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Youngkin announces energy innovation tech lab in southwest Virginia

by Atlanta Business Journal

(The Center Square) – Energy DELTA Lab will build a technology testbed in southwest Virginia to provide laboratories and scientific assistance that will primarily work on energy innovation, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced.

The announcement comes shortly after the governor unveiled his energy plan, which seeks to broaden and diversify the energy sector. The new testbed will research new energy technology, such as small modular nuclear reactors, solar generation and hydrogen, mine-based geothermal, among other things.

“Since announcing the Virginia 2022 Energy Plan, I am pleased to announce this Energy DELTA Lab project which delivers on our vision to define Virginia as a force in energy innovation,” Youngkin said in a statement. “No other project like it exists in the United States. With this energy testbed, we see a commitment to transformation, encouragement for startup enterprises and support for the development of promising careers in exciting new fields.”

The governor’s energy plan intends to tap into nuclear energy, natural gas, renewables and other energy sources. The new plan is a departure from former Gov. Ralph Northam’s energy policies, which sought to shut down all carbon-emitting energy sources by 2050. Although Northam’s plan was open to nuclear energy because it does not emit carbon, all of the recent energy projects have been renewable energy, such as wind and solar.

According to the governor’s office, the lab will help the commonwealth transition to low-cost, clean energy that can meet commercialization potential. The initiative was originally established through a $975,000 federal grant through the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program, which is designed to help economies that have struggled because of job losses and fewer opportunities in the fossil fuel industry.

“As the United States moves toward new forms of energy production and use, Virginia’s southwest region has the opportunity to redefine itself as a leader in energy innovation,” Caren Merrick, the Virginia secretary of commerce and trade, said in a statement. “The Energy DELTA Lab testbed project highlights our determination to push Virginia’s energy leadership position to new heights.”

The initiative will also partner with two energy utilities: Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power.

“Dominion Energy Virginia is pleased to join a strong group of partners in the Energy DELTA Lab endeavor,” Ed Baine, the president of Dominion Energy Virginia, said in a statement. “This is a significant development for Southwest Virginia, and it will help to ensure the ongoing contribution of the Commonwealth of Virginia to the global conversation about energy.”

When Youngkin announced his new energy plan, he emphasized that the state needed clean and reliable energy. He had been critical of Democratic policies that sought to swiftly constrict the number of energy sources, which have already led to higher costs for ratepayers.

The governor’s energy plan has received support from Republican lawmakers, but criticism from Democratic lawmakers who argued that it was contrary to their efforts to fight climate change.

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