As the 2019 session comes to a close, we’d like to give you a rundown of some of the emerging trends in Virginia’s energy policy. Approximately 60 different energy bills were filed this year, ranging from renewable energy policies and energy efficiency to utility regulation and climate change mitigation. Below are some of the most notable trends of this session.
A bill was proposed in the House which prohibits Virginia from joining RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative of states to cap carbon emissions, currently including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. HB2611 passed both the House and the Senate with ease by a party-line vote. While this bill is likely to be met with a veto, it shows the unfortunate unwillingness to invest in our energy future. This is why your vote matters this year! We need legislators who understand the importance of reducing our reliance on traditional energy sources!
Proposed Large-scale Changes
While many members of the legislature were not prepared to discuss drastic changes in Virginia’s energy mix, there were some noteworthy efforts this year. One was Delegate Rasoul’s “Off Act,” HB1635, which would have created a moratorium on approving any new fossil fuel facilities and other fossil fuel-related activities. It would have also required that retail energy producers sell 80% renewable energy by 2028 and 100% renewable energy by 2036. This bill remarkably made it out of the House Commerce and Labor Committee (which was likely a political move in itself), only to be rejected by the House along party lines.
Other notable efforts came in the form of “Solar Freedom” bills, HB2329 and SB1456. These comprehensive bills tackled issues like removing the cap on net-metering, legalizing power purchase agreements, and decreasing stand-by charges, among other changes. Both of these bills were met with animosity and killed in committee early on in the session.
Funding for Smart Energy Choices
This session saw a number of different bills whose aim was to provide funding for smart energy choices. Some of these solutions came in the form of funding explicitly for solar projects (HB1902) or to incentivize energy efficiency projects (HB2243 & HB2295). None, unfortunately, passed this year. A notable funding bill was HB2165, which would have created a grant program to offset some of the costs of building solar projects on contaminated lands. There are myriad benefits to projects such as these, and while this bill was removed from the docket this year, we will be working hard next session to get it passed.
Common-sense Solar Fixes
Despite some disappointment this session, it is important to highlight some common-sense bills aimed at fixing simple issues in Virginia that did succeed!
HB2792 and SB1779 Create a 6-year pilot program for municipal net metering for localities that are customers of utilities.
HB2621 & SB1091: Allows localities to require a decommission plan as a condition for approving a solar site plan.
HB2547 & SB1769: Makes changes to the net-metering program for customers of electric cooperatives, including raising the net-metering cap to 7% of system peak and permitting customers to install enough renewable energy to meet up to 125% of previous year’s demand.