After a whirlwind seven weeks, the Virginia 2019 Legislative Session wrapped at the end of April. During the session, legislators introduced dozens of bills designed to ensure effectiveness of utility energy efficiency programs, to create opportunities and financial mechanisms for local governments to advance renewables and climate adaptation efforts, and to enable greater customer choice. Although most of these did not make it to the governor’s desk, we did see some momentum in key USGBC policy priority areas. For example:
Public school buildings
Several bills this year focused on modernizing aging school buildings across the Commonwealth. One new law, concerning Public School Building and Facilities Modernization, establishes the legislative intent that new public school buildings, additions and renovations be designed to be energy positive. Using ASHRAE’s Achieving Zero Energy–Advanced Energy Design Guide, schools are encouraged to design, construct and operate buildings that generate more electricity than they consume.
The law further requires new or highly renovated school buildings using a new leasing authority for school construction procurement to meet the zero energy standard. The legislation allows a private developer to design, build and/or operate school buildings, with the school board then leasing or buying the school from the developer. The law also establishes a new provision for schools that have been modernized to the zero energy standard to contract with their utility regarding electricity generated from rooftop solar panels.
C-PACE expansion for resilience and stormwater
Capitalizing on Gov. Ralph Northam’s focus on resilience and adding to the recent momentum for commercial property-assessed clean energy (C-PACE), SB 1559 adds “shoreline resilience” projects to those eligible for C-PACE financing. Resiliency improvements may include mitigation of flooding or stormwater management, with a preference for natural or nature-based features and living shorelines.
A separate act, SB 1400, authorizes localities to allow PACE financing for stormwater management projects. The original bill would have authorized PACE for residential properties; however, a House amendment removed that authorization from the bill before passage.
Energy efficiency and accountability were also the focus of several bills this session. Two bills that made it to the governor’s desk are aimed at holding the State Corporation Commission (SCC) and the large public utilities accountable for the target $870 million required for energy efficiency projects under last year’s 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act. Another new law protects consumers' personal information, which utilities can access as part of a net metering or advanced metering infrastructure program.
- HB 2292: The “Show your work” bill requires the SCC to provide justification if its rejects a regulated utility’s energy efficiency program proposal or requires the SCC to include a cost-benefit analysis when cutting a proposed program’s budget.
- HB 2293: This bill amends the stakeholder process to provide input on the development of utility energy efficiency programs, adding specificity for accountability purposes.
- HB 2332: The “Data Access” bill protects customer data collected by utilities in net metering or advanced metering infrastructure programs and allows the utility to use the aggregated data for energy efficiency and demand-side management efforts.
Want to see a longer and even more impactful list next year? Do you have an idea to advance sustainable buildings in Virginia? Contact the USGBC Advocacy and Policy team to learn how you can help.