The Bulletin

Rate review bill lands on Senate committee docket with little time to spare

By: - February 28, 2020 6:17 pm
The State Corporation Commission

The State Corporation Commission regulates Virginia electric utilities. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

A much-watched bill that would restore the ability of the State Corporation Commission to review Dominion Energy’s base rates has been placed on the docket for the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee’s Monday meeting.

The bipartisan legislation by Del. Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, and Del. Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, cleared the House on a 77-23 vote but hadn’t moved in the Senate. Some environmental groups and ratepayer advocates say it’s a crucial companion to the Clean Economy Act, which would set dates for closure of Virginia fossil fuel plants and usher in big spending on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects like wind and solar, among many other provisions, that’s working its way to final passage.

Under the Fair Energy Bills Act, the SCC, charged with reviewing Dominion’s rates and earnings in 2021, would conduct that review subject to guidelines laid out in Chapter 10 of Title 56 of the state code, instead of Chapter 23, and allow any overearnings from 2017-2020 to be refunded to customers.

At stake is big money. Dominion overearned by about $356 million in 2017 and $277 million in 2018, according to the SCC, and it’s important to ensure that new spending on transitioning to carbon-free electric generation shouldn’t be placed on top of already inflated base rates, proponents of the bill say.

“Given that the 1990s was the last time there was a deeper review of what comprises the base rate for Virginia’s largest electric utilities and given that rate-payers have paid off some items that had been part of the base rate, this type of bill would help ensure that the next regular rate review in 2021 is based on more accurate, up-to-date data, helping ensure electric utility customer rates set by the commission are more fair moving forward,” said Dana Wiggins, director of outreach and financial advocacy at Virginia Poverty Law Center, in a statement last month.

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn in a week.


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Robert Zullo
Robert Zullo

Robert spent 13 years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers and was previously editor of the Virginia Mercury. He was a staff writer and managing editor at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., before spending five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Contact him at [email protected]