Commentary

Women Are Leading the Effort to Inform and Shape Renewable Energy Policy in VA

As Virginia embarked on becoming the first Southern state to embrace a goal of carbon-free energy by 2050,1 a need arose for independent sources of information and data reporting on the complexities of Virginia energy law and regulation. Three key players in Virginia’s energy policy space — Carrie Hearne, Ivy Main, and Sarah Vogelsong — are serving that need by ensuring access to such data and translating it into digestible means for Virginia consumers, businesses, and lawmakers. In the modern age, when the public is increasingly consuming its news from digital media sources, these three women are guaranteeing Virginians’ access to clear, accurate information regarding renewable energy law and policy.

Carrie Hearne

Carrie Hearne joined the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (“DMME”) one week before Governor Northam signed Executive Order No. 43, which established ambitious statewide goals and targets for clean energy deployments in Virginia.2 Following the passage of the
Virginia Clean Economy Act (“VCEA”) seven months later, cementing Virginia’s commitment to the clean energy goals espoused in Order No. 43,
3  Hearne viewed her role with DMME as a critical source of outreach to educate consumers, businesses, and lawmakers on Virginia’s emerging renewable energy frontier. As Hearne describes it, the DMME “bridges the information gap” by publishing numerous reports and webinars that aim to demystify the complexities of energy regulation.4 In her initial position with DMME as a solar program manager, Hearne utilized these platforms to provide a “birds-eye view” of budding solar technology, thereby making solar energy’s technological benefits more accessible to stakeholders. In her current role as the Associate Director for Energy Equity Programs with DMME, Hearne endeavors to ensure that all communities, particularly low- and moderate-income communities, are treated fairly and benefit meaningfully from clean energy jobs while reducing their own energy burden. With this undertaking, Ms. Hearne serves a key role in advising on energy equity programs in the Commonwealth. As she put it, “[DMME is] at an exciting place and there is a lot of work to be done and benefits to be shared in implementing new policies and leaning into energy equity programs.”

Ivy Main

As a seasoned lawyer and longtime volunteer with the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, Ivy Main has long helped Virginians understand the intricate developments in Virginia energy policy. In her popular blog, Power for the People VA, Main breaks down proposed legislation before Virginia’s General Assembly and comments on the influence that Virginia’s monopoly utilities exert on the outcomes of such legislation.5

In an interview with Southeast Energy News, Main identified that when she began volunteering with the Sierra Club, “there was very little coverage of Virginia energy policy in the media, in spite of its importance in our lives.”6 In the nearly ten years since, Main filled the void with enlightened commentary and reporting, benefiting readers with the spotlight she has shown on environmental and energy related bills introduced in the General Assembly. Main can also be credited with challenging claims by candidates running for statewide offices, as well as by monopoly utilities, such as Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power Company, which serve millions of Virginians with electric power.7

Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah Vogelsong, a Richmond-based reporter for the Virginia Mercury, similarly bridges the information divide by delivering key reporting on environmental and energy-related issues ranging from the intricacies of utility regulation at the State Corporation Commission to the broader impact of sea level rise affecting Virginia’s Eastern Shore.8 Through her column with the Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization that covers state government and policy in the Commonwealth, Vogelsong goes beyond simply explaining the science and technology driving energy policy to reveal how it affects the lives of Virginia residents and consumers of electric energy.

Through their respective roles, these three women play a decisive role in making energy policy developments in the Commonwealth accessible to the general public. As Virginia continues to plot its pathway to net-zero carbon emissions over the next 30 years, public engagement made possible by these and other voices in the renewable energy space will ensure transparency and progress.  

Endnotes
1. Gregory S. Schneider, Virginia Becomes the First Southern State with a Goal of Carbon-Free Energy, WASH. POST (Apr. 13, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/virginia-becomes-the-first-southern-state-with-agoal-of-carbon-freeenergy/2020/04/13/4ef22dd6-7db5-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html.
2. Press Release, Governor Ralph Northam Signs Executive Order to Expand Access to Renewable Energy, Support Clean Energy Jobs of the Future (Sept. 17, 2019), https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2019/september/headline-846745-en.html.
3. Press Release, Governor Northam Signs Clean Energy Legislation (Apr. 12, 2020), https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/allreleases/2020/april/headline-856056-en.html.
4. For example, DMME recently co-hosted a five-part webinar series focusing on advantages for clean energy businesses to expand or locate in Virginia and highlighting topics such as energy efficiency, distributed generation solar, energy storage, utility scale solar and onshore wind, and offshore wind. Clean Energy Virginia: A Webinar Series, VA. DEP’T OF MINES, MINERALS, AND ENERGY,
https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/de/LinkDocuments/Clean_Energy_Webinar/Clean%20Energy%20VA%20webinar%20design.pdf.
5. POWER FOR THE PEOPLE VA, https://powerforthepeopleva.com/about/.
6. Jim Pierobon, Q&A: Why Energy Policy in Virginia Is ‘Still Depressing,’ Energy News Network (Feb. 23, 2017), https://energynews.us/2017/02/23/qa-why-energy-policy-in-virginia-is-still-depressing/.
7. See Ivy Main, Why Most ‘Renewable Energy’ Options Don’t Add New Wind and Solar to the Grid, POWER FOR THE PEOPLE VA (May 24, 2021), https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2021/05/24/why-most-renewable-energy-options-dontadd-new-wind-and-solar-to-the-grid/; Ivy Main, Questions Dominion Didn’t Answer At Its Shareholder Meeting, POWER FOR THE PEOPLE VA (May 7, 2021), https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2021/05/07/questions-dominion-didntanswer-at-its-shareholder-meeting/; see also Ivy Main, A Candidate’s Guide to Clean Energy and the Pipelines, POWER FOR THE PEOPLE VA (Aug. 18, 2017), https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2017/08/18/a-candidates-guide-to-cleanenergy-and-the-pipelines/.
8. See Sarah Vogelsong, For Virginia, Adapting to Sea Level Rise Starts with Choosing a Curve, VA. MERCURY (June 15, 2021), https://www.virginiamercury.com/2021/06/15/for-virginia-adapting-tosea-level-rise-starts-with-choosing-a-curve/; Sarah Vogelsong, With Approval of Dominion’s Renewables Plan, Is It a ‘New Day’ or ‘Business as Usual’ for State Regulators?, VA. MERCURY (May 13, 2021), https://www.virginiamercury.com/2021/05/13/with-approval-of-dominionsrenewables-plan-is-it-a-new-day-or-business-asusual-for-state-regulators/.
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