What does a Governor Youngkin mean for clean energy in Virginia?

November 12, 2021

By Ron Butler

Republican Glen Youngkin’s win over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia demonstrated that the majority of voters in the Commonwealth want mainstream leadership who will listen to their concerns. Youngkin effectively appealed to parents, rural and suburban voters on kitchen table issues like education, inflation, taxes and jobs. At the same time McAuliffe was dragged down by the discontent with one party control of government and his now infamous comment “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

A week before the election The Hill wrote, “Those 10 words – deserving of a top listing in the Hall of Fame of Political Blunders – may prove to be the turning point in a race in which McAuliffe was expected to cruise to victory, especially since Joe Biden won the blue state by more than 10 points on his way to the presidency in 2020.”

One issue that did not feature prominently in the election was energy. Both Youngkin and McAuliffe recognized the economic and societal benefits renewable energy brings to Virginia. While there was disagreement on the Virginia Clean Economy Act, both candidates embraced solar and wind development in Virginia.

Youngkin said in a radio interview in March, “we do need an all-of the-above strategy for energy…yes we can have more solar and wind.” In fact, as co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, Youngkin embraced the economic benefits of an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy that emphasizes a growing reliance on renewable energy.

In a 2019 interview with Bloomberg, Youngkin detailed his views on energy production, “I think what has happened over the last few years is the economic reality of renewables has settled in. What I mean by that is they have come way down the cost curve and so literally on a power production basis it is wildly competitive with competitive fuel sources, and so that is enabling wind and solar to compete on its own… the economic reality coupled with the clear political momentum for renewables in our mind makes renewables a very good place to invest over a very long time. If global energy consumption… continues to grow at 1.5 to 2%, all forms – other than in our view coal – will grow. It just so happens that wind and solar will grow at 10x the rate of oil and natural gas.”

Youngkin emphasized the cost competitiveness of renewable energy and expressed his belief that they no longer require government subsidies to compete with other sources of energy but instead need long-term contracts. He explained that as the cost curve has changed, developers now simply need a long-term contract to make the investments up front and earn a reasonable return.

Youngkin is not the first Republican to embrace renewable energy. For more than a decade Virginia conservatives have advocated an all-of-the-above strategy for energy generation. When Bob McDonnell ran for governor more than a decade ago, he advocated for clean energy being central to his goal of making Virginia the energy capital of the east coast. Governor McDonnell created the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority and supported grants and other resources to develop offshore wind power in the Commonwealth. That work is now coming to fruition.
Conservatives including former Senator Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) and Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Wise) championed clean energy projects including offshore wind and solar. Virginia wouldn’t be as far along as we are with renewable energy development if it wasn’t for conservatives who championed this work for the past decade.

At Conservatives for Clean Energy we are excited that Governor Youngkin also understands the immense benefits renewable energy brings to Virginia’s economy. We look forward to working with him to advance Virginia’s clean energy economy.