One of the four primary goals of the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia is to promote policy changes that will help grow the solar industry in Southwest Virginia.
For the 2020 Virginia General Assembly Session, the Workgroup has identified the following priorities to help grow the solar industry in SWVA:
1) Net metering and meter aggregation. Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. There are currently arbitrary limits on 1) the total amount of net metering that is allowed in each utility territory, 2) the size of a customer’s solar system, and 3) aggregating customers’ meters to be able to offset electricity from multiple meters from one solar system. These limitations are stifling solar development. Net metering policies should be updated to be responsive to current market conditions, including raising the overall program limit, raising system size limits, and allowing for meter aggregation.
2) 3rd-Party Ownership and Power Purchase Agreements are financing mechanisms that allow building owners to spread out the upfront cost of solar systems over time into affordable monthly payments and take advantage of federal tax credits. There is inconsistent policy across the Commonwealth, and Southwest Virginia customers in particular are limited in their ability to utilize these common financing tools. Regulations regarding third-party ownership and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) should be updated to allow all customers to have access to more affordable financing solutions.
3) Community Solar allows residents and businesses without the ability or capacity to install solar on their own building or land to purchase locally produced solar energy. Legislation is needed to replace the existing utility-specific pilot programs with new statewide programs that make community solar accessible and affordable for all customers.
4) Developing Solar and Energy Storage Development on Mined Lands and Brownfields areas is a strategic way to utilize Southwest Virginia’s coal-impacted lands and is gaining significant attention from solar developers. State programs and/or incentives could facilitate large investments in these degraded areas, creating jobs and contributing to local revenues.