The Commonwealth of Virginia has staked a claim on clean energy with the passage of the Clean Economy Act on April 12, 2020. It sets one of the largest energy storage targets in the United States (3.1 GW by 2035) and will revise a carbon dioxide cap that complies with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This makes Virginia one of seven states with energy storage targets (the others being California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Nevada), and it is particularly noteworthy that 35 percent of the storage target must be developed by third parties. What are the important things for developers looking to get into the Virginia market? Four are at the top of the list:
(1) Dominion Energy’s RFP: Dominion Energy’s IRP, announced in early May, sets out a goal of 2.7 GW of energy storage over the next 15 years. In the near term, Dominion Energy has issued an RFP for 250 MW for energy storage over the next three years. The Clean Economy Act is open ended with respect to how the RFP is structured so developers should seek a stakeholder process to direct its scope.
(2) HB 1183 was passed to study the market, regulatory, and local barriers to the implementation of storage, due to be delivered to the State Corporation Commission by October 2021. An important consideration is whether stakeholders are allowed to comment on the study scope and also be involved in any future work to solve problems the study might raise.
(3) Virginia Solar and Energy Storage Authority – In 2015, the Virginia General Assembly created what was then called the Virginia Solar Development Authority to support solar energy projects. In 2017, the title was broadened to include the word “Storage” as an activity for the group to study. A key issue is what role this group will play in energy storage going forward. Will this group oversee development of the HB 1183 study? The group’s authority as it is written in the law is to “promote collaborative efforts among Virginia’s public and private institutions of higher education in R&D and commercialization efforts related to energy storage, monitoring developments nationally and globally, and identifying and working with the Commonwealth’s industries and non-profit partners”. But how much latitude the group has to determine its focus is unclear.
(4) Local Permitting – Educating local towns and counties on how and where to permit battery storage within their jurisdictions will be a labor-intensive process for developers. Some centralized educational resource that includes laws towns could vote to adopt, would help projects get executed on time with more certainty. One example of this is North Carolina’s model solar ordinance that was developed for solar projects. The template solar ordinance – which included an active stakeholder process - provides guidance while still allowing flexibility that North Carolina local governments may want to help them best address local interests. The North Carolina model ordinance does need updating but it serves as the kind of resource that assists local communities.
Stay tuned on energy storage happenings in Virginia. It is an exciting time to see how projects begin to take shape.