Over the past two years, a group of stakeholders have been meeting to formulate new solar policy recommendations to the Virginia General Assembly. Known as the Rubin Group after its moderator, attorney Mark Rubin, the stakeholders include utilities, solar industry representatives, environmental advocates, and others. In 2016, the discussion sessions helped to produce three solar-related bills that were signed into law.
The group met again in 2017 to solicit public feedback for solar policy proposals to be presented in the next legislative session. This meeting was different than previous ones because of the powerful voice and presence of Virginia’s community of solar supporters. Dozens of solar homeowners joined in-person meetings and phone calls, clearly staking out the position that any policies affecting rooftop solar must be substantiated with data while also accurately valuing its many benefits.
Due to pressure from Solar United Neighbors of Virginia’s solar advocates, the Rubin Group did not make any recommendations to change the state’s net metering policy. In fact, when Virginia’s monopoly utilities and electric cooperatives proposed policy recommendations targeting their solar customers with higher fixed charges and reduced net metering credits, we challenged them to prove why this was necessary. Our efforts succeeded as the utilities could not provide any data to back up their claims. The principal recommendation out of the Rubin group was the need for “better data collection and analysis” to inform future discussions about net metering policy. This is a victory and reminder that the utility strategy of ignoring the benefits of rooftop solar while targeting their solar producing customers with unfair and discriminatory policies will no longer be acceptable.