Thursday, July 18, 2024

New legal guidelines increase photo voltaic entry for Virginians


Dominion Energy’s shared photo voltaic program will increase and state regulators will start work to determine the same choice for Appalachian Power Company prospects, per payments sponsored by state Sen. Scott Surovell (D–Fairfax).

A picture of Sen.  Surovell

Shaban Athuman


VPM News File

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, is pictured on Friday, March 15, 2024 in his workplace in Fairfax, Virginia.

Shared photo voltaic is meant for residential prospects — similar to renters or individuals with a number of tree cowl — who do not have entry to rooftop panels. It is powered by midscale photo voltaic installations, that are bigger than single-home items however not as giant as utility-scale initiatives.

“These packages increase entry for individuals who need photo voltaic as their major vitality supply,” mentioned Caitlin Vincent, senior supervisor of state affairs for the nonprofit commerce group Solar Energy Industries Association.

Dominion has been working its shared photo voltaic program since 2022 with a capability of 150 megawatts. In a June 2024 memo, the State Power Commission ordered Dominion to increase its program capability to 200 megawatts on July 1 in compliance with the brand new regulation. If the corporate reaches a 90% subscription price for this system, regulators can enhance the dimensions of this system to 350 megawatts.

In complete, Dominion’s program will generate as a lot vitality as about 70,000 small rooftop arrays rated at 5 kilowatts.

The photo voltaic services that contribute to this system don’t exceed 5 megawatts, or 5,000 kilowatts, which implies that they’re extra more likely to be distributed all through the state.

Appalachian Power’s program will probably be smaller — simply 50 megawatts to start with — reflecting the smaller service space in Southwest Virginia.

The new legal guidelines additionally require state regulators to think about “the advantages of shared photo voltaic to the electrical grid and the Commonwealth” when figuring out minimal month-to-month charges for program members. The SCC beforehand established a $55 minimal charge for the Dominion program, which critics say has discouraged signups.

“Having to pay $55 a month to Dominion anyway, alongside along with your subscription charge to the photo voltaic group that constructed the shared photo voltaic facility, these two issues add as much as be dearer than staying a standard Dominion prospects,” mentioned Josephus Allmond, an legal professional with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Allmond mentioned the regulation seems to provide regulators broad discretion to calculate the advantages: The new calculations might take into consideration the local weather advantage of including extra carbon-free generations or the profit to the Dominion so as to add technology sources that transfer the corporate towards the state’s clear vitality necessities. In any case, the regulators are required to point out their work, particularly outlining the prices and advantages used to succeed in the minimal charge.

Dominion’s minimal program charge doesn’t apply to low-income prospects, outlined by regulation as these incomes 80% or much less of the median earnings of their locality.

Another solar-related measure that’s now being carried out, sponsored by Del. Rodney Willett (D–Henrico), overturned Virginia’s regulation by expressly permitting prospects to lease photo voltaic panels.

Leased panels don’t include upfront set up prices – as an alternative, they’re paid for in mounted month-to-month funds.

“This makes the choice to put in photo voltaic extra accessible to individuals of all incomes,” the photo voltaic affiliation Vincent mentioned.

These legal guidelines are a part of legislative efforts to encourage a transition to renewable, zero-carbon vitality sources in Virginia. Dominion and Appalachian Power are required to cut back carbon emissions to zero by 2050, until excessive electrical energy demand requires them to maintain carbon-emitting crops open.

According to the federal Energy Information Administration, Virginia had an estimated photo voltaic capability of 4,304 megawatts in April, up from 3,123 megawatts final 12 months.

Large-scale technology accounted for a lot of the progress, however small-scale technology – similar to rooftop and shared photo voltaic – grew quicker, greater than doubling from 266 to 616 megawatts.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a sponsor of VPM.

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