Improving the way Virginia conserves, generates, and uses its energy resources has been a bipartisan priority in recent years for governors and legislators. How state policymakers set energy policy affects all homeowners and businesses.
In 2006, then-Governor Tim Kaine worked with the General Assembly to establish Virginia's first-ever statewide energy plan, focusing on conservation, infrastructure, generation, and research. In 2010, Governor Bob McDonnell built upon that work and set an aggressive course to make Virginia the "energy capital of the East Coast," promoting both energy-savings policies and those to broaden our energy-production capabilities.
And the next governor will necessarily put his own stamp on state energy policy. Indeed, the law requires new governors to update the state energy plan within six monthsoi taking othce.
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce has long advocated for energy policies that support the needs of our growing population and expanding businesses and industries. This advocacy has focused on energy conservation, more beneficial regulations and tax policies, more diversified energy generation, and greater consumer education. And it has been in forums like the Governor's Conference on Energy that many of the Chamber's positions have been developed and promoted.
How energy in Virginia is generated and used is complex, and the energy industry-which is critical to every other economic sector-is rapidly changing. It is therefore imperative that federal and state policymakers continue collaborating with business and environmental leaders to better plan our energy infrastructure, ensure our energy supply meets demand, and improve our energy security.
So just how is energy generated in Virginia ?
Nearly half of all energy produced in Virginia comes from coal, and more than a third comes from nuclear technology. The coal and nuclear industries are critical to Virginia's economy. About 15 percent of state energy production comes from natural gas, which will continue increasing as its price remains competitive.
Less than 5 percent of our energy is generated from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, hydro, and biofuels. However, as industry and government continue to partner in the development of renewable technologies-lots of work is being done right now on offshore wind-we will see this energy sector grow.
And how is energy used in Virginia?
Not surprisingly, our homes and businesses make up nearly half of our energy use. Transportation uses-fuel for our cars, buses, trucks, and railways-account for almost a third. Major industries, such as manufacturing plants, use nearly 20 percent.
If Virginia is to remain globally competitive, and if our energy supply is to be more secure,
then consumers will have to make smarter energy choices and our in-state energy production will have to grow and be more diverse.
Governor McDonnell has made boosting Virginia's energy sector one of his highest priori- ties-expanding existing energy sources, developing new ones, securing our infrastructure, and enhancing energy-efficiency programs. Further developing our coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable energy sources has been central to the energy agenda he set shortly after taking office.
That Governor McDonnell secured federal approval for Virginia to be the first East Coast state to explore for and produce offshore oil and natural gas is significant. That the governor has taken steps to make Virginia the first state in the nation to convert much of the state's vehicle fleet to natural gas is noteworthy. And that the governor worked with the federal government to successfully position Virginia for potential development of the nation's second offshore wind farm is a signature achievement of his administration.
Virginia's energy industry is dynamic. Lots can change in a short period of time. We must be ready.
It is important that industry and government leaders come together in forums like the Governor's Conference on Energy to develop andpromote tne energy policies and innovations that will continue fueling Virginia's economic future.
Barry E. DuVal is president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. He served as Virginia 's secretary of commerce and trade from 1998 to 2002. L. Preston Bryant, Jr. is senior vice president at McGuire- Woods Consulting. He served as Virginia 's secretary of natural resources from 2006 to 2010.
How energy in Virginia is generated and used is complex, and the energy industry-which is critical to every other
economic sector-is rapidly changing. It is therefore imperative that federal and state policymakers continue collaborating with business and environmental leaders to better plan our energy infrastructure, ensure our energy supply meets demand, and improve our energy security.