Northern Virginia: Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative lowers data center emissions in Viriginia

Jan 26, 2023 | Posted by MadalineDunn

Northern Virginia is now one of the largest data center hubs in the world. Over the years, tax incentives have brought in tech companies from far and wide. However, with this influx of companies data centers, has come a surge in energy use, which is now projected to increase electricity use by 38% by 2035. That said, thanks to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), carbon emissions in the state have been dropping since it was introduced back in 2020. 

The RGGI is a voluntary carbon cap-and-invest venture that aims to reduce the amount of heat-trapping gasses emitted by the utility sector, and is, according to William Shobe, an environmental policy professor at the University of Virginia, keeping facilities in line, too. For this reason, Shobe said he welcomed further developments in the region, stating that it would be far better to locate them in a state that has the cap, rather than in Ohio or Indiana. 

That being said, while there is a legislative mandate to decarbonize the grid by 2050, and the state is reportedly on track regarding solar expansion, many have voiced their doubts that server farms will be able to power their operations entirely with renewables. According to Shobe, a third-party monitoring organization should be responsible for ensuring that data center companies are held accountable for making good on their pledges. 

Despite the environmental benefits of the cap, not everyone in the state is rallying behind it. In fact, one Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin has been directly rallying against it. This was cited as a dangerous move by Shobe, who said that withdrawing from the initiative would remove the incentive for utilities to pursue low-emitting generation. 

Recently, however, when the vote for the bill to remove the RGGI was put to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, it was rejected 8-6-1. That said, it appears that the fight is not yet over. Following the vote, Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, commented: "We are grateful to our champions in the Senate for doing the right thing for Virginians and climate action by rejecting this misguided repeal effort, but also know our work isn't over. We have to continue to defend this program from the Youngkin administration's ongoing attacks as they seek to override the legislative process and put polluters ahead of what's best for our state."

{{ commentCount }} Comments