Clean energy advocates expected this legislative session to feature fewer initiatives of interest, in part because of the shorter session and bill limits for legislators. Good news (I guess): the number of bills we are following is growing longer by the hour.
Below are a number of bills of interest, organized by category, and then with House bills first, Senate bills second, in ascending order. I will update this post as I learn of other bills.
If you are interested in supporting or opposing any of these, you will want to act fast, since committees are hearing bills already. In Virginia, if a subcommittee or a committee votes against a bill, it is usually gone for good.
Renewable energy and storage
HB1925 (Kilgore) Establishes, but does not fund, the Virginia Brownfield and Coal Mine Renewable Energy Grant Fund and Program. Kilgore put in a similar bill last year, which unfortunately did not pass. With no budget impact, this ought to pass easily. But I said that last year, too.
HB1937 (Rasoul) is this year’s version of the Green New Deal Act. It contains policy initiatives to prioritize jobs and benefits for EJ populations and displaced fossil fuel workers and requires a transition to renewable energy by 2035, though these latter provisions are poorly integrated into the VCEA.
HB2006 (Heretick) exempts energy storage systems from state and local taxation but allows a revenue share assessment. This is a priority bill for renewable energy industry associations.
HB2034 (Hurst) clarifies that the program allowing third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs) applies to nonjurisdictional customers (i.e., local government and schools) as well as jurisdictional customers (most other customers). Currently, PPA projects with local governments in APCo territory have been held up due to a contract provision between the localities and APCo, and it is hoped this legislation will break the logjam.
HB2048 (Bourne) restores the right of customers to buy renewable energy from any supplier even once their own utility offers a renewable energy purchase option. In addition, third party suppliers of renewable energy are required to offer a discounted renewable energy product to low-income customers, saving them at least 10% off the cost of regular utility service.
HB2148 (Willett) provides for energy storage facilities below 150 MW to be subject to the DEQ permit by rule process as “small renewable energy projects.” Although 150 MW is not “small,” the permit by rule process has worked pretty well, so this should be acceptable. This is a priority bill for renewable energy industry associations.
HB2201 (Jones) expands provisions related to siting agreements for solar projects located in an opportunity zone to include energy storage projects; however, according to existing language, the provision only takes effect if the GA also passes legislation authorizing localities to adopt an ordinance providing for the tax treatment of energy storage projects. (Why doesn’t the bill just go ahead and include that authorization? Don’t ask me.) This is another renewable energy industry bill.
SB1207 (Barker) is a companion to HB2201.
SB1258 (Marsden) requires the State Water Control Board to administer a Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Program (VESCP) on behalf of any locality that notifies the Department of Environmental Quality that it has chosen not to administer a VESCP for any solar photovoltaic (electric energy) project with a rated electrical generation capacity exceeding five megawatts. The provisions become effective only if the program is funded; Marsden has submitted a budget amendment. This is also a priority bill for renewable energy industry associations.
SB1295 (DeSteph) requires utilities to use Virginia-made or US-made products in constructing renewable energy and storage facilities “if available,” but it does not require any added cost to be reasonable.
Energy efficiency and buildings
HB1811 (Helmer) adds a preference for energy efficient products in public procurement.
HB1859 (Guy) amends last year’s legislation on Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) loans to allow these loans to be extended to projects completed in the previous 2 years; it also expressly excludes residential buildings of less than 5 units and residential condominiums.
HB2001 (Helmer) requires state and local government buildings to be constructed or renovated to include electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the capability of tracking energy efficiency and carbon emissions.
SB1224 (Boysko) requires the Board of Housing and Community Development to adopt amendments to the Uniform Statewide Building Code within one year of publication of a new version of the International Code Council’s International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to address changes related to energy efficiency and conservation. The bill requires the Board to adopt Building Code standards that are at least as stringent as those contained in the new version of the IECC. This is one of the important bills I wrote about last week.
HB1919 (Kory) authorizes a locality to establish a green bank to finance clean energy investments. Fairfax County has requested this authority.
HB1834 (Subramanyam) requires owner of carbon-emitting power plants to conduct a study at least every 18 months to determine whether the facility should be retired. It also requires notice of any decision to retire a facility to be submitted to state and local leaders within 14 days, a step that allows transition planning.
HB1899 (Hudson) sunsets coal tax credits, because it is absolutely crazy that Virginia continues to subsidize coal mining while we’ve committed to close coal plants.
