This month as state legislators, staff, lobbyists and constituents flood the state’s capitol for Virginia’s annual General Assembly Session, the solar buzz concerns how utilities and the solar industry will seek to meet at the middle regarding net-metering and other measures affecting the growth of distributed solar.
The 2019 General Assembly session is a shorter session this year, which means legislators only have 46 calendar daysto conduct business and adjourn for the year. That short calendar translates to a lot of fast-paced negotiations behind closed doors leading to committee hearings, as utility and solar industry lobbyists make their cases to each other and to legislators regarding best ways to address the barriers to distributed solar.
Despite the shorter calendar cycle, well over 350 bills and resolutions will be heard this year between the two Legislative chambers. Among them, a dozen or so solar-related bills will be introduced to address policy barriers and/or create legislative fixes to help or hurt Virginia’s solar industry.
While a bulk of the General Assembly’s attention will be on how the state plans to handle its higher-than-anticipated tax revenuesdue to the recent changes in the federal tax law, many of us in the solar industry hope to see progress made to eliminate the policy barriers that stand in our way of serving our communities and doing business in Virginia.
Two policy barriers Secure Futures hopes to see addressed include:
- Lifting the 1% cap on the total amount of solar that can be net-metered in a utility territory
- Making third-party financing using power purchase agreements (PPAs) legal statewide for all customer classes
We anticipate several bipartisan bills that will address these policy barriers, especially in the wake of the 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act (GTSA, also known as SB 966) and Governor Northam’s 2018 Virginia Energy Plan.
The GTSA includes two mandates that pave the way for accelerated solar deployment in Virginia:
- 5,000 megawatts (MW) of utility-owned and utility-operated wind and solar resources deemed in the public interest
- 500 MW of rooftop solar resources that are less than 1 MW in size deemed in the public interest
As exciting as this is for clean energy advocates across the state, distributed-scale solar advocates still have their work cut out for them in terms of knocking down barriers that still exist before them today.
Fortunately, in the state’s 10-year Energy Plan, Governor Northam recommends that Virginia expand the state’s net metering cap from 1% to 5% and allows PPAs and community solar programs state-wide.
This general assembly session, we hope our state legislators take these recommendations seriously as they decide the fate and future of the distributed solar market in the Commonwealth.
— Rachel Smucker, Secure Futures