Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday signed into law 11 clean energy bills that promote solar and other renewable energy efforts, including two measures championed by Republican state Del. Randy Minchew of Leesburg.
The bipartisan pieces of legislation are part of the governor's and lawmakers' continued push to diversify Virginia's economy and energy sources.
Minchew's HB 1712, signed Monday, allows for the continued use by state agencies and localities of Energy Performance Contracting as a financing tool to reduce energy consumption and increase energy savings through building and facilities improvements.
Minchew also served as chief patron of HB 2303, which along with SB 1394 creates a framework to generate renewable energy at agriculture facilities and how that energy can be sold to utilities, a practice sometimes referred to as "farming the sun." Those bills were also signed in Richmond Monday.
Both measures were heavily advocated for by Leesburg-based solar power advocate Karen Schaufeld. Schaufeld and her husband have constructed a sprawling, 474 kW array of solar panels on her farm between Leesburg and Lucketts.
Minchew, in a prepared statement, said HB 2303 "was the product of a year-long mediation effort between investor-owned utilities, electrical cooperatives, farmers and rural business operators, and renewable energy stakeholders and that will allow agricultural landowners to 'farm the sun,' become energy independent, and help increase renewable energy production throughout our commonwealth."
"While you may never read about it in the newspapers, we have many moments of bipartisan cooperation and success in the Virginia General Assembly," Minchew stated on his Facebook page following the bill signing. "This morning, two Republican members, two Democratic members, a cabinet secretary who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and Loudoun's own incredible solar energy advocate, Karen Schaufeld, joined Gov. McAuliffe at the Executive Mansion for a clean energy bill signing ceremony where he signed two of my bills into law."
Gov. McAuliffe said it's "clear that Virginia is moving in the right direction, especially with the recent announcement of record growth in our solar industry."
"Together, with our partners in the General Assembly and the private sector, I will continue to implement policies that bolster the entire clean energy industry in the commonwealth," the governor said in a prepared statement.
According to Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore, state revenue from the clean energy sector has increased from $500 million to $2 billion since 2014.
Additional bills signed by McAuliffe Monday include:
SB 1393 - Senator Frank Wagner - Authorizes Community Solar Pilot Programs
SB 1393 creates a path for the creation of community solar programs in the service territories of Appalachian Power Company (ApCo), Dominion, and the Electric Cooperatives. Each utility will develop its own territory-specific program that allows citizens and businesses the ability to "subscribe" to receive electricity generated by a small centrally-located solar generation system.
SB 990 - Senator Roslyn Dance (and Delegate Rip Sullivan) - Energy Efficiency Goal Progress Report Requirement
SB 990 requires the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to report annually the progress the state is making toward achieving the codified voluntary goal of reducing energy consumption in Virginia by 10 percent by 2022 from 2007 levels.
SB 1258 - Senator Adam Ebbin - Changes the Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority to the Virginia Solar Energy and Battery Storage Development Authority
SB1258 expands the mission of the Virginia Solar Energy Development Authority to include the promotion and development of battery storage technology. The bill increases the composition of the Authority by four seats
SB 1395 - Senator Frank Wagner - Size of projects eligible for Permit by Rule
SB 1395 increases the allowable maximum size of renewable projects to be eligible to be permitted through the Permit by Rule (PBR) process from 100MW to 125MW. It also exempts projects that are being built for use by a single customer of a utility from having to apply for and receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the SCC. This bill was put forward by the so-called "Rubin Group."
HB 1565 - Delegate Michael Webert - Local Option to Create Green Development Zones
HB 1565 allows localities to establish "green development zones" where businesses can receive special taxing and zoning treatment for buildings and facilities that are determined to be energy efficient or the manufacturing of products that are beneficial to the environment.
HB 1760/SB 1418 - Delegate Terry Kilgore and Senator Ben Chafin - Pump Storage Electric Generation Facilities in the Public Interest
HB 1769 and SB 1418 are identical bills that place pump storage electric generation facilities in the public interest. This makes it easier for new pump storage projects to receive by the SCC.
HB2390 - Delegate Terry Kilgore - Power Purchase Pilot Program creation in Southwest Virginia
HB 2390 establishes a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) pilot program in the service territory of Appalachian Power Company (ApCo). Permitted participants in the pilot are private colleges and universities located within the ApCo territory.