Virginia Supreme Court upholds 100% renewable energy option

Virginia is not an easy state for renewable energy. Like many southern states, Virginia’s utilities hold broad power, and the state has not been a significant market for rooftop solar or large wind and solar installations. However, last Thursday the Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling that is expected to make it easier for customers to choose a 100% renewable energy option, and could push utilities towards greater adoption of renewables.

The court rejected a utility challenge and affirmed an earlier decision by state regulators that large electricity consumers who want to choose renewables will not be subject to a requirement of five years’ written notice to return to their utility supplier.

Virginia Electric Power Company, a subsidiary of Dominion Energy, had challenged a ruling by the State Corporation Commission, which had found that such customers who were otherwise bound by a five-year requirement if they want to switch back to the incumbent utility in its service area, weren’t tied to the same five year requirement if they are pursuing a 100% renewable energy option. Since the 100% renewable energy option is enshrined in a separate section of law, disagreement about which section of the law should take precedence arose.

The Section (A)(5) right to move to 100% renewable energy can only be invoked if the incumbent utility does not provide a 100% renewable energy option, which could push the state’s utilities in the direction of providing more renewable energy options to their customers.

Led by tech giants including Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, an increasing number of corporations have set targets to move to 100% renewable energy, which can serve as a differentiator in terms of both marketing to their customers and their ability to attract talent. The RE100 list of companies that have made such a commitment includes not only tech companies, but also some of the world’s largest retailers, food and beverage makers, banks and insurance companies.