Virginia lawmakers send utility rate overhaul bill to governor's desk
- The Virginia Senate on Thursday passed legislation to overhaul and unfreeze Dominion Energy's rates, and to spur investment in renewables. The vote sends the measure to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
- Debate over the bill has stretched for weeks as lawmakers worked out the details of a plan for Dominion to invest overcollections in clean energy technologies.
- Renewable energy advocates say the bill is expected to support $1 billion in efficiency investment and 5,000 MW of new wind and solar over the next 10 years.
Customers of Dominion and Appalachian Power have not seen their rates change in the last three years, but the Virginia Senate's vote today likely means they will soon. The bill already passed the House of Delegates and will now be sent to Northam, who previously worked with stakeholders to craft a bill he would sign.
If Northam does sign the bill, it will return oversight of utilities' rates to the State Corporation Commission. The legislation allows regulators to review rates every three years, and between those reviews, utilities can invest any overcharges into efficiency, renewables and grid upgrades.
Lawmakers froze rates in 2015 to protect customers from potential rate hikes related to the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. Trump has worked to dismantle many of Obama's environmental and energy regulations, withdrawing the Clean Power Plan among them.
The legislation authorizes about $200 million in customer refunds. It also contains provisions to ensure the utility does not "double dip" on its investments by adding them into its rate base. Those investments are expected to fuel significant growth in the state's clean energy economy.
Harrison Godfrey, executive director of the business group Virginia Advanced Energy Economy, said the legislation will give advanced energy a "central role" in Virginia's energy plans. However, the Richard Times-Dispatch reports critics say it could make it nearly impossible for regulators to lower rates and offer customer refunds.
The law will help to bring an additional 2,000 MW of renewable energy online four years faster than Dominion initially proposed, Godfrey said.
- Richmond Times-Dispatch With few remaining detractors, bill overhauling utility regulation advances
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