Since the start of the Virginia General Assembly session, solar supporters like you have sent more than 1,200 emails to your representatives declaring our solar rights! Thanks to your actions, there were several groundbreaking bills introduced at the beginning of this session that would have brought real community solar to the Commonwealth, removed the arbitrary 1% cap on customer-owned solar, and expanded net metering options for Virginians. Unfortunately, monopoly utilities leveraged their campaign donations and lobbying of key committee members to squash these bills before a full floor vote.
Make no mistake: Until we change the rules in Richmond and elect representatives more accountable to their constituents than corporate energy monopolies, this is a rigged game.
We’ll be exploring how Dominion and its friends work to rig the energy policy playing field in future blog posts. For now, we’ll focus on two solar bills that are still worth fighting for, and the so-called “rate freeze” bill that would radically change monopoly utility regulations in Virginia.
The solar bills will take small but meaningful steps towards giving us the control over our energy that we deserve by raising the cap on net-metered system sizes for homes and businesses going solar to 125% of the previous year’s consumption (SB 191) and by expanding access to third-party purchase agreements for nonprofit solar installation in Appalachian Power Service territory (HB 1252). They expand solar choices for Virginians, create good solar jobs, and empower communities to generate more local energy. Both these bills are advancing through the General Assembly and are well-positioned to become law with our support.
While most of the solar bills introduced this year got killed in committee by big energy lobbyists, the “rate freeze” bill, one of the session’s most controversial, sailed through the Senate and passed the House. Originally, the bill included an outrageous provision that would have allowed the utilities to “reinvest” any excess profits from ratepayers into grid investments instead of paying refunds, while at the same time raising the base rate for customers to cover the investment costs—plus a return on the investment. Heeding intense public pressure stemming from the complaints of consumer advocates including the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the SCC, and the Attorney General’s office, both houses ultimately amended the bill to remove the odious “double-dipping” that would have allowed corporate shareholders to extract excess profits from ratepayers to the tune of tens of millions of dollars annually.
However, the bill will still undermine monopoly utility oversight by the State Corporation Commission (SCC). And, with the Governor publicly supporting the earlier version of the bill, it remains to be seen what happens before the bill becomes law. Despite the wave election this past November, it’s still apparent that champions for renewable energy and energy freedom are still the underdogs in Richmond.
But our solar army won’t be stopped!
Dominion and the other monopoly utilities may still be pulling the strings from behind the scenes and trying to extract even more shareholder profits from ratepayers, but we won’t back down. We know that handing another sweetheart deal to monopoly utilities takes Virginia in the wrong direction, restricting our energy choices while leaving ratepayers with the bill. We’re not fooled.
Instead, we’re going to continue the fight for energy freedom in Virginia. We’ll keep fighting until we get the clean and democratic energy system that directs control and benefits back to local communities—with rooftop solar as the cornerstone—that the Commonwealth deserves.