March 14, 2016

Virginia Lawmakers Push Back Slate of Clean Energy Bills into 2017

Virginia lawmakers had been considering a slate of clean energy and storage measures, but according to Greentech Media virtually all of the more than a dozen bills introduced in this session have been carried over into the 2017 term.

Only a bill backed by Dominion Energy, HB 1305, which includes a sales and use tax exemption and real and personal property tax exemption on solar and wind energy facilities, is still working its way through the session.

Dominion's plan, to build or purchase up to 500 MW of solar within the next five years, has already been found to be in the public's best interest by a law passed in 2015.

Virginia has a ways to go on renewable energy, Greentech Media points out, and it does not look like it will make much progress this session. Dominion's measure may make it through, but state law has already been passed to back the utility's solar plans. As for the other measures, 13 in total, they have all been kicked down the line into the 2017 session.

Perhaps most disappointing for solar advocates is the delay on HB 1286, which would have allowed solar customers to enter into power purchase agreements with third parties, and would have done away with Virginia's 1% net metering cap. Advocates said the third-party ownership would help spur solar's growth in Virginia.

According to Greentech Media, essentially, rather than vote against the measures, House Commerce and Labor Chairman Terry Kilgore and Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Frank Wagner opted to "carry over" the bills.

On paper, the measures will be reviewed over the summer by a committee. At the moment, the committee doesn't exist yet.

Of the measures delayed, four aimed to reduce barriers to investment in Virginia's solar industry. In addition to the third-party PPAs, another measure would have nixed standby charges for residential solar systems by raising the size of facilities from 10 kW to 20 kW, which are required to pay.

Other bills would authorize utilities to develop community solar gardens, establish tax credits for renewable energy property, and direct Virginia's governor to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Two other bills sought to promote energy storage. House Bill (HB) 452 would create a consortorium to boost research and development of energy storage, with another bill seeking to develop a program that would enable commercial and industrial customers to sell battery storage services to the grid. 

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