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7/16/18  3:45 pm
Commenter: Tom Endrusick

Benefits of Solar Power

I have had the opportunity of explaining the numerous benefits of solar power to more and more people lately. 

It provides free electricity with zero carbon generation.  It reduces the demand on distribution lines, eventually eliminating the need for high power-high voltage lines.  The only organization not recognizing a direct short term benefit from solar power is Dominion Energy.  Which also happens to have one of the largest lobbying efforts in our state of VA.  Please base this decision on Science not political power.

The remainder of this text is a re-iteration of a previous commenter, Ruth McElroy Amundsen with valuable solar information that needs to be repeated.

Rooftop solar is not inherently of interest to a utility such as Dominion, because it decreases the amount of power they can sell to residents and businesses.  As such, it must be supported and nurtured by state-level planning and regulation.  The state of Virginia lags very far behind neighboring states, and even far behind other states on the East Coast that have far less available solar. The cost of solar is so low right now, and the tax credits so beneficial, that this is the time to make a large push for solar on Virginia homes, businesses and municipal buildings.  See for info on how to achieve year payback time for businesses and non-profits for rooftop solar.

Virginia is not even on the same page as neighboring states in terms of renewables installed. Bob Blue, in a speech at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce conference on Energy, Sustainability & Resiliency (May 10, 2016), characterized Dominion’s slow approach to renewables as a Kentucky Derby start where “the first horse out of the gate doesn’t always win.”  The problem is that Virginia is so far behind in renewables at this point, that it is questionable whether they will ever catch up.  Looking at EIA data on renewable generation for Virginia and its neighboring states from recent years, Virginia does not seem to be making any progress in closing the gap. From 2014 data, Virginia has 2.6% as much renewable generation as its neighbors, despite having (on average) 38% higher population.  Looking at 2017 data, although Virginia has the potential for 50,000 jobs in solar, Virginia has less than 10% of the installed solar that North Carolina has.

Cities that have signed on to Readyfor100, and the Global Covenant of Mayors on Climate Change, will find it of huge benefit to have rooftop solar included in the Virginia Energy Plan.

Many other utilities and grids are recognizing the transformative possibilities of electric vehicles (EVs) as they become a larger fraction of the vehicle mix in our state. By utilizing the batteries of EVs during the day to shave the peak of required power, and to store the excess power generated during night and non-peak hours, these can provide an easy and low-cost storage method that can benefit all residents.  The fact that EV storage was not even mentioned in the Dominion 15-year Integrated Resource Plan points to the fact that these capabilities must be defined by the state, and not left to the voluntary selection of the utilities.

I urge Governor Northam and the DMME to consider the following recommendations as part of the 2018 Energy Plan:

1) Provide incentives for solar coupled with battery storage as a resiliency strategy.  Data from areas recently hit by weather disasters (Puerto Rico and Florida) demonstrate that on-site solar energy coupled with battery storage is the best way to provide resilient power during natural disasters. 

2) Expand incentives and reduce barriers to customer-owned solar to create well-paying local jobs. 84% of Virginia’s solar jobs are in the ‘distributed’ rooftop solar sector -according to The Solar Foundation. Rooftop solar, and the jobs it creates, depend on fair market access and incentives like net metering and third party ownership. It is hindered by utility-imposed standby charges, arbitrary limits on net metering and system size limitations. To create jobs, Virginia needs to expand net metering and third party ownership and eliminate unnecessary barriers to customer-owned solar.

3) Discussion and action around grid modernization must include consumer participation as a key element. Virginia’s truly modern grid will be a two-way energy system that directs benefits and control back to energy consumers. Advances in rooftop solar, battery storage and electric vehicles now enable energy consumers to actively participate in their energy system. As such, conversations and actions around grid modernization must include adequate input from consumers and ratepayers.