Richmond, VA — Today, Delegate Sam Rasoul, the Virginia chapter of the NAACP, Food & Water Watch, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, People Demanding Action, the Poor People’s Campaign, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, and 35 other groups announced the first ever People’s Clean Energy bill. HB 1902 would provide $1 billion in grants over the next three years to support the installation of solar panels in public institutions like schools and religious institutions across Virginia. Funding for the program would come from the large energy utilities that have been found to be blatantly overcharging Virginia customers.
Today, renewables only account for 6% of the total energy produced in the state. Solar energy only accounts for 0.4% as most of Virginia’s renewables aren’t fully clean -- the state definies dirty biofuels and incineration as clean energy.
Advocates of the bill have applauded the fact that public institutions in low-income and minority communities will receive priority eligibility in the new solar fund project. They also state that the program will jumpstart renewables in Virginia and help the state move to 100% clean energy by 2035.
Because Virginia is heavily influenced by fossil fuel interests that have been able to drive policy in the state, the supporters of HB 1902 also say the bill will act to divert money used for fossil fuels projects by companies like Dominion and instead invest it in jobs, infrastructure, and climate protections.
"As a social justice advocate in Virginia, I am committed to ensuring that our state reaches its full potential to create jobs, protect our environment, and lift communities that are sometimes bypassed from renewables programs," said Delegate Sam Rasoul. "I am proud to be working with this coalition to pass the People's Clean Energy bill. We have a chance to finally mandate that our energy utilities do right by customers by truly investing in clean solar energy in an equitable way."
“We see this bill as an ‘energy from god’ bill that will provide communities of color and religious institutions the funding to provide free solar installations to lower energy costs for communities, said Jesse Frieson, statewide political action committee chair for the Virginia State Chapter of the NAACP. “It’s a major step forward in engaging communities that often are not part of the conversations around renewable energy.
“Faith communities are beacons of resilience and hope for their communities. We are committed to helping them answer the moral call by choosing renewable energy like solar, stated Kendyl Crawford, director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Ligh and spokeswoman for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. “We must show up and speak up to move towards the ethical, moral, and just solutions the climate crisis urgently demands.”
“This landmark legislation allows low-income and minority communities to be part of the transition to clean energy when, far too often, these communities are stuck with dirty energy that creates long-term health problems. Every Virginia legislator is impacted because they all have religious institutions, public schools and government-owned buildings in their districts. At last, a bill that impacts everyone for the good,” said Andrea Miller, the executive director of People Demanding Action.
“We need Governor Northam and the rest of the Virginia legislature to hold monopolies accountable and force our utilities to move to clean energy before climate change ravages the state and the country,” said Jorge Aguilar, southern region director for Food & Water Watch. “ Delegate Rasoul’s bill accomplishes this elegantly by directing money towards solar panel installations in communities across Virginia.”