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Virginia   Virginia Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: August 17, 2017

Overview

Coal is Virginia’s primary energy resource.

Virginia is located on the nation's East Coast midway between the southern tip of Florida and the northern coast of Maine. The state has substantial energy resources in its rivers, forests, winds, and fossil fuel and uranium deposits. The coastal plain that occupies the eastern part of Virginia includes the site of the first English settlement in North America, several of the state's modern-day major population centers, and the nation's largest coal port.1,2,3,4 To the west, the flat coastal plain meets the rolling hills and basins of the Piedmont region along a boundary typified by rapids and waterfalls.5 Most of the state's hydroelectric power is supplied from further west, where the rolling hills rise into the Blue Ridge Mountains.6 The valleys and ridges that occupy the western part of the state parallel the spine of the Appalachian Mountains and, along with the Appalachian Plateau, they contain most of the state's coal, Virginia's primary energy resource.7 The Appalachian Plateau, which cuts across the southwestern corner of Virginia, also holds almost all of the state's oil and natural gas fields.8 Almost two-thirds of Virginia is forested and the state's widely distributed forests hold abundant biomass potential.9 Virginia has offshore wind energy resources as well.10 Uranium, a nuclear fuel, has recently been discovered near the state's southern border. The deposit, though not developed, may be one of the nation's largest.11,12

Energy consumption in Virginia is more than two and a half times greater than the state's energy production.13 The transportation sector is the leading end-use energy-consuming sector in the state.14 Virginia has the third-largest state-maintained transportation network in the nation, including six major interstate highways. More than a dozen railroads operate on 3,500 miles of railway in the state, and two of the nation's busiest commercial airports and one of the nation's largest seaports are located in Virginia.15,16 The transportation, commercial, and residential sectors each consume much more energy than the state's industrial sector, and, despite Virginia's diverse climate, per capita total energy consumption in the state is below the national average.17,18,19

Petroleum

Virginia has no appreciable crude oil reserves and only a small amount of crude oil production, all of it from wells in the far southwestern corner of the state.20,21 Exploration for oil and natural gas elsewhere in the state has not been successful.22 There are no operating petroleum refineries in the state, and Virginia is not crossed by any major crude oil pipelines. Refined petroleum products arrive in the state by pipeline and at the state's ports. Two major petroleum product pipelines, the Colonial Pipeline and the Plantation Pipeline, deliver refined petroleum products to locations in Virginia.23,24 The Colonial Pipeline originates in Texas and has several delivery locations in Virginia before reaching its endpoint in New Jersey.25 The Plantation Pipeline brings petroleum products north from Louisiana and Mississippi to its terminus in northern Virginia near Washington, DC.26 Petroleum products also arrive at Virginia ports from overseas.27 The state's only petroleum refinery, located at Yorktown, suspended refining operations in 2010, but it continued to function as a products terminal, importing finished motor gasoline, diesel fuel, and other products for sale to markets from South Carolina to New York.28 The facility has been converted into a storage depot and transportation hub. It is now connected to the Colonial Pipeline system, and rail and dock facilities have been expanded to accommodate train and tanker deliveries.29,30

About three-fifths of the petroleum used in Virginia is consumed as motor gasoline.31 Counties in the northern part of the state are required to use specially blended motor gasoline to reduce harmful emissions. Several counties in central and eastern Virginia have elected to require reformulated motor gasoline also.32,33 Most of the petroleum consumed in the state is used by the transportation sector. Less than 5% of the petroleum used in Virginia is consumed in the residential sector, where about 1 in 10 households heat with fuel oil, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, or other petroleum products.34,35

Natural gas

Two of Virginia’s coalbed methane fields are among the nation’s 100 largest natural gas fields.

Virginia holds less than 1% of the nation's total natural gas reserves.36 However, the state contains one-sixth of U.S. coalbed methane reserves, and two of Virginia's coalbed methane fields are among the nation's top 100 natural gas fields as ranked by proved reserves.37,38 Virginia's natural gas fields are located in seven counties in the southwestern corner of the state.39 More than four-fifths of the state's natural gas production comes from coalbed methane wells drilled into coal-rich formations rather than from conventional natural gas reservoirs.40 Although Virginia's natural gas production, which is only a small fraction of the nation's total, has increased substantially during the past three decades, production still equals only about one-fourth of state demand.41,42,43 Most of Virginia's natural gas supply is delivered by several major interstate natural gas pipelines.44

