Will Cleveland, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center who works closely on Virginia energy issues, called it “noticeable … that Shobe seems to be saying what we have been saying for years: the only growth sector at all is in data centers.”
However, Cleveland said that in testimony before the State Corporation Commission, the SELC has “been pretty critical of simply applying formulas to past growth because the data center industry is much more complicated than that.”
“By 2050, we have no idea what the options are going to be for behind-the-meter generation and storage. We have no idea how efficient the data centers are going to become or whether they’re going to start to operate with their own on-site solar,” he said.
Shobe said that while the forecast “helps us figure out the best path forward,” it also highlights the need for more detailed information about what Virginia electricity providers should plan for in coming decades, particularly as they decarbonize their generation fleets in response to the Virginia Clean Economy Act.
“I think there’s a real need for us to do more and know more and to try to tighten this forecast up at least as far as data centers are concerned,” he said.
David Murray, executive director of the Chesapeake Solar and Storage Association, a trade group that advocates for clean energy in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., said the report highlights the role the burgeoning industry can play as Virginia’s transition away from fossil fuels continues.