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Virginia Energy Plan Calls for Increased R&D, Consistent Funding

September 19, 2007

Virginia could capitalize on its strong energy R&D foundation of universities, federal laboratories and businesses through coordination among research activities and by creating a consistent funding stream for federal R&D funding and technology commercialization, finds a new state energy plan released last week.


Mandated by SB 262 from the 2006 General Assembly, the Virginia Energy Plan outlines specific goals and recommendations that set forth energy policy for the Commonwealth over the next 10 years. Under the plan, the state will reduce the rate of growth in energy use by 40 percent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and seek to increase in-state energy production by 20 percent. The plan also calls for expanding consumer energy education and increased R&D within the areas of nuclear technologies, alternate transportation fuels, coastal energy production, and carbon capture and storage.

Economic development opportunities are found within the state’s institutes of higher education, federal laboratories and businesses. However, the challenge is coordinating the varied R&D activities in ways that increase their value to the Commonwealth, according to the report. Current university energy R&D strengths include coal use, fuel cells and alternative fuel development. Virginia also is home to three federal research laboratories, which collectively conduct research on the impact of aviation of the environment, efficiency of alternative vehicles, fuels and transportation systems, and energy efficiency of weapons and electric guns. Businesses, for their part, undertake a wide range of energy-related R&D, and significant strengths exist in the Areva NP/BWXT nuclear cluster around Lynchburg, at Northrop Gurmman Newport News, at private technology businesses, and in small businesses spun off from university R&D, the report states.


One idea for coordinating the varied R&D activities is to create an energy R&D roadmap that matches areas of core strength with the best value proposition for investment in energy R&D. In addition, a public-private governance structure, the Virginia Energy Research and Development Organization, should be established as a virtual organization to set priorities for public energy R&D funding. To that end, the report calls for consistent funding for energy R&D through a state fund as a subset of the Commonwealth Technology Research Fund. In addition, the plan calls for increased investments in energy R&D by $10 million per year, with half from state resources and half from private and federal investments. To capitalize on energy economic development-related opportunities, the report recommends the following actions:

  • Support existing businesses wishing to make substantial new investments in energy activities and provide start-up financial support to help businesses bring new energy technologies to the marketplace;
  • Support the development of 2-3 energy technology parks with a focus on renewable fuels and fossil fuel production and carbon management; and,
  • Provide workforce services through partnerships between community colleges, economic development officials and industries to ensure adequate numbers of trained workers for region-specific energy industry clusters.

The authors recognize that the plan requires substantial annual investments by the state, private industry and individuals. To foster long-term improvement in how Virginia and the nation can supply and use energy more efficiently, the authors recommend $5 million for energy R&D to be matched equally by private and federal sources. Renewable energy grant programs established in 2006 should be funded with $5 million per year to achieve significant growth in renewable energy supplies. Another $5 million per year is necessary to support energy business incentives, such as the Biofuels Incentive Grant Program, new technology production, and development of innovative energy sources and infrastructure, according to the report.


Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine will review the recommendations in the coming months to set forth an action plan that addresses the state’s energy challenges. The full report is available at: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/TempContent/2007_VA_Energy_Plan-Full_Document.pdf