HB1934 (Simon) requires local approval for construction of any gas pipeline over 12 inches in diameter in a residential subdivision. The genesis of this bill is a particular project in Simon’s district, but I was surprised this isn’t a requirement already.
SB1247 (Deeds) is a companion to HB1834.
SB1265 (Deeds) makes it easier for DEQ to inspect and issue stop-work orders during gas pipeline construction.
SB1311 (McClellan) requires DEQ to revise erosion and sediment control plans or stormwater management plans when a stop work order has been issued for violations related to pipeline construction.
SB1282 (Morrissey) directs DEQ to conduct a statewide greenhouse gas inventory, to be updated and published every four years.
SB1284 (Favola) changes the name of the Commonwealth Energy Policy to the Commonwealth Clean Energy Policy, and streamlines the language without making major changes to the policies set out last year in Favola’s successful SB94. That bill overhauled the CEP, which until then had been a jumble of competing priorities, and established new targets for Virginia to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and net-zero carbon economy-wide by 2045. This year’s bill shows the Northam Administration is now fully on board, and the result is a policy statement that is more concise and coherent.
SB1374 (Lewis) would set up a Carbon Sequestration Task Force to consider methods of increasing carbon sequestration in the natural environment, establish benchmarks, and identify carbon markets.
And because this category would not be complete without a bill from a legislator who thinks climate action is a bunch of hooey, we have HB2265 (Freitas), which would repeal provisions of the VCEA phasing out carbon emissions from power plants, repeal the restrictions on SCC approval of new carbon-emitting facilities, and nix the provisions declaring wind, solar, offshore wind and energy storage to be in the public interest. Oh, but in case you thought Freitas was just a free market believer, or cared about cost, the bill provides that planning and development of new nuclear generation is in the public interest.
Advocacy groups worked with legislators to develop a slate of bills, each a little different, that restore SCC oversight over utilities and/or benefit customers with refunds. More information about these bills is available on the Clean Virginia website.
HB1835 (Subramanyam) eliminates provisions that limit rate reductions to $50 million in the next SCC review of Dominion’s rates.
HB1914 (Helmer) changes “shall” to “may” in a number of places, giving the SCC discretion over when to count utility costs against revenues.
HB1984 (Hudson) gives the SCC added discretion to determine a utility’s fair rate of return and to order rate increases or decreases accordingly.
HB2049 (Bourne) would prevent utilities from using overearnings for new projects instead of issuing refunds.
HB2057 (Ware) changes how the SCC determines a fair rate of return for utilities and gives the SCC discretion in the treatment of certain utility generation and distribution costs, as well as in determining when a rate increase is appropriate. It also provides that when a utility has earnings above the authorized level, 100% of the overearnings must be returned to customers, up from 70% today. The SCC is also given authority to determine when a utility’s capital investments should offset overearnings.
HB2160 (Tran) gives the SCC authority to set a fair rate of return and require refunds. It also requires 100% of overearnings to be credited to customers’ bills, instead of 70%, as is the case today.
HB2200 (Jones) makes a number of changes to SCC rate review proceedings, including setting a fair rate of return, requiring 100% of overearnings to be credited to customers’ bills, and eliminating the $50 million limit on refunds to Dominion customers in the next rate review proceeding.
SB1292 (McClellan) requires 100% of overearnings to be credited to customers’ bills, instead of 70%, as is the case today.
EVs and Transportation energy
The Virginia Mercury ran a good article this week that covered most of these bills.
HB1850 (Reid) increases the roadway weight limit for electric and natural gas-fueled trucks to accommodate the extra weight of batteries or natural gas fuel systems.
HB1965 (Bagby) is the Clean Car Standard bill, which would require manufacturers to deliver more electric vehicles to Virginia dealers beginning in 2025.
HB1979 (Reid) creates a rebate program for new and used electric vehicles.
HB2118 (Keam) establishes an Electric Vehicle Grant Fund and Program to assist school boards in replacing diesel buses with electric, installing charging infrastructure, and developing workforce education to support the electric buses.
HJ542 (McQuinn) requests a statewide study of transit equity and modernization.
SB1223 (Boysko) adds a requirement to the Virginia Energy Plan to include an analysis of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and other infrastructure needed to support the 2045 net-zero carbon target in the transportation sector.
This post has been updated to add bills and correct a misstatement about the development of the utility reform agenda.