Virginia governor signs 11 energy bills, including solar, energy storage and pumped hydro

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The bills signify a move to a more clean energy conscious Virginia. Source: Flickr

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe signed 11 bills earlier this week that promote solar and other renewable energy resources such as pumped hydro.

The bills include proposals for establishing a community solar pilot project, include energy storage in the mission of the state solar development authority and increase the size of clean energy projects eligible for permit from 100MW to 125MW.

The legislation indicated that the legislature is making a concerted effort to promote renewables and energy efficiency in the state; a move which was propounded by local utility Dominion Virginia Power – which recently has called for the integration of 5.2GW of new solar capacity over 25 years.

In this spirit, the state has increased clean energy investment from US$500 million to US$2 billion since 2014, with officials underscoring the associated job creation as an incentive for approving these bills. 

Key bills

Virginia is relatively demure when it comes to renewable energy, actually falling in rankings this year for installed capacity – going from 17th in 2016 to 20th this year – with 238.3MW of installed solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

But things are starting to get moving, thanks to this legislative effort by the state.

“It is clear that Virginia is moving in the right direction, especially with the recent announcement of record growth in our solar industry, but there is still work to do,” governor McAuliffe said Monday.

“[The] bill signing highlights the commitment we have to reducing energy consumption and providing more sustainable energy options in the Commonwealth,” added secretary of Commerce and Trade, Todd Haymore.

One key measure, SB 1393, authorises community solar pilot programmes to be run by the Appalachian Power Company, Dominion, and the Electric Cooperatives. Each utility will develop its own territory-specific programme that allows citizens and businesses the ability to subscribe to receive electricity generated by a small centrally-located solar generation system.

HB 1565 develops green zones giving special taxing and zoning exemptions for energy efficient buildings, and HB 1760/SB 1418 secures a rate approval for pumped hydro storage projects in the south-western area of the state. 

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