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Virginia to finalize rules for a solar subscription program


Virginia state regulators are expected to release the state’s final rules for a new shared solar subscription program scheduled to launch in 2023.

The State Corporation Commission published its proposed regulations on September 21, 2020. The deadline for the release of the final rules is January 1, 2021.

Virginia to release a new solar subscription program

The State Corporation Commission of Virginia is detailing its final rules for a new solar program. In this regard, Senate Bill 629 calls for establishing a plan for customers in the state to buy solar power via subscription.

This subscription would work with the supply of a shared power facility owned by a third-party entity. Initially, the program would be capped at 150 megawatts (MW).

Solar and environmental justice advocates have been calling the state to require that at least 30% of the enrolled subscribers qualify as low-income. If this requirement is met, the program could add 50 more MW.

In a revised report of the SB 629 mandate, low-income customers are defined as households with no more than 80% of the median income in that particular locality.

In this sense, the new regulation, expected to become active in 2023, opens the opportunity for low-income communities to access solar power generation services.

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Like Netflix for solar

Rachel Smucker, Virginia policy and development manager for the solar trade association Chesapeake Solar & Storage Association, said:

“I think there’s a lot of interest from the industry to dig into this program. They have even said the 150-megawatt cap is too small. Solar developers are interested in taking the shackles off of the program on the capacity side. The onus is on all of us to make sure we get this set upright.”

“This should be like Netflix for solar,” Smucker said. “We want to maximize its reach to communities that could benefit from this.” Regarding income limits, the expert told Energy News Network it mattered significantly.

Advocates from organizations such as Appalachian Voices and the Southern Environmental Law Center have called Virginia authorities for customers to be permitted to roll over their bill credit, month to month.

All backers of the shared solar program are hopeful that preliminary groundwork can begin next year, so the plan is ready to launch by 2023.

“Interconnection can take up to a year in Virginia, and permitting can also take a long time,” Smucker said. “That’s why we’ve been pushing for projects to be allowed to attract customers to the program in 2021.” 

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