The Virginia Legislature has unanimously passed a measure giving Virginia’s regulatory agency, the State Corporation Commission, expanded authority to set rates.
Meanwhile, a bill mandating the commission conduct a grid analysis before retiring plants only passed the House before the session ended Saturday.
HB 1604 passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Democratic-controlled Senate last Tuesday. It awaits a signature from Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who backs it.
The bill expands the SCC’s discretion to order reductions or increases when setting base rates for Appalachian Power and Dominion Energy Virginia. The agency now has the power to order reductions or increases it considers “appropriate” to ensure reasonable rates without preventing the utility from recovering its costs.
“For the first time in a generation, the commission will have the power to make sure all customers pay a fair price for electricity,” Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Will Cleveland said in a release. “This is essential as we continue Virginia’s clean energy transition and ensure that inflated prices are not passed on to Virginians who can afford them the least.”
Youngkin has endorsed the legislation, saying in a release after its passage that it restored the independent oversight of the SCC and supports the “long-term stability of Virginia's largest electric utility.”
HB 1770 passed the House by a 94-1 vote before the legislature adjourned. The bill’s original purpose was to move Dominion from triennial to biennial reviews, but an added measure aimed to change the peer group of companies that the SCC could use to determine fair profit margins for state utilities.That provision was opposed by environmentalists.
Republican Del. Terry Kilgore, the House Majority Leader, stripped that language from the House’s version of the bill, but added a measure to prohibit investor-owned incumbent utilities from permanently retiring an electric power plant from service without getting approval from the SCC, which is part of Youngkin’s 2022 Virginia Energy Plan.
The two versions of that bill didn’t reconcile before the session drew to a close on Saturday, and the legislature also failed to pass a full budget before it reconvenes April 12.