Over the last two years, Virginia has made significant legislative strides in promoting the development of renewable resources, all in pursuit of achieving 100% clean energy by 2050, adding 16 GW of solar and onshore wind, building 3 GW of energy storage, and closing the state’s coal power plants by 2024.
In 2020, legislators changed state laws to allow solar and wind projects to be developed more smoothly and swiftly. Initially devised for smaller-scale wind projects and later extended to solar, Virginia’s permit by rule (PBR) program allows renewable generation projects under a certain threshold – 150 MW for now – to eschew the approval process overseen by the State Corporation Commission, which can be a lengthy affair.
This year, lawmakers are looking to do the same for energy storage.
Enter House Bill 2148, a measure introduced by State Delegate Rodney Willett, a Democrat from Henrico County. The bill looks to extend this same regulatory review avoidance to energy storage facilities and hybrid renewable + storage projects that meet similar parameters.
Willett has described the bill as the logical next step toward achieving the state’s clean economy goals and critical if Virginia hopes to get an unprecedented 3.1 GW of storage onto the grid by 2035.
And while projects still have a number of steps along development that can slow down or stall them, PBR has proven to be an effective policy for Virginia in recent history. More than 70 project developers filed notices of intent to apply for the program in 2020.
HB 2148 is not the only bill in the works in Virginia to make rolling out storage projects easier. One of the biggest headaches for developing solar in the state has been getting permits for projects (just ask the Spotsylvania developers).
This has been so historically difficult because, prior to 2020, renewable generation projects had certain state tax exemptions. Because of this, rural residents and legislators felt that they were being taken advantage of, as these projects would take up large swaths of land, provide little local revenue, and have the generation used outside of the local community.
This issue was partially remedied in 2020, when laws were passed that caused the tax exemptions to decrease over time, or local governments could instead opt for a revenue-sharing system where a $1,400/MW fee could be imposed on the project.
State Delegate Stephen Heretick, a Democrat from Portsmouth County, has introduced House Bill 2006, which would extend these same measures to energy storage projects.
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