Making a difference for Virginia solar, an interview with SELC’s Will Cleveland

Supporting solar in Virginia can feel like an uphill battle. Fortunately, the commonwealth’s growing community of solar supporters is becoming more active in pushing for policies that will enable all Virginians to benefit from solar energy. Recently, we discussed some of the challenges we face and opportunities available to us with Will Cleveland of the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC).

SELC is a non-profit law firm that works in six Southeastern states, Alabama Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Cleveland works as a lead energy policy attorney. In this role, he works to advocate for renewable energy and energy efficiency in the General Assembly and at the State Corporation Commission.

Cleveland cited several barriers to growing solar in Virginia. State law prohibits third-party leasing, which hampers solar growth by limiting consumer options to go solar. Cleveland also said that he and his organization are working to push to keep utilities’ integrated resource plans honest about the role solar can play in the electricity system. Utilities file these plans to forecast for the State Corporation Commission and the public what energy sources they plan to use in the coming years.

“The most important thing is for everyone to make clear to their elected officials that [solar] policies that are good for consumers are a ‘vote deciding issue’,” Cleveland said. “I would encourage everyone to reach out to their elected official to make that clear.”

Cleveland remains bullish on the outlook for further solar deployment in Virginia. He cites the continually declining costs of solar and the development of storage technology as forcing utilities’ hand to include solar in its planning. An active base of solar advocates can help speed this process along.