Lawmakers move forward with electricity company oversight bills

Legislation would lift 2015 rate freeze

RICHMOND, Va. – Many Virginia lawmakers are pushing for new measures for more oversight of power companies.

Discussions could start as early as Tuesday on bills that would give the State Corporation Commission more control.

Electricity companies already have rules to follow on their rates and procedures, but these bills would lift a freeze on rates and could lead to refunds for many customers, including $10 million in credits from Appalachian Power.

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, has worked on some of the plans.

“The most important thing is that we ensure that ratepayers are protected and the SCC is having the proper oversight over utilities,” he said Monday.

Gov. Ralph Northam is in favor of lifting the freeze on electricity rates. He issued a response Monday saying, in part:

“Give Virginians as much of their money back as possible, restore oversight to ensure that utility companies do not overcharge ratepayers for power.”

A 2015 law has shielded companies like AEP and Dominion Energy from review.

Dominion has complimented the bills, which it worked on with lawmakers.

Below is an explanation of the proposed legislation from Gov. Northam’s office:

Restores Consumer Protections for Utility Rates
· Repeals the 