Virginia’s solar energy industry now poised for a boom time

Solar energy field in Virginia

Solar energy field in Virginia.

Virginia is poised to be a solar energy hotbed. The Virginia General Assembly approved the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) this week and, when signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, it will establish a mandatory renewable energy program with provisions for rooftop solar power, expanded net metering provisions, protections for low-income families, and increased project size limits for commercial and residential solar energy projects.

All of that is in service of meeting getting to 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

“By 2030, the bill will create nearly 30,000 solar jobs in the Commonwealth and generate billions of dollars of private investment, all while prioritizing rooftop solar access,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Policies like the Virginia Clean Economy Act prioritize equity and customer choice, sparking much needed competition in states with monopoly utilities. This bill should become the new model for Southeastern states looking to stimulate local economies and make major progress on clean energy.”

“Governor Northam now has the opportunity to catapult Virginia forward as a clean energy leader by mandating a renewable energy portfolio standard that sets a clear path to meet his goal of reaching a 100% clean energy power-sector by mid-century,” noted Sol Systems Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs and Market Development, Andrew Williams. “Once signed into law, the Act will create thousands of jobs and help ensure communities across the Commonwealth have access to and benefit from solar energy and will help ensure that billions of new dollars will be invested in the Commonwealth.”

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The bill is built on four main pillars:

  • Prioritize investment in the least-cost clean energy resource – energy efficiency – which helps reduce waste and save Virginians money. The bill establishes a mandatory energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) with clear targets.
  • Harness the power of cost-competitive clean energy resources, like wind, solar, and energy storage, to power Virginia’s electricity grid, through binding clean energy targets.
  • Steadily reduce reliance on fossil-fired generation, with targets to drive emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas plants to zero by 2045.
  • Unlock rooftop solar and let more Virginians take part in Virginia’s clean energy economy by rolling-back unnecessary regulations and increasing the cap on solar power purchase agreements from 50 megawatts (MW) to 1,000 MW.

“We applaud the Virginia Senate for completing final passage of this historic legislation, which puts Virginia on a path to 100% clean energy by 2045 by transitioning to more energy efficiency, solar and wind energy resources,” said Harry Godfrey, director, Advanced Energy Economy. “This is a truly remarkable leap forward in Virginia energy policy! With passage of this legislation, practically overnight our Commonwealth goes from a laggard to a leader in the race to 100% clean energy.”

— Solar Builder magazine




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