Natural gas supplies come to Virginia from both the Gulf Coast and the Appalachian regions. Additional supplies come from overseas by way of Maryland's Cove Point Liquefied Natural Gas terminal.45 In past years, the largest share of the state's natural gas supply came from the south. In 2012, however, natural gas movements into Virginia from the south began to decline, and, while the supply from West Virginia remained fairly constant, more natural gas entered the state from the north through Maryland, as natural gas production in Pennsylvania increased.46,47 In future, planned pipeline expansions will allow more natural gas to flow from Pennsylvania into Virginia.48 About one-fourth of the natural gas that enters Virginia exits the state. In 2015, for the first time, the largest share of natural gas leaving Virginia went south, entering North Carolina and Tennessee.49 A small amount of the natural gas leaving Virginia is distributed to Washington, DC, and the surrounding Maryland suburbs by the local natural gas utility.50 Some of the natural gas that enters Virginia is stored in two depleted fields that have a combined total storage capacity of 9.5 billion cubic feet.51,52

Natural gas consumption by Virginia's electric power generators has risen sharply since 2003, increasing more than eight-fold by 2016, when the electric power sector accounted for almost three-fifths of the natural gas delivered to consumers in the state. By 2016, the electric power sector consumed more natural gas than the other end-use sectors combined. The industrial sector is the second-largest natural gas-consuming sector in Virginia followed by the residential sector, where one in three households use natural gas for home heating. 53,54,55

Coal

Virginia ports are the leading exporters of U.S. coal.

Although Virginia has more than 60 active coal mines, recoverable reserves at the state's producing mines are only about 1% of the nation's total. The state's annual coal production is less than 2% of the nation's total.56,57 However, Virginia ports are the leading exporters of U.S. coal, typically shipping almost two-fifths of the nation's total coal exports.58,59 All the coal mined in Virginia is bituminous, and most of that coal leaves the state.60 About four-fifths of Virginia's coal is exported to other nations or is sent to other states. The remaining coal is used in-state, primarily by electric power generators, but also at coke plants.61,62,63 Most of the additional coal needed in Virginia is brought into the state, mostly from West Virginia and Kentucky.64

Electricity

Natural gas fuels the largest share of Virginia's electricity generation.65 Coal-fired power plants supplied most of the state's net generation until 2009, when coal's share fell below that of nuclear power. As coal's contribution fell, natural gas-fired generation increased. In 2012, natural gas-fueled generation exceeded that of coal for the first time, and, by 2015, the contribution from natural gas-fired generation surpassed that of nuclear power.66 Natural gas now provides more than two-fifths of Virginia's net electricity generation. The state's two nuclear power plants supply about one-third of Virginia's generation.67 Coal provides most of the rest, although biomass, hydropower, petroleum, and other energy sources also are used to generate electricity. Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy is contributing a small but increasing amount of distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) and utility-scale electricity generation.68

Electricity consumption is greater than electricity generation in Virginia, and the state receives additional power from the grid. All but a few counties in Virginia are within the regional PJM grid; only four counties in southwestern Virginia are serviced by utilities supplied by the Tennessee Valley Authority.69,70,71 Retail electricity sales in Virginia are highest to the commercial sector, followed closely by sales to the residential sector.72 Most Virginia households have air conditioning, and more than half of all state households use electricity for home heating.73,74

Virginia established an energy efficiency resource goal in 2007 for investor-owned utilities. The target was a 10% reduction in retail customer electricity consumption from 2006 levels by 2022. A subsequent 2017 Virginia law requires that an annual assessment of the progress made toward meeting the goal be submitted to the Governor, the General Assembly, and others.75,76

Renewable energy

Virginia’s Bath County Pumped Storage Station is the largest pumped hydroelectric storage facility in the world.

Hydroelectric power, including pumped hydroelectric storage, is the renewable resource with the greatest generating capacity in Virginia; however, biomass generates more electricity annually. In 2016, biomass fueled almost 5% of the state's total net electricity generation. Wood and wood waste, municipal solid waste, and landfill gas are the most common forms of biomass used in Virginia.77,78 Hydroelectric generation is variable and typically contributes less than 2% of Virginia's net electricity generation. The state has both conventional and pumped hydroelectric facilities.79 Virginia's Bath County Pumped Storage Station, with a generating capacity of 3,003 megawatts, is the largest pumped hydroelectric storage facility in the world.80 During periods of low demand, inexpensive power is taken from conventional power plants to pump water from the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir. During periods of high demand, the water is released from the upper reservoir and flows to the lower reservoir. Electricity is generated as the water flows through turbines that are located between the reservoirs. Although the plant uses more power than it generates, it supplies power in periods of peak demand when electricity prices are highest.81

