After the whirlwind 2020 Session, a slew of new energy laws was passed, most of which take effect on July 1 of this year. We’ve kept you up to date on the state of the various bills, but sometimes it’s difficult to wade through the jargon to understand what impact these bills really will have, both for you as an individual and for the state as a whole.
In compliance with the Clean Economy Act, our state utilities (Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power) have a mandate to build a certain amount of renewable energy. This year each will be required to submit a plan to the SCC detailing how they will meet those requirements. Over the course of the next decade Dominion will be required to build 16,000 MW of solar and onshore wind, and APCo will be required to build 600 MW. Additionally, Dominion must build 2,700 MW of energy storage, and APCo must build 400 MW. Dominion was also given the authority to build its 3,000 MW offshore wind project, which is projected to be online by 2024.
Solar on Schools
At least 10 jurisdictions in Virginia have already begun installing solar on public schools, with Fairfax County leading the way with approximately 130 participating schools. These programs are achieved through power purchase agreements as the financing mechanism. The 2020 Session reduced many of the restrictions on such arrangements and more school districts are likely to take advantage of PPAs going forward.
Dominion Natural Gas Plants
Before the 2020 Session, Dominion included four new natural gas peaking plants in its Integrated Resource Plan. These would have been operation by 2024 and provided 1,000 MW of energy. The SCC is prohibited from approving any such projects until 2022, at which point the state’s energy supply will be reexamined. For now, this is essentially a moratorium on Dominion’s new gas power plants.
After July 1, the Department of Environmental Quality will be able to implement regulations for Virginia’s participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The Commonwealth will be able to begin participating in carbon auctions as early as the beginning of next year.
One major win for rooftop solar was the increase of the total allowable net metering cap from 1% of total energy production to 6%. This means those with solar panels will continue to be able to sell energy at the retail rate beyond the previously restricted amount. Net metering is an important mechanism for offsetting the initial installation cost of solar. Additionally, the allowable size of residential net metered solar arrays increased to 25 MW. Residents of apartment buildings and condominiums are now allowed to share the output of any onsite solar facilities.
Virginia law previously allowed HOAs to place “reasonable” restrictions on rooftop solar installations, however, little guidance was given in defining the word reasonable. Many HOAs took advantage of this to impose bizarre and cumbersome restrictions. Now restrictions are only deemed reasonable if they do not increase the cost of the solar installation by more than 5% or do not reduce the expected energy output by more than 10%.