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Virginia governor promoting 'clean energy' bills

RICHMOND – In a ceremonial signing, Gov. Bob McDonnell added his signature Wednesday to eight pieces of legislation to promote clean and renewable energy in Virginia.

The bills include creation of a voluntary solar resource development fund, expansion of the scope of the Virginia Resources Authority to encompass financing of renewable energy projects, and a clean energy manufacturing incentive grant program. The new laws go into effect July 1.

“These pieces of legislation will foster innovation and support expansion of our domestic power generation, conservation, efficiency and resources,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell, some of the bills’ sponsors and advocates of renewable energy attended the ceremony at Virginia Commonwealth University.

McDonnell has made energy development a cornerstone of his Republican administration and said he wants to make Virginia the East Coast energy capital. He repeated that ambition Wednesday, and said Virginia has the resources to pull it off.

“If you look at the assets and the God-given resources you need in order to be an energy leader, we have them all,” he said.

McDonnell said he favors an “all-of-the-above” approach that includes coal, wind power, solar and natural gas.

The legislation was applauded by advocates of renewable energy, but they said they want to see a greater commitment from the McDonnell administration.

“What really is a test for this administration as to its commitment with regard to renewable energy is what happens next year,” said Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter. “The governor’s budget is going to be key to that.”

Besa said the state needs to commit more funding to renewable energy.

“Other states have these incentives,” he said. “Right now in Virginia these incentives go to fossil fuel and nuclear.”

Some of the other bills would:

— Direct state regulators to consider approval of distributed solar generation facilities, constructed and operated by a utility, and special pricing of power generated by the facilities.

— Increase the amount of electricity homeowners or businesses can generate with their own installations, from 10 kilowatts to 20 kilowatts.

— Ensure that localities adopt local ordinances for the siting of renewable energy facilities that are consistent with the state’s energy policy.