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Bill would mandate 100% of Va. electricity is renewable by 2050

In an effort to double-down on Virginia's clean energy commitment, legislation introduced in the Virginia General Assembly seeks to mandate that 100% of the state's electricity be produced by renewable resources by 2050.

House Bill 1526, introduced Jan. 9 in the Virginia House of Delegates, would replace the state's voluntary renewable portfolio standard with mandatory annual benchmarks that would eventually require electricity suppliers to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable sources.

"A utility or supplier that does not meet its targets is required to pay a specific deficiency payment or purchase renewable energy certificates," according to a summary of the legislation.

The measure, if approved, also would establish a shared solar program and adopt a target for energy storage deployment of 2,400 MW by 2035 with interim targets that include energy storage resources approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

In addition, the bill establishes a standard that would require investor-owned electric utilities to achieve incremental annual savings at 0.35% of their average annual energy retail sales in the three preceding calendar years. This would start in 2021, and by 2027, the benchmark would increase to 2%.

Virginia's net metering program would be amended to increase the maximum capacity of renewable generation facilities owned and/or operated by nonresidential customers to 3 MW from 1 MW and to increase "each utility's systemwide cap from [1%] of its adjusted Virginia peak-load forecast for the previous year to 10[%] of such amount."

H.B. 1526 requires utilities to include a "social cost of carbon" in any application they submit to the SCC for building a new generation facility. It also removes provisions that make nuclear and offshore wind plants "eligible for an enhanced rate of return on common equity during the construction phase of the facility."

The legislation also removes provisions that deem the planning and development of nuclear generation as being in the public interest, while it lifts restrictions on the amount of offshore wind deemed to be in the public interest. Under the proposal, Dominion Energy Virginia must develop an aggregate capacity of not less than 5,200 MW of offshore wind by Jan. 1, 2034.

Meanwhile, the State Air Pollution Control Board would be directed to adopt regulations that establish a carbon emissions cap-and-trade program that aligns with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order in September 2019 calling for 30% of the state's electricity to be generated from renewable resources by 2030 and 100% of Virginia's electricity to be produced by carbon-free resources by 2050. The governor's order includes ensuring that 3,000 MW of new solar and onshore wind projects are under development by 2022 and up to 2,500 MW of offshore wind is "fully developed" by 2026.

Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary Dominion Energy Virginia, known legally as Virginia Electric and Power Co., and Danish wind developer Ørsted A/S have started construction on the 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project about 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va.

In mid-September 2019, Dominion Energy Virginia also announced plans to build the "largest offshore wind project" in the U.S. off the coast of Virginia Beach in three phases of 880 MW each. If approved, the first phase of the $8 billion project would be completed in 2024, with the final phases expected to come online in 2025 and 2026.

Dominion management has pointed out that the company owns "the entire lease for the entire coastal region of Virginia."