Virginia 2024 Legislative Session Recap

By Solar United Neighbors on April 30, 2024

The 2024 legislative session has officially come to a close in Virginia! Solar United Neighbors (SUN) tracked eight solar-related bills. This marked the first session for our Virginia Program Director, Brandon Praileau. Brandon joined the team in January and hit the ground running in support of pro-solar policy.  He advocated for Virginians by joining an in-person lobby day meeting with legislators.

We focused on passing bills related to shared solar, which allows more people to benefit from solar. We also fought for stronger consumer protections, bills that hold utilities accountable, and more. We succeeded in small victories and will continue to push harder next session for stronger pro-solar policies. We encourage you to get involved in our monthly Solar Action Team (SAT) meetings starting again in June. This is a great next step for those looking to stay informed on solar policy in Virginia. For now, here is a rundown of what happened with the bills that we were tracking:

Shared Solar: Two bills passed

Not everyone can go solar where they live. This may be because they rent. The good news is that shared solar offers the benefit of solar for those that can’t or prefer not to install solar panels on their roofs. Shared solar lets individuals, businesses, or organizations buy or subscribe to a “share” in a shared solar project.

  • One bill SB 255/HB 108 creates a 50 MW shared solar program in Appalachian Power Company (APCO) territory in southwest Virginia. This bill also guarantees 10% savings for income-qualified customers. The more savings, the better!
  • The other bill SB 253/HB 106 expands the size of the existing shared solar program in Dominion Energy territory from 200 MW to 350 MW. Dominion provides electricity in most of central and eastern Virginia. The bill incentivizes shared solar projects on rooftops, brownfields, landfills, and already developed sites. The bill also requires consideration of the benefits of shared solar when calculating the minimum bill. The minimum bill is currently set at $55. Low-income subscribers are exempt from paying, but all other subscribers will have to pay a monthly bill of at least $55 to participate.
    • This language should help us push to lower the minimum bill from a whopping $55! This is higher than anywhere else in the country.

Solar Consumer Protection bill: Died

  • SUN worked with solar and environmental groups to improve consumer protections in Virginia. We also worked with legislators who moved the bill forward. These legislators include Sen. Surovell, Sen. VanValkenburg, and Del. Glass. This is an important first step to protect consumers from solar companies that use misleading sales tactics.
  • SB 313/HB 576: The bill would have created a working group at the State Corporation Commission (SCC). The SCC has authority over utilities, insurance, railroads and more. The group would consider recommendations for the disclosure form and solar consumer protection. SUN planned to take part in this.
    • The bill included a disclosure form for residential solar sales. The disclosure was then removed by the Governor in the substitute bill sent back to the legislature.
    • The House and the Senate supported the original bill but not the Governor’s narrowed down bill. Both chambers voted to reject the Governor’s substitute bill meaning that the bill is dead. The Governor has until May 17 to take action, but it is unexpected that the Governor would support the original bill.

Interconnection bill: Died; shifting to commission

  • SB 346 & HB 117:  The goal of this bill was to improve the process of getting a solar system connected to the grid. This process is called interconnection. This includes solar systems on schools, businesses, and community organizations.
  • Currently, Dominion Energy is blocking at least 50 of these projects. The introduced version of this bill would have ensured reasonable interconnection timelines. The result would have helped speed up more solar projects.
  • Unfortunately Dominion Energy lobbyists were able to gut these bills of important improvements. They were not worth passing at that point.
  • After the bill died, bill supporters focused on improving interconnection. Solar supporters sent hundreds of comments in the commission. SUN is continuing to follow this work and will provide updates.
  • Our monthly Solar Action Team Meetings will be ramping up again in June. This will be a great way for everyone to stay engaged on this policy.

Utility Accountability bill: Died, will try again next year

  • HB 792: The goal of this bill was to protect investor-owned utility customers (like Dominion and Appalachian Power) from paying for activities to influence elected officials. The bill also required annual reporting. This would increase transparency, and establish penalties for not following these rules.
  • Virginia utilities tried to illegally recover more than $10 million in political, charitable, advertising, and lobbying from Virginians since 2013.
  • The strong power of investor-owned utilities, like Dominion Energy, kept the bill from moving forward. However, we plan on building more public support to try to push this through next year.

Other bills

  • Parking lot solar (SB 234/HB 367): bill died. $5 million has been set aside that could go to rooftop or parking lot canopy solar projects. This could have helped fund various solar initiatives in the Commonwealth.
  • Solar leasing (SB 271/HB 1062): bill passed. The bill states that solar companies providing solar leases are not utility companies. This makes solar leases legal in Virginia. Solar leasing is a contract where the utility can install a solar system on a roof without the homeowner having to buy the system.
  • Inclusive financing bill (SB 276): bill passed but vetoed by the Governor. The bill would have created a stakeholder group to look at inclusive utility investment programs. The group would have been in charge of reviewing and proposing programs that would help more people access energy upgrades that lower energy bills. It could increase access to cost-effective solar with no upfront cost.

What’s next

Thank you to solar supporters like you who continue to be part of this movement. You continue to take action and fight for the energy rights of fellow Virginians. We know we have reason to celebrate the small victories and reason to get to work even harder next session! Are you looking to stay involved in policy updates? We have a great opportunity. The monthly Solar Action Team (SAT) Meetings will be starting again in June. Be sure to show up! That’s all the updates for now. We continue to stay hard at work to ensure more Virginians can benefit from solar!

Register for the June SAT meeting