Three Virginia electric co-ops ask to make community solar programs permanent
As Virginia moves to decarbonize its electric grid by midcentury, some of its electric utilities that don’t get as much attention as Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company are seeking to make their community solar programs permanent.
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Northern Neck Electric Cooperative and A&N Electric Cooperative, which serves Virginia’s portion of the Eastern Shore, are making the request to the State Corporation Commission after three years of running pilot programs.
The model they are proposing is different from the one used by Dominion under a 2020 law directing the utility to set up a form of community solar known in Virginia as shared solar. Appalachian Power has neither community solar nor shared solar in its territory.
“Ultimately, we want to offer member-consumers the choices that they want in terms of renewable options,” said Sam Brumberg, vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives. “Community solar is one way of offering another option to member-consumers.”
Community solar programs allow residents to get their energy from small solar facilities not located on their property. The programs are particularly appealing for those who rent, live in multifamily buildings or have shady yards or other physical restrictions that prevent them from mounting panels on their own roof.
Legislation in 2017 required Dominion and Appalachian Power and allowed the electric co-ops — nonprofit utility companies whose customers have an ownership stake in the organization and which often serve rural areas — to start community solar pilot programs. Legislation in 2020 directed Dominion to establish a permanent shared solar program, while a separate bill required Dominion and Old Dominion Power, a small utility in the far southwestern corner of the state, to establish a shared solar program for multifamily buildings.
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