A virtual Town Hall on the Draft Community Energy and Sustainability Master Plan (CESMP) will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 14, 2023. Sign up here. Prince William Office of Sustainability is seeking feedback from the public on the draft CESMP. The CESMP is being developed to serve as a roadmap for meeting the county’s Climate Mitigation and Resiliency goals to reduce Prince William's greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing resilience to the effects of climate change. These goals include Prince William County achieving 50% of 2005 CO2 emissions by 2030 and net-zero by 2050; but also include plans for adaption to climate change.
I am a member of the Sustainability Commission and ask that you participate in the process and help us build a sustainable future for our children. I am concerned that the draft CESMP relies too heavily on unrealistic and expensive assumptions and the purchasing of carbon credits to meet the climate goals. At the close of the COP-27 meeting the UN Secretary-General Guterres decried and bringing integrity to net-zero commitments by industry, financial institutions, cities and regions and to support a global, equitable transition to a sustainable future.
“Using bogus ‘net-zero’ pledges to cover up massive fossil fuel expansion is reprehensible. It is rank deception. This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The sham must end.” Mr. Guterres said that net-zero pledges should be accompanied by a plan for how the transition is being made. Prince William’s climate goals could be moderated to what is possible for us to achieve. There is hope that Prince William will be able to “bend the curve” if smart decisions are made in the future.
Though the PW Board of County Supervisors have adopted the net-zero pledge of the MWCOG, the decisions they have made within their nexus of control, land use and roads have worked against that resolution. In fact, decisions made within our county and Loudoun will challenge the goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). In 2020, the General Assembly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), which mandated a goal of 100% zero-carbon energy generation by 2050. This actually was to provide the major tool in achieving the County goals. Afterall, if all power was electric and it was carbon free, no problem in achieving net zero.
However, the VCEA is facing challenges that may prevent it from achieving its goals in the stated time frame. According to VA Energy VCEA requires the Commonwealth to retire its natural gas power plants by 2045 (Dominion) and 2050 (Appalachian Power). These facilities currently comprise 67% of the current baseload generation as well as 100% of the power plants that meet peak demand. In May when Dominion Energy filed its 2023 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the State Corporation Commission (SCC) Dominion’s carbon emissions would instead increase from current levels. In the IRP submitted to the SCC Dominion forecasted that power demand would rise 80% and that peak load will rise from a bit more than 17,000 megawatts now to 27,000 megawatts by 2037. You cannot plan that amount of electricity demand growth 10 years while eliminating generation capacity. It has never been done, and Dominion admits that they need to not only keep all their fossil fuel power generation operating, but are asking to build more dispatchable fossil fuel generation to meet this forecast demand. Now, the SCC is examining and challenging the growth assumptions that went into that forecast. It remains to be seen what will actually happen.
It appears that electrifying the transportation sector also faces hurdles in cost and accessibility for all along with challenges to electrifying all heating systems county wide. Building more roads and more housing away from transportation hubs will also increase the greenhouse gas footprint of the county. Beyond the climate resolution, most decisions of the PW BOCS has contributed to the growth in power demand. We need to change directions and bend the curve down.