Virginia solar supporters make their voices heard in Richmond

By Aaron Sutch on February 15, 2019

Last month, we took to the Virginia Capitol in Richmond for our first-ever Virginia Solar Lobby Day, in partnership with Maryland-D.C.-Delaware-Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA). The event was a success, with over two dozen solar supporters making their presence known to our elected officials. Although everyone told their own story, we made sure that legislators understood that distributed rooftop solar is the best way to create jobs, build a resilient energy grid, and give consumers energy choice and freedom, all at the same time.

Electric Cooperative Legislation Moves Forward

One bright spot in this session was the passage of an electric cooperative net metering bill (HB2547/SB1769) that came out of the Rubin Group stakeholder process. While the bill is a compromise, this achievement marks a significant step forward for solar energy rights in the Commonwealth.

The legislation would apply to territory served by Virginia’s 13 electric cooperative territories, and it would lift the cap on net-metered solar from 1% to 5%, expand power purchase agreements (PPAs) for non-profits in cooperative territories, and increase limits on sizing solar systems on homes from 100% of previous electricity usage to 125%.

The legislation does, however, include language for a stakeholder process to consider varying pricing structures for investor-owned utilities like Dominion and Appalachian Power. This stakeholder process must be open and transparent, and all stakeholders must have equal footing.

As of this writing, both the House and Senate versions of this legislation made it out of each chamber and survived crossover consideration by the other chamber’s Commerce and Labor Committees. After some more legislative procedures, the bill is expected make it to the Governor’s desk.

Solar freedom and PPAs come up short under Dominion’s influence

Although we are excited about the gains for solar energy in electric cooperative territories, Dominion and Appalachian Power did not offer a reasonable piece of compromise in virtually any other area. Instead, they used their financial influence on lawmakers and a legion of lobbyists to maintain arbitrary caps on customer-owned solar as well as prohibitions on third-party financing that would make it easier for schools, churches, and municipal facilities to go solar.

A Solar Freedom bill (HB2329/SB1456) represented an ambitious effort to remove substantial barriers to customer-owned solar across the board. It would have lifted the 1% net metering cap and system size limitations, expanded third party PPA’s to all customer classes, and made it easier for municipal facilities and other non-profits to benefit from solar energy. Unfortunately, it and similar legislation was killed in both Commerce and Labor Committees after heavy lobbying from Dominion and Appalachian power.

Building our Virginia solar movement

We’re now 11,000 strong in Virginia, and we’re still growing and fighting to give you a voice in the fight for cleaner, more affordable energy in your community. Because of your efforts, it’s only a matter of time before we remove the barriers limiting solar energy and blocking your energy rights in Virginia.

If you want to get more involved in the fight, follow the link below to learn more about what you can do to help expand solar energy rights in your community.

Learn more and get involved today