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Blog | 4 min read

Greater Richmond fosters a sustainable future

February 6, 2024

Richmond, Virginia

Companies and organizations have made significant progress toward advancing sustainability initiatives throughout Greater Richmond. PlanRVA, the planning district commission for the Richmond MSA, stands out as one local organization dedicated to fostering sustainability.

PlanRVA receives $1 million award

PlanRVA works to enhance residents’ quality of life by encouraging regional cooperation and collaboration among government entities, the private sector and community organizations. Not only is PlanRVA beneficial for Greater Richmond residents, but it also helps to create a green environment for companies with corporate social responsibility goals surrounding sustainability.

PlanRVA recently received a $1 million Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) award, which aligns with the White House goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The CPRG award will help fund PlanRVA’s efforts toward earning the Richmond MSA a SolSmart program designation. The SolSmart program recognizes and celebrates community sustainability efforts. As an example, the City of Richmond was upgraded to a gold designation in 2021 after achieving silver in 2017. The planning commission itself just recently received a bronze designation.

PlanRVA aims to earn a SolSmart designation for each Richmond MSA locality to achieve bronze by 2028. SolSmart and PlanRVA will then help implement best practices with all three levels of solar: residential, community and utility-scale. Implementing these best practices will make it easier for businesses and residents in Greater Richmond to install and access solar energy.

According to Nicole Keller, PlanRVA Resilience Planner, “The Bronze designation is a market signal that our region is ready for the clean energy transition and that we are a good place to do business. At the same time, we are working to equip our localities with the information and tools they need to determine for themselves what that looks like in their own communities. We are responding to the needs of our localities by offering tailored trainings and support. We want to encourage the green energy transition in our region, but make sure that it happens in a just way.”

“The Bronze designation is a market signal that our region is ready for the clean energy transition and that we are a good place to do business.” Nicole KellerResilience Planner, PlanRVA

Business community embraces sustainability

Companies and higher education institutions in the region have been making strides toward their sustainability goals. Here are some of the latest headlines surrounding sustainability in Greater Richmond:

  • Dominion Energy is already ranked among utilities with the most extensive solar profiles and aggressively strives for a 55 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.
  • Meta’s data center campus in Henrico uses 100 percent renewable energy via new solar plants from Dominion.
  • CoStar Group has adopted Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certifications, the most widely used green building rating system in the world.
  • VCU planted 70 trees on its urban campus to help offset the university’s carbon footprint to reach carbon net neutrality by 2030.
  • University of Richmond became the first college in the southeast to match 100 percent of its electrical needs with solar energy after building a 20-megawatt solar energy facility.
  • Cascades’ new facility in Hanover County utilizes machines to produce high-quality, low-weight 100 percent recycled linerboard and fluting paper.
  • The LEGO Group is constructing a $1 billion, 1.7 million sq.ft. carbon-neutral facility thanks to a solar farm operated on the same site.

The efforts by these companies and others have resulted in national recognition. Virginia ranks 11th for solar energy by the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and is primed for significant growth, ranking 5th for solar energy growth projections over the next five years. Plus, Greater Richmond is home to almost a quarter of all solar sites in Virginia with more than 4,285 acres of solar panels.

Greater Richmond here to help

The region has proven that it is not just business-friendly but is actively working towards a greener, more environmentally friendly Virginia. Companies that value sustainability and corporate responsibility will find many like-minded organizations throughout the region and a supportive state and local government.

Learn more about sustainability in Greater Richmond.