To Whom It May Concern,
Advanced Energy United (“United”) respectfully submits the following comments in response to this periodic review of the Permit by Rule (PBR) Process for Small Wind Projects. United is a national association of businesses committed to making the energy we use secure, clean, and affordable. We are the only industry association in the U.S. that represents the full range of advanced energy technologies and services, including companies involved in the manufacture, installation, and operation of wind energy generation. We represent over 100 companies in the $240B U.S. advanced energy industry, which employs over 3.2 million American workers, including over 97,000 people in the Commonwealth.
We are writing today to encourage the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to retain the PBR process for small wind projects in its present form. These regulations streamline permitting for wind projects, reduce bureaucratic burden both on private companies and government, and provide a predictable framework for wind project developers. This predictability helps attract business and capital investment to the Commonwealth, facilitating the direct and indirect economic benefits that flow from renewable development. At the same time, this framework does not override the rights and powers of localities and landowners, ensuring that all stakeholders have a say in project development. Here are five reasons why Virginia's permit by rule regulations for wind projects should be retained.
First, PBR simplifies the permitting process, making it more efficient and less time-consuming. By establishing clear guidelines and standards, developers can navigate the regulatory landscape with greater ease and certainty. The development of wind generation projects, including small projects, requires extensive upfront capital investment. Legal and regulatory uncertainty is one of the primary obstacles to securing such investment. Reducing such uncertainty helps facilitate wind development and drives investment into the Commonwealth.
Second, the PBR process helps reduce the administrative burden upon state regulators and, thereby, the cost to Virginia taxpayers. PBR does this not by eliminating regulations – indeed small wind projects must still adhere to rigorous standards for noise levels, setback distances, and other environmental factors to receive a permit – but instead by placing that administrative burden on the project developer rather than DEQ staff. By setting clear guidelines, PBR strikes a balance between renewable energy development and other community priorities. Indeed, it is worth noting that state-level PBR standards do not override local permitting processes, nor other legal standards such projects may meet.
Third, these regulations contribute to economic growth and job creation in Virginia. By providing a predictable framework, wind project developers, which often develop solar, storage, and other clean energy resources as well, are more inclined to invest time, energy, and capital in the Commonwealth’s energy sector. Not only can wind development produce jobs directly – in the form of manufacturing, construction, operations, and maintenance positions – but also indirectly – by helping support local goods and service providers.
Moreover, as shareholders require more and more companies to meet rigorous suitability standards, including decarbonization of their energy footprints, Virginia’s PBR standards help to facilitate decarbonization of the Commonwealth’s electric grid, a key draw for such companies. This is particularly salient given one of the key drivers of economic growth in the Commonwealth. Virginia as benefited from the rapid expansion of the data center industry. Leaders in this industry, including a number of firms in United’s membership, have robust clean energy standards. PBR helps to ensure that they will be able to expand that footprint while meeting their (rising) sustainability commitments.
Fourth – and building upon the prior point – PBR helps the Commonwealth meet its overall clean energy standards. In 2020, the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed into law, the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). This law requires Virginia’s investor-owned utilities (Dominion and Appalachian Power) to reach 100% clean energy on the Virginia grid by mid-century. Decarbonizing Virginia’s grid while maintaining reliability and affordability will require the swift and substantial development of a diverse mix of clean energy resources, including wind generation. By facilitating the development of wind projects, PBR enables this reliable and affordable transition to a more sustainable energy mix.
Lastly, it is worth noting that Virginia’s PBR regulation applies not only to wind energy, but also a range of other advanced energy generation and storage technologies. While only that segment of the regulation regarding wind energy is under review at this moment, undoing even a portion of the rule is likely to have a chilly effect upon the generation and storage industries as a whole. Project developers would be prompted to reconsider the stability and predictability of Virginia’s regulatory regime and may be inclined to move staff and capital elsewhere, to more conducive and reliable markets.
In conclusion, Virginia's permit by rule regulations for wind projects offer numerous advantages. They streamline the permitting process, reduce administrative burden while preserving the rights of localities and landowners, promote economic growth, facilitate Virginia’s clean energy transition, and establish a stable, attractive business climate. By creating a favorable environment for wind energy development, these regulations position Virginia as a state open for business.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments and welcome any questions or inquiries the Department may provide.