The September 30, 2018, Friends of Nelson public meeting featured two excellent speakers, Ivy Main (Sierra Club and Power for the People) and Rick Cornelius (environmental lawyer).
Ivy gave us an update on Virginia’s energy future and the effort to move toward renewable energy that would decrease the need for fossil fuels, including the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, which most economic studies show are not needed to meet either current or future energy needs. See her PowerPoint presentation here. She also discussed how to remove barriers to customer solar by supporting 8 reforms to open the market, create jobs, and save money:
Virginia law contains numerous restrictions on the ability of local governments, residents and businesses to install solar facilities for their own use. Legislation is required to remove barriers and create a stronger market for distributed solar.
The 2018 “grid mod” legislation supported utility solar, but did not address the barriers that hold back private investment in the distributed solar market.
Local governments and residents are coming together around legislation in 2019 that will support customer solar.
The “Easy 8” reforms include:
- Lifting the 1% cap on the total amount of solar that can be net metered in a utility territory
- Making third-party financing using power purchase agreements (PPAs) legal statewide for all customer classes
- Allowing local government entities to install solar facilities of up to 5 MW on government-owned property and use the electricity for schools or other government-owned buildings located on nearby property, even if not contiguous
- Allowing all customers to attribute output from a single solar array to multiple meters on the same or adjacent property of the same customer
- Allowing the owner of a multi-family residential building to install a solar facility on the building or surrounding property and sell the electricity to tenants
- Removing the restriction on customers installing a net-metered solar facility larger than required to meet their previous 12 months’ demand
- Raising the size cap for net metered non-residential solar facilities from 1 MW to 2 MW
- Removing standby charges on residential facilities sized between 10-20 kW
Enacting these reforms will give local governments more opportunities to install solar on government property as well as help residents and businesses invest in solar. This can create savings for taxpayers, decrease the need for fossil fuels, help meet local sustainability goals, and support local jobs and economic development.
Rick reviewed the salient points of a number of current cases before the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals, including:
- the challenge to the December 13, 2017, decision by the Virginia State Water Control Board to grant a water quality certificate for the ACP (pursuant to requirements of Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act)
- the challenge to the decisions of the U.S. Forest Service to amend the Forest Plans of the Monongahela National Forest and the George Washington National Forest and to accordingly issue a Special Use Permit for the ACP to cross the two forests
- the challenge brought by landowners in Virginia and West Virginia to both the “quick-take” authority federal regulators granted to Mountain valley Pipeline and a lower court ruling saying MVP could go forward even though property owners have not been compensated
- SELC’s recent challenge to the new permits issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service re: the “incidental take” of endangered species and the crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway, respectively
- the challenge in West Virginia brought on July 3, 2018, by Appalachian Mountain Advocates for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and others regarding the time frame for crossing the Greenbrier River not following the stipulations of section 404 of the Clean Water Act re: discharges of sedimentation into waterways at stream crossings
- the challenge recently filed by Appalachian Voices arguing that FERC didn’t adequately adhere to stipulations in the Natural Gas Act (including addressing the need for the project)
News coverage of the meeting and of the unveiling of The Defenders sculpture earlier in the afternoon: