Updates with changes throughout

The Virginia House of Delegates today approved a sweeping set of energy policies that could create a new compliance market for renewable energy certificates (RECs) in the PJM Interconnection.

The state House voted 52-47 in favor of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a bill that would implement a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring the state to get 100pc of its electricity from resources such as solar and wind by 2050.

The state Senate will now take up the bill. After flipping the upper chamber in last year's elections, Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans with a 21-19 majority.

"As we prepare for what we know is coming, it seems to me that the time to act is now and not to wait until next year," chief sponsor Delegate Rip Sullivan (D) said. "This bill represents an historic opportunity for this General Assembly to take control of our energy future."

The legislation would require utility Dominion Energy to use renewables for 100pc of its electricity sales by 2045, with utility Appalachian Power given an extra five years to reach the same mark. The mandate would begin at 14pc for Dominion and 6pc for Appalachian Power in the initial 2021 compliance period.

Dominion would be required to use RECs generated in Virginia for at least 75pc of its compliance obligations from 2025 onward.

Despite Democrats holding a 55-45 majority in the House, the proposal faced opposition on both sides of the aisle.

Delegate Terry Kilgore (R) yesterday took issue with amendments added to the bill that require the state's coal-fired units to retire in waves, with the first group being forced out of the power mix by the end of 2024. The second round of closures in 2030 could require Dominion to shut down the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, a 600MW coal plant that co-fires with biomass.

That plant is in Kilgore's district.

"Pulling the rug out from under us and closing down the cleanest coal plant, the cleanest plant in the world right now that is running, is just a slap in the face to southwest Virginia," Kilgore said. "And to further that, those of you that have Dominion as your provider are still going to be paying for that coal plant, on and on."

Kilgore, who voted against the bill when it passed through the Labor and Commerce Committee, said lawmakers needed to develop a better energy policy to address these concerns.

Delegate Sam Rasoul (D) is backing a more aggressive renewables bill. He said the energy package has several "pretty good components" but lacks key initiatives, including an outright moratorium on fossil fuel generators and adequate protections for ratepayers.

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