Virginia Clean Energy Updates March 2, 2017

Richmond Virginia Outside General Assembly Virginia Clean Energy Bills

The 2017 session of the General Assembly officially adjourned on Saturday, February 25th.  Legislators worked quickly to amend the biennial budget — closing a $1.2 billion shortfall — and consider nearly 1900 House and Senate bills during the 46-day session.

With statewide campaigns for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general and all 100 House of Delegates seats on the ballot, members were ready to adjourn and return home to the district. The legislature will reconvene on April 5th to vote on Governor McAuliffe’s recommended amendments to the budget and other legislation, as well as his vetoes.

A few legislators may announce their retirement by then, but most noteworthy is House Speaker Bill Howell’s retirement announcement.  Delegate Howell had represented Stafford County in the House for 30 years and presided for 15 years as Speaker.

The legislature saw a number of bills related to clean energy during the 2017 session.  Last week, we reported on a number of clean energy bills that were approved by the General Assembly, including:

Community Solar – SB1393

Approved by the General Assembly and Governor’s Action Due by March 27

Agricultural Net Metering – HB2303 and SB1394

Approved by the General Assembly and Governor’s Action Due by March 27

Renewable Energy Permit by Rule – SB1395

Approved by the General Assembly and Governor’s Action Due by March 27

Local Tax and Regulatory Incentives for Green Development – HB1565

Approved by the General Assembly and Signed by the Governor

Renewable Energy Pumped Storage Facilities – SB1418 and HB1760

Approved by the General Assembly and the Governor

Energy Performance Contracting – HB1712

Approved by the General Assembly and Governor’s Action Due by March 27

Those weren’t the only clean energy bills enacted by the General Assembly this year.  Senators Dance, Edwards, and Ebbin also advanced legislation related to energy efficiency, solar, and energy storage.

Senator Dance patroned SB990, which directs the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to report annually on the progress the Commonwealth is making toward meeting the goal adopted in 2007 of reducing electricity usage by retail customers by the year 2022 by an amount equal to 10 percent of the amount of electric energy consumed by retail customers in 2006.

The bill requires the reports to be made to the General Assembly, the Governor, and the Governor’s Executive Committee on Energy Efficiency.  The increased transparency promises help the public and stakeholders ensure that we are on track toward meeting our energy efficiency and consumption reduction goals here in the Commonwealth.

SB990 was approved by the General Assembly and the governor has until March 27th to take action on the bill.

Senator Edwards patroned SB1226, which provides an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act proprietary information, voluntarily provided by a private business under a promise of confidentiality from a public body, used by the public body for a solar photovoltaic services agreement, a solar power purchase agreement, or a solar self-generation agreement.

As was outlined here in the Roanoke Times, the legislation was brought forward when the current FOIA law nearly derailed a Roanoke City solar project in partnership with a solar energy company. The law would have required the company to make public certain proprietary information after doing business with the city, which would have made it impossible for the project to go forward.  This legislation will help make this project and others like it a success.

SB1226 was approved by the General Assembly and the governor has until March 27th to take action on the bill.

Senator Ebbin patroned SB1258, which expands the Virginia Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority to include positioning the Commonwealth as a leader in research, development, commercialization, manufacturing, and deployment of energy storage technology. The powers of the Authority are expanded to include (i) promoting collaborative efforts among Virginia’s public and private institutions of higher education in research, development, and commercialization efforts related to energy storage; (ii) monitoring relevant developments nationally and globally; and (iii) identifying and working with the Commonwealth’s industries and nonprofit partners.

SB1258 was approved by the General Assembly and the governor has until March 27th to take action on the bill.

Additionally, there were a few key items related to clean energy in the budget.  The General Assembly voted on the last day of session to approve a final budget agreement and send it on to the governor.  The governor will review the budget and make any final recommendations for amendments for the legislature to consider during the reconvened session on April 5th.

First of all, the General Assembly included language in the budget related to the utilization of more energy efficient lighting on state property.  Specifically, the budget directs the Director of the Department of General Services and the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation and other agencies to collaborate to maximize the use of energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lighting when new or replacement lighting is installed in state agency facilities, where cost effective, and to report on efforts and projected cost savings to the Chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees by November 15, 2017.

Second, the governor included in his proposed budget $1.1 million at the Department of Mines Minerals and Energy for the purpose of supporting the development of the solar industry in Virginia.  Of those funds, $350,000 was intended to be used for a revolving loan program and $750,000 was intended to support a loss reserve program.  However, the General Assembly removed this funding from the final budget agreement.  The governor has signaled that he may try once more to get the funds included in the budget by sending back a proposed amendment for consideration at the reconvened session.

Finally, the governor had proposed budget language that would have enabled the Department of Corrections, the Department of Forestry, and the Department of Juvenile Justice to enter into one or more capital leases that result in the placement of third-party owned solar projects on state property for the purposes of providing renewable electricity to state agencies.  The General Assembly removed this language from the budget in the final budget agreement.

The governor will take the next three weeks to decide what action to take or amendments to recommend, and the legislature will reconvene in early April to vote on those proposals.  We will continue to follow these matters and update you on their progress.