Local government officials and Appalachian Power Co. (APCO) say schools and communities on the utility's territory are allowed to use net metering and solar funding programs in accordance with state law under new contracts due to be signed this month.
This is a significant victory for them Solar Working Group Southwest Virginia and the schools and communities that have campaigned for fair access to solar energy for several years. The latest contract between APCO and the local entities, in effect since 2017, has effectively blocked all solar energy projects in schools and local government buildings across much of Southwest Virginia.
“We applaud the efforts of the communities in Southwest Virginia to expand access to solar energy, support a local solar energy economy, and help reduce utility bills for our local governments at a time when resources are severely limited,” says Chelsea Barnes, Legislative Director with Appalachian voices, a non-profit advocate for a healthy environment and fair economy in the Appalachian Mountains.
The new contracts were negotiated by the Virginia Municipal League and the Virginia Association of Counties on behalf of local government agencies in the APCO area. This announcement will allow several stalled projects in the coalfield region to move forward, including counties in Wise and Dickenson and other projects in the greater Southwest Virginia area. APCO will now allow local governments to participate in the Net Metering Program and Power Purchase Agreement Financing Program (PPA) in accordance with state laws that apply to other types of customers.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam recently signed law making it clear that local governments are eligible for the pilot solar PPA program, which was expanded by last year's Virginia Clean Economy Act.