Rooftop solar offers an array of benefits to help Virginians use more clean energy while bringing down the cost of power.
But to protect their own profits, monopoly utility companies are trying to make it harder or more expensive for Virginia’s families, schools and businesses to get their own solar power.
Unreasonable Interconnection Costs
The most recent issue concerns excessive costs that Dominion Power is trying to impose on small rooftop solar projects from 250 kilowatts to 1 megawatt to connect to the public power grid (known as “interconnection”). Dominion is the largest utility company in Virginia, serving the state’s most populated regions including Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and the city of Richmond, so what they do has a big impact on the state.
Most solar power systems cover only a portion of a customer’s electricity demand and must be connected to the grid so that the customer can continue to get the rest of their power from the utility. In addition, when a solar customer produces more power than they need, they can send the extra energy into the grid for all customers to use through a system called “net metering.” It’s a win-win situation that brings down costs for all utility customers, even those who don’t have solar power themselves.
In December of 2022, Dominion announced new Interconnection Parameters, requiring small commercial-scale solar projects to install an advanced form of cabling called dark fiber, which costs $150,000 to $250,000 per mile. And that’s not all. Dominion wants these small solar projects to also install additional hardware known as a DG Relay panel at $250,000. Then, as if that weren’t enough, engineering and construction management to make all of these pieces work together can cost $200,000 to $1,200,000 per project.
Dominion claims that this equipment is needed to ensure the reliability of electrical service and the safety of its workers. However, rooftop solar connected to the grid has been safe and effective in Virginia under net-metering rules since 1972, with commercial solar net-metering over the past 13 years. In fact, none of this extra equipment is necessary for a solar project to safely connect to the grid, according to experts.
But these unnecessary costs, which can raise the cost of a solar project by up to 40%, make solar impractical for public schools, churches, local governments, and other public and private customers seeking to achieve their sustainability goals through solar energy. Dominion’s interconnection requirements are especially detrimental for rural schools and communities where Dominion’s distribution grid is least developed, and where customers are least able to afford these costs.
By making solar projects more expensive, Dominion’s interconnection requirements threaten to decimate the Virginia solar industry and trigger massive job losses for solar developers, installers, and many other people employed by these small businesses.
The Virginia Distributed Solar Alliance has asked Dominion to immediately suspend the December Interconnection Parameters for small scale net-metered solar projects up to 1 MW until the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which regulates public utilities, can decide on whether the requirements serve the public interest.
Read the letter that we sent to Dominion President and CEO Robert Blue below:Letter-to-Bob-Blue-re-Dominion-interconnection.4-25-233
As concerned small business solar installers and developers of VA-DSA, and on behalf of the communities we serve, we urge Dominion Energy to take a leadership role in promoting renewable energy. Suspending the December Interconnection Parameters now would help promote equitable treatment of all ratepayers, avoid imposing undue barriers on customer access to solar, and encourage private investment and job creation for small commercial scale solar projects in Virginia while the SCC sorts out what new requirements are appropriate for net metering projects up to 1 MW.
How You Can Help
Tell Dominion President and CEO Robert Blue that you support the request by the Virginia Distributed Solar Association to waive the December Interconnection Parameters for net-metered solar projects between 250 kilowatts and 1 megawatt.
Tell Mr. Blue that:
- You support distributed solar because it saves money for all electric ratepayers and makes the electricity grid more resilient
- Requiring dark fiber and related equipment and services are unnecessary costs that experts have determined are not required to safely connect solar projects ot the electric grid but can raise the cost of a solar project by up to 40%, making it too expensive
- Schools, churches, hospitals and other customers should have affordable access to clean solar power to save money on electricity and to meet their sustainability goals
- Distributed solar creates jobs and makes communities more prosperous
- Dominion should put the December Interconnection requirements on hold until the Virginia State Corporation Commission has a chance to study the issue and make a recommendation
You can contact him by email at [email protected] or by postal mail at the address below:
Mr. Robert M. Blue
President and Chief Executive Officer
120 Tredegar Street, Pump House
Richmond, VA 23219
Thanks for joining the fight to keep rooftop solar affordable for and available to all Virginians!