WASHINGTON — An aggressive bill that would make Virginia completely reliant on renewable energy for its electricity has advanced in the General Assembly with bipartisan support.
It was approved Tuesday in the House Commerce and Labor Committee on a split vote of 9-7.
Republican Del. Tim Hugo joined eight Democrats in voting for the bill. Five Republicans and two Democrats voted against the measure.
Six committee members — all Republicans — did not vote.
“Just as JFK proclaimed at the beginning of the 60s that we’re going to the moon, we need to be bold,” said Democratic Del. Sam Rasoul. “It challenges Virginia to come up with an aggressive 100 percent renewable plan.”
Under Rasoul’s legislation, all power companies in Virginia would need to generate their electricity using only clean energy resources by 2036.
It would halt the construction of power plants and pipelines that use fossil fuels after 2020.
Rasoul claimed the plan would encourage job creation and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
“I think a lot of people agree that we’ve reached a critical tipping point,” said Rasoul. “Why not use this as an opportunity to be able to boost Virginia’s economy as we capitalize on a lot of this new innovation that’s happening?”
But opponents argued that the plan was unaffordable and unrealistic.
“I think we’re going down the wrong road here,” said Republican Del. Terry Kilgore. “It’s going to be more expensive. Folks are very misguided when they think that green energy is going to be a lot cheaper.”
Republican Del. Tony Wilt said that he supports renewable energy but that the plan would have negative consequences on the state.
“People are reading too much into the tea leaves,” Wilt said. “Moving from A to Q in a short amount of time could be devastating.”
Rasoul acknowledged that it would be difficult for the bill to pass the full House of Delegates. But he said that he is glad people are talking about moving away from fossil fuels — and that he is hopeful for his proposal in the long term.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.