In October 2016, Amazon Solar Farm U.S. East, the largest solar farm in the mid-Atlantic region at that time, went into service on Virginia's Eastern Shore.82 The 80-megawatt installation contributed to the more than doubling of Virginia's solar PV generation in the past year.83 Several other large facilities are scheduled to be operational in the state by late 2017.84 However, the largest share of solar PV generation in Virginia is provided by small distributed facilities.85 The state also has large areas with wind energy potential off its Atlantic coast and in the Chesapeake Bay, and more limited resources onshore on Virginia's western mountain ridges.86,87 The state does not have any wind-powered utility-scale electricity generation.88 An offshore wind demonstration project was in development in federal waters off Virginia, but funding was withdrawn and activities have ceased.89,90,91

Virginia's biofuels industry includes two ethanol plants and five biodiesel refineries. A commercial plant in Hopewell, Virginia, can produce 60 million gallons of ethanol each year using corn as a feedstock.92 A small cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant in Lawrenceville, Virginia, converts municipal solid waste into ethanol.93 Virginia's five biodiesel plants use a variety of feedstocks and have a combined capacity of about 15 million gallons per year.94

Virginia has established a voluntary renewable portfolio goal encouraging investor-owned utilities to acquire 15% of base year 2007 sales from eligible renewable technologies by 2025.95 Virginia also enacted a mandatory utility green power option in 2007 that gives electric utility customers the option of purchasing 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources. If a utility does not offer a program that meets the 100% renewable energy requirement, its customers can purchase green power from any licensed retail supplier.96

