On Earth Day 2011, Governor Bob McDonnell issued a challenge to Virginians once every two weeks to find an alternative to driving — a non-binding but inspiring challenge for Virginia.
At Dominion Virginia Power's annual shareholders' meeting on May 12, various non-profit groups — including The Virginia Chapter Sierra Club, People's Alliance for Clean Energy and Appalachian Voices — proposed four resolutions under the theme of "A New Energy Future." These suggestions — that would be more concrete than the governor's April proposition — would encourage Dominion to:
1) invest in renewable energy (offshore wind and solar), efficiency, and conservation,
2) move away from the use of coal to generate electricity,
3) stop purchasing coal that comes from mountaintop removal mining,
4) and give up any plans of building a new nuclear reactor at North Anna
These groups have been supporters of these initiatives for some time and planned two activities for the Dominion Virginia shareholders' meeting: a rally at the Free Speech Wall on the Downtown Mall of Charlottesville and a demonstration at the entrance to the Boar's Head Inn where the meeting took place. A member who was demonstrating was arrested outside of the meeting for allegedly crossing the line onto Boar's Head property. Other members of these groups were in attendance to present resolutions.
Did Dominion Virginia Power, the largest energy provider in the state, make a gesture similar to the governor's?
The vote on green proposals for Virginia
First, despite the recent disaster at Fukishima, the vote to stop the nuclear plant being built at Lake Anna only got four percent of the shareholder vote — the exact same as last year. The resolution on renewables also got four percent, which was down from six percent the previous year. Several people who identified themselves as being from Sierra Club spoke on coal and mountaintop removal resolutions, but the support that those resolutions received was less than 10 percent.
Does this mean that Dominion Virginia Power does not care about the environment? According to its site
, "Dominion will continue to use its dedicated workforce and a spirit of innovation to not only remain environmentally responsible in changing times, but to aggressively seek new ways to provide its customers the services they need with even less impact on the environment that surrounds us all."
Dominion backs up this commitment in different ways including those not directly related to energy, such as donating a classroom in William and Mary's new LEED-certified school of business, as well as supporting the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, "to assist in their fish tagging and tracking program through joint sponsorship of several fish collection and tagging rodeos."
Despite the increasing importance of sustainability, including growing awareness about the dangers of mountaintop removal and nuclear power, if Dominion Power is to really transition toward a new energy future, the company's leadership team will need to take initiative.
What can I do?
Virginians have the right (if you purchase more than five megawatts annually), since the electricity "re-regulation" bill
passed in Virginia in 2007, to purchase 100 percent renewable energy from your energy provider. Incentives
also exist to make your own renewable energy, which pay for themselves with the money you save on electric bills over time. Conservation remains perhaps the most budget-friendly way to reduce your environmental energy footprint.