Virginia depends on reliable, safe, and economical sources of energy to power its growing transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial needs. But increasing reliance on energy imports and mounting concerns over carbon-based fossil fuels present new challenges. Virginia can encourage economic growth while preserving the environment by using energy more efficiently and by harnessing clean, alternative -- but still affordable -- energy sources.
Why is This Important?
Virginia consumed over 2,502 trillion BTUs of energy in 2010, a decrease from levels earlier in the decade. Since 2001, indigenous state energy resource production decreased from 1,354 trillion BTU to 1,096 trillion BTU. As a result, the Commonwealth has been importing increasingly higher amounts of energy to meet its needs.
Investing in doemstic energy production, energy efficiency and conservation practices, and clean energy sources can help reverse that trend and bring added economic benefits to the state. A recent study by the Amerian Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that increasing energy efficiency can result in a nearly 2-to-1 benefit-to-cost advantage -- and that these gains also produce new jobs.
How is Virginia Doing?
Virginia’s energy use fell from an annual 346 million BTUs per person in 2005 to 306 million BTUs per person by 2009, due mainly to decreased economic activity. However, the rate of energy consumption rose again to 312 BTUs per person in 2010. This rate is slightly lower than the national average of 316 million BTUs and ranked Virginia 24th among U.S. states for energy consumption.
Virginia’s per capita consumption was lower than Tennessee (354) but higher than Maryland (256) and North Carolina (283). Rhode Island had the nation’s lowest energy consumption per capita at 187 million BTUs consumed per capita in 2010.
What Influences Energy Use?
Levels of energy consumption are affected by energy prices, climate and weather, economic activity, personal income levels, resident population characteristics such as age and household size, home size, land use development patterns, industry mix, adoption of energy efficiency measures, government regulations and taxes, technology, and cultural/lifestyle factors. Since some sectors are more energy-intensive than others, state and regional differences in energy consumption per capita may partly reflect differences in industry composition.
What is the State's Role?
Virginia plans to meet its energy needs by growing in-state energy production by 20 percent over the next 10 years. It has also established voluntary 2022 goals of reducing electricity use through conservation practices and new efficiencies by an amount equal to 10 percent of 2006 use. Actions for achieving these energy goals are detailed in the Virginia Energy Plan. The plan favors increasing reliance on energy produced in Virginia, promoting energy research and development among universities and private companies, encouraging energy conservation and efficiency, and increasing the proportion of energy production from clean energy sources. Consumer energy education is an important part of the strategy.
Complementing these efforts are targeted financial incentives for adopting energy efficiency improvements, such as the annual energy sales tax holiday; various rebate programs run by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy; and the Weatherization Assistance Program.
Virginia has also committed to improving the energy efficiency of existing state government buildings and adopting energy efficiency standards in new building design. The state has created grants and incentives for growing green jobs in alternative and renewable energy sectors such as biofuels and waste-to-energy facilities and is sponsoring cutting-edge research and development in alternate transportation fuels, nuclear technology, coastal energy production, and carbon capture and storage at state universities.
What Can Citizens Do?
Virginians can make easy consumer-choice and lifestyle
changes that yield significant improvements
in energy efficiency and conservation.
For example, homes can be retrofitted with more
energy-efficient materials and equipment, such
as attic and wall insulation, compact fluorescent
or LED light bulbs, hot water tank insulation,
and Energy Star appliances. Energy Star reports
that in 2008 alone, Americans saved enough energy
to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to
those from 29 million cars -- all while saving
$19 billion on their utility bills. Citizens can
also conserve energy by weatherizing their homes,
properly servicing HVAC equipment, and turning
off lights and appliances when not in use. Rebates
and financial assistance may be available for
those who take such initiatives (see at right).
Drivers can realize additional vehicle fuel economy by switching to hybrid vehicles, driving unaggressively and/or at lower speeds, using cruise control, avoiding excessive idling, keeping vehicles tuned up, and maintaining proper tire pressure.
Virginians can affect energy use even more by making broader lifestyle changes and investments. Choices in where to live and mode of transport can have a major impact. For instance, living in pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly mixed-use communities with public transportation options can significantly reduce energy use. Decisions about major purchases such as homes and automobiles are also opportunities to make substantial energy savings. Consumers can build or purchase smaller and/or more efficient houses that meet Energy Star, EarthCraft Home, or LEED standards. They can consider living closer to work and shopping for shorter commutes.
State rankings are ordered so that #1 is understood to be the best.
Data Definitions and Sources
U.S. Energy Information Adminstration
State Energy Data System (EDS)
U.S. Energy Information Administration. Annual Energy Outlook. www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/index.html
Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. Virginia Energy Plan.
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.