Data Centers & Energy Demand

Virginia is undergoing a massive economic, technological, and environmental transformation, all centered around the activities of one industry: data centers.

The explosive growth of the data center industry represents a major challenge to achieving a clean energy future in Virginia. Data center development in Northern Virginia has been accelerating for years, with a higher concentration in Loudoun County than anywhere else in the world. As of late 2022, data centers accounted for 21% of Dominion Energy’s electricity sales [pg 26] in Virginia. In fact, data centers represent the only growing sector [pg 5] of electricity demand in Virginia, and that demand growth is projected to more than double peak load by 2040 [pg 28]. 

Disturbingly, Dominion’s Integrated Resource Plan filed in 2023 points to higher-than-anticipated load growth from data centers as the rationale for leaving in place existing fossil-fuel generation and pursuing an “all of the above” energy strategy moving forward.

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Virginia’s current approach is unsustainable.

The sheer number and scale of Virginia data center proposals and the accumulation of so many data centers in such a relatively small area has led to a severely constrained electric grid and increased reliance on polluting backup diesel generators. As new data centers go in and Dominion Energy builds out the grid to accommodate the likes of Amazon Web Services and others in the industry, local residents and communities are left wondering: who is going to foot the bill and what are the implications for our air quality, climate goals, water resources, health and the environment?

While many data centers make clean energy and sustainability commitments, there is no way to clearly evaluate these claims due to non-disclosure agreements and general secrecy around the industry. What we do know is this: increasingly, the public is being asked to subsidize new transmission infrastructure and compromise on Virginia’s clean energy and conservation goals in order to meet the massive electricity demand caused by one private industry.

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It’s time to push back and ask tough questions.

Please use this letter to ask your elected officials in the Virginia General Assembly to address data center impacts. View data center legislation from 2024

Your Hour With APA Virginia: Planning for the Infrastructure of the Digital Age | CM # #9275604

PEC Presentation on Planning for the Digital Age

In August, PEC’s Director of Land Use Julie Bolthouse presented “Planning for the Digital Age” to the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association …
PEC Presentation on Energy Infrastructure and Data Centers (Upperville)

PEC Presentation on Energy Infrastructure and Data Centers (Upperville)

On Oct. 23, The Piedmont Environmental Council hosted a community meeting in Upperville, Va. on data centers and associated energy infrastructure …
aerial image of an empty lot with trees along a highway interchange

Latest on Amazon’s data center in Warrenton

Since we last updated you on Amazon’s Warrenton data center, Amazon has spent these couple of months responding to the Town’s first round of comments on its initial site development plan …
data center in Loudoun with transmission line

Data Centers, Surging Power Demand Take Center Stage

The size, scale, and speed at which applications for data center projects are coming in and being approved is astounding. Just this month, massive proposals moved forward in Culpeper, Louisa, and King George counties, with more being reviewed in Caroline and Stafford counties …
The Environmental Footprint of the Digital Age

The Environmental Footprint of the Digital Age

Virginia is subsidizing billions of dollars in data center development on the backs of its ratepayers, without a full understanding of the long-term ramifications …
One Approved, Another on the Horizon

One Approved, Another on the Horizon

Approval of Copper Ridge; Cielo data center campus proposed just east of Town …
IRP Comment Letter first page

PEC Responds to Dominion Energy’s Proposed 2023 Integrated Resource Plan

In September, The Piedmont Environmental Council’s Director of Land Use Julie Bolthouse submitted public comment on Dominion Energy’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) as part of case number PUR-2023-00066 before the Virginia State Corporation Commission …