Endnotes

1 NETSTATE, Virginia, The Geography of Virginia, updated February 25, 2016.
2 NETSTATE, Virginia, The Commonwealth of Virginia, updated February 25, 2016.
3 NETSTATE, Virginia, Virginia Almanac, updated February 25, 2016.
4 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Quarterly Coal Report, October-December 2016 (April 2017), Table 13, U.S. Coal Exports by Customs District.
5 Bailey, Chuck, "Fall Zone," The Geology of Virginia (August 6, 2016).
6 U.S. EIA, Virginia Profile Overview, Map Layer, Hydroelectric Power Plant, accessed June 30, 2017.
7 U.S. EIA, State Energy Production Estimates, 1960 through 2015 (June 30, 2017), Tables P2, P5A, P5B.
8 Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Division of Geology and Mineral Resources, Economic Resources, accessed June 30, 2017.
9 Virginia Department of Forestry, Virginia Forest Facts, accessed June 30, 2017.
10 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Virginia 90 m Offshore Wind Speed (August 26, 2010).
11 Virginia Energy Resources, Coles Hill, Virginia (Uranium), accessed June 30, 2017.
12 Metcalfe, Trevor, "Uranium lawsuit heading to trial in Virginia," WORK IT SOVA (April 4, 2017).
13 U.S. EIA, State Energy Production Estimates, 1960 through 2015 (June 30, 2017), Table P3.
14 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates, 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Virginia Tables CT7, CT8.
15 McDonnell, Bob, "The Commonwealth of Virginia—Staying Competitive in Today's Global Marketplace," Trade & Industry Development (July 18, 2013).
16 The Port of Virginia, 2015 Trade Overview, accessed June 30, 2017.
17 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates, 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C10, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
18 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates, 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C13, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2015.
19 Hayden, Bruce P., and Patrick J. Michaels, Virginia's Climate, Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, ‘State Climates' Series, accessed June 30, 2017.
20 Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Division of Geology and Mineral Resources, Energy Resources, Oil, accessed June 30, 2017.
21 U.S. EIA, Virginia Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed June 30, 2017.
22 Milici, Robert C., and Michael L. Upchurch, Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas, Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, revised March 2014.
23 U.S. EIA, Virginia Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed June 30, 2017.
24 U.S. EIA, Virginia Profile Data, Distribution and Marketing, accessed June 30, 2017.
25 Colonial Pipeline Company, About Colonial, System Map, accessed July 2, 2017.
26 Kinder Morgan, Products Pipelines, Plantation Pipe Line Company (PPL), accessed July 2, 2017.
27 U.S. EIA, Petroleum and Other Liquids, Company Level Imports, accessed July 3, 2017.
28 Cawley, Jon, "Yorktown Refinery to cease most operations," Daily Press (August 5, 2010).
29 Kerr, Amanda, "Western Refining selling Yorktown refinery," Daily Press (December 1, 2011).
30 "Plains All American to construct oil rail facilities in Colorado and Virginia," Railway, Track & Structures (August 6, 2012).
31 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates, 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C4, Total End-Use Energy Consumption Estimates, 2015.
32 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Standards, Reformulated Gasoline, accessed July 7, 2017.
33 Gardner, K. W., U.S. Gasoline Requirements Map, American Petroleum Institute, updated June 22, 2015.
34 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates, 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Tables C4, C5, C8.
35 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Virginia, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
36 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, Dry Natural Gas, Annual, 2010-15.
37 U.S. EIA, Coalbed Methane, Proved Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, Annual, 2010-15.
38 U.S. EIA, Top 100 U.S. Oil and Gas Fields (March 2015), Table 2, Top 100 U.S. gas fields as of December 31, 2013.
39 Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, 2014 Virginia Energy Plan (October 1, 2014), Section 3, Natural Gas, p. 1.
40 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Virginia, Annual, 2010-15.
41 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2011-16.
42 U.S. EIA, Virginia Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 1967-2015.
43 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Virginia, Annual, 2011-16.
44 U.S. EIA, Virginia Profile Data, Distribution and Marketing, accessed July 3, 2017.
45 Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, 2014 Virginia Energy Plan (October 1, 2014), Section 3, Natural Gas, Table 3.2.
46 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Virginia, 2010-15.
47 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Maryland, 2010-15.
48 Williams, Atlantic Sunrise, Overview, accessed July 3, 2017.
49 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Virginia, 2010-15.
50 Washington Gas, Company Profile, accessed July 7, 2016.
51 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Number of Existing Fields, 2010-15.
52 U.S. EIA, Underground Natural Gas Storage Capacity, Total Storage Capacity, 2010-15.
53 U.S. EIA, Virginia Natural Gas Deliveries to Electric Power Consumers, 2002-16.
54 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Virginia Annual, 2010-15.
55 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Virginia, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
56 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2015 and 2014.
57 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 14, Recoverable Coal Reserves and Average Recovery Percentage at Producing Mines by State, 2015 and 2014.
58 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report, October-December 2016 (April 2017), Table 13, U.S. Coal Exports by Customs District.
59 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Domestic and Foreign Distribution of U.S. Coal by State of Origin, 2015.
60 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2015.
61 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Virginia Table OS-27, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Origin State, 2015.
62 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Domestic and Foreign Distribution of U.S. Coal by State of Origin, 2015.
63 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2015 and 2014.
64 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Virginia Table DS-43, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2015.
65 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.7.B, 1.9.B.
66 U.S. EIA, Virginia Electricity Profile 2015, Table 5, Electric power industry generation by primary energy source, 1990 through 2015.
67 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Virginia, accessed July 7, 2017.
68 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.5.B, 1.10.B, 1.12.B, 1.13.B, 1.15.B, 1.17.B.
69 U.S. EIA, Virginia Electricity Profile 2015, Table 10, Supply and Disposition of Electricity, 1990 Through 2015.
70 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO)/Independent System Operators (ISO), accessed July 7, 2017.
71 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Virginia, Fiscal Year 2016 (October 2015-September 2016), accessed July 7, 2017.
72 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 5.4.B.
73 U.S. EIA, 2009 RECS Survey Data, Table HC7.10, Air Conditioning in Homes in South Region, Divisions, and States, 2009.
74 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Virginia, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011-15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
75 LIS, Virginia's Legislative Information System, 2017 Session, Chapter 568, Approved March 16, 2017, accessed August 7, 2017.
76 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Virginia Energy Efficiency Resource Goal, updated October 11, 2016.
77 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.15.B.
78 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data, 3-1 Generator Y2015, 2015 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
79 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.12.B.
80 Dominion, Bath County Pumped Storage Station, accessed July 7, 2017.
81 Energy Storage Association, Pumped Hydroelectric Storage, accessed July 7, 2017.
82 Dominion Energy, "Dominion Announces Significant Expansion of Solar Energy in Virginia in Collaboration With Amazon," Press Release (November 17, 2016).
83 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.17.B.
84 Dominion Energy, "Dominion Announces Significant Expansion of Solar Energy in Virginia in Collaboration With Amazon," Press Release (November 17, 2016).
85 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.17.B.
86 U.S Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Virginia Offshore 90-Meter Wind Map and Wind Resource Potential, updated June 13, 2014.
87 U.S Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Virginia Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, updated September 24, 2015.
88 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.14.B.
89 U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, "BOEM issues first wind energy research lease in Federal offshore waters," Press Release (March 24, 2015).
90 U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP), accessed July 7, 2017.
91 Davidson, Ros, "VOWTAP shelved 'indefinitely,'" Wind Power Offshore (September 23, 2016).
92 "U.S. Ethanol Plant List, All Platforms, Operational," Ethanol Producer Magazine, updated May 12, 2017.
93 Martin, Jeremy, and Craig Stuart-Paul, "Clean fuels can help drive Virginia's economy," The Virginian-Pilot (November 18, 2012).
94 "U.S. Biodiesel Plants, operational," BioDiesel Magazine, updated May 11, 2017.
95 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Virginia Voluntary Renewable Energy Portfolio Goal, updated February 8, 2015.
96 U.S. Department of Energy, Mandatory Utility Green Power Option, Virginia, accessed July 9, 2017.