General Assembly passes three-month extension of Dominion electric bill relief

Electric meters. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

As the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, the Virginia General Assembly has approved an extension of relief to customers of Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest utility, who are behind on their electric bills. 

Under a provision of the compromise budget released by the House of Delegates and Senate earlier this week and passed by both chambers Saturday, Dominion will be directed to forgive customers’ unpaid balances that were more than 30 days in arrears as of Dec. 31, 2020. 

The move builds on earlier action by the General Assembly during its special session to address COVID-19 and criminal justice issues this fall. At that time, the legislature directed Dominion to forgive all unpaid balances that were more than 30 days overdue as of Sept. 30, 2020. 

“We remain committed to helping our customers through this pandemic and support efforts in the budget conference report to forgive past due bills,” said Dominion spokesperson Rayhan Daudani in an email. 

The compromise budget also reaffirms the electric utility’s right to offset its earnings from 2017 to 2020 with bill forgiveness costs in the upcoming review of its earnings that state regulators are slated to begin this spring. 

In November, Gov. Ralph Northam reestablished a ban on utilities disconnecting service from customers due to nonpayment of bills related to COVID-19. The moratorium was directed to remain in force until “economic and public health conditions have improved such that the prohibition does not need to be in place, or until at least 60 days after such declared state of emergency ends, whichever is sooner.”

The budget will now go to Northam for his signature.