A once red state’s embrace of a renewable portfolio standard could be a boon to ratepayers. The Virginia Clean Economy Act is currently working its way through Virginia’s General Assembly and, if passed, would be the most ambitious clean energy policy in the state’s history.
This month, the 2020 session of the Virginia Assembly opened, and among the bills the legislature is considering is the Virginia Clean Economy Act. The bill will advance renewable energy and energy efficiency — making electricity more affordable, reliable and accessible for Virginians.
The Virginia Assembly is a citizen legislature that has met annually since 1619 and was the first representative government in the New World. For the first time in two decades, both chambers of the legislature are controlled by Democrats, along with a Democratic governor, making the prospect of clean energy legislation more likely.
The Virginia Clean Economy Act advances the generation and use of electricity in several ways. It begins with smart energy use through energy efficiency programs and is reinforced with smart energy generation through the expanded use of renewable energy generation, such as solar projects. Combining efficiency and renewables offers Virginia ratepayers and utilities innovative ways to consume energy.
The cornerstone of the bill is a renewable portfolio standard that would put the state on a path toward 100% clean energy by 2050. Virginia would join 29 other U.S. states in adopting a renewable energy standard. Right now, Virginia currently has a voluntary renewable goal, and this shift would ensure the transition to clean energy is made more quickly.
For solar companies in the state, the bill would be a game-changer. It would significantly expand the use of distributed and utility-scale solar allowing larger projects and more businesses and residents to adopt solar with new opportunities for energy storage and EV charging. The bill’s provisions are also projected to create nearly 29,500 new jobs in the rapidly growing renewable and efficiency industries.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is large with a diverse geography, diverse economies, diverse politics but with common goals for sustained affordable energy.
According to a recent poll — regardless of party, Virginians strongly support clean energy. And 73 percent of the state’s registered voters support their legislators moving toward a clean energy future as outlined in the bill, according to Lake Research Partners.
While federal support for the U.S. solar industry has waned, with the investment tax credit phasing out and with tariffs increasing costs, states have taken up the mantle. More and more states are leading with proactive accountable action; in 2019, several states strengthened their renewable portfolio standards and adopted new legislation to expand the use of solar and energy efficiency.
Virginia is a state to watch on solar, and the solar industry should support developments around the Virginia Clean Economy Act.