As part of a series of new energy laws under the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the Solar Freedom Act will have a hand in increasing access to Virginia’s community solar programs. The legislation, led by Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Mark Keam, expands the Power Purchase Agreement of Old Dominion Power and Appalachian Power customers. This will allow programs like community solar to expand the benefits of renewable energy to consumers without the need for residential roof-mounted solar panels.
Virginia community solar is a primary means of increasing the state’s renewable energy usage. By opening up access to customers of Old Dominion Power, the legislation ensures that less and less of the state’s electricity production will be from outdated sources. Community solar programs, like those backed by the Solar Freedom Act, deliver solar energy to homes and customers that don’t benefit from solar panels.
By signing up to Virginia community solar programs, subscribers receive credits on their electricity bills. They still receive the energy needed to run a home without leaving the same carbon footprint. There are still roadblocks to making community solar widespread in Virginia, including lobbyists that prevented Dominion Energy from being included in the legislation.
The Solar Freedom Act includes a cap increase on net metering from 1% to 6%. Along with residential customers, the act and cap increase allows commercial and municipal customers to take advantage of Power Purchase Agreements. Unfortunately, even with the increased cap and new legislation, public schools and local governments are hindered by contractual terms that inhibit the service between public entities and Appalachian Power utility providers.
Along with the benefits to Virginia’s community solar program, the new legislation will require investor-owned utilities to meet efficiency goals. It also requires the closure of the Buchanan Generation LLC coal plant in Buchanan County and the Clinch River natural gas plant in Russell County by 2045.
Ultimately, the Virginia Clean Economy Act is an expansive attempt at pushing for statewide renewable energy usage.