Solar Initiative

SELC is striving to break down policy barriers in order to make solar accessible to all consumers and businesses.

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SELC fights back against Dominion limits on clean energy access in VA More »

As Dominion Energy continues to try reducing access to renewable energy from other providers, SELC weighed in against their latest attempt to expand their monopoly.

The question before the Virginia Supreme Court concerns the very narrow circumstances when large power users can contract with third-party providers, other than the local utility, for clean, renewable energy like solar or wind.

Currently, there are 3 ways customers can shop for alternative providers:

  1. Customers with peak demand above 5 MW can shop for any type of energy, but must give 5 years’ notice to their utility before returning.
  2. Customers with peak demand below 5 MW can petition the Virginia State Corporations Commission for permission to aggregate their demand and thus shop as if they were a greater than 5 MW customer.
  3. Customers may shop for 100 percent renewable energy, unless their current utility offers a state-approved tariff for 100 percent renewable energy.

Last year, one energy-provider, Direct Energy, asked the Virginia State Corporations Commission for clarity on how these regulations apply to new customers. The commission ruled that the 5MW+ power customers would not be required to give five year’s notice under the provision allowing customers to shop for renewable-only energy. Dominion appealed this ruling, which led to SELC intervening on behalf of Appalachian Voices.

SELC investigated the existing statues and the plain reading of them is clear: Option 1 does not in any way limit large customers’ ability to shop under Option 3.

Tuesday, SELC filed a brief with the court to this effect, also highlighting the state’s legislative record supporting this position.

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Harnessing the South's Bountiful Sunshine

Despite the South’s abundant sunshine, solar energy is a vastly underutilized resource across the region. Recent developments, however, suggest that state policy makers and utility commissions are beginning to recognize the valuable role of solar energy in meeting the region’s electricity demand. SELC’s new initiative was launched to capitalize on this momentum and to help the Southeast reap the many benefits of solar power—including the many new jobs solar can deliver to our region—and reduce our dependence on outdated fossil fuels. Of all the renewable energy sources available today, solar power combines the greatest raw potential with the smallest environmental footprint. 

Overcoming the Barriers

Despite growing recognition of the affordability, value and importance of solar energy resources, there are significant obstacles to achieving the South’s full solar power potential. 

Utility Monopolies. Most of our states have no policies to require utilities to use renewable energy like solar. Many do have laws that are interpreted in ways that make it difficult for non-utility solar installers to offer common sense financing options to Southerners, which keeps these solar entrepreneurs from bringing jobs and clean energy to our region. These laws need to be clarified to give businesses and residents in the South the freedom of solar choice.

Utilities Taxing Solar Power. Even as solar energy has come down in price, many utilities are actually trying to make solar investments more expensive for their customers. In fact, some utilities want to charge households and businesses through punitive fees and charges for attempting to use solar power. These utilities ignore the significant benefits that solar energy provides to utilities and to all Southerners. SELC fights for consumers’ solar rights across the region, using the power of the law to ensure fair treatment for every home and business that goes solar. Read SELC’s Solar Bill of Rights.

Solar For All. Even though solar power is coming down in price, it is still out of reach for many Southerners, including renters, those with shaded lots, and low and moderate income customers. Our solar initiative is advocating new ways to make solar accessible to all Southerners, such as Community Solar programs that allow customers to participate in a solar project in their community and get credit on their utility bills.

SELC’s solar initiative focuses on removing these barriers so that solar energy will be widely available to consumers and businesses across the region, as well as highlighting the many ways solar benefits families, communities, and businesses in the Southeast.

Making Solar Accessible

We believe that the spread of solar energy is inevitable, but we are pushing the implementation timetable forward by working with state legislatures, the state utility commissions, and the utilities themselves to create opportunities for everyone to benefit from solar’s incredible potential.