, 2014
  31. Virginia League of Conservation Voters, "About," accessed March 2, 2013
  32. Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, "Home," accessed March 2, 2014
  33. Virginia Energy Sense, "About Us," accessed March 2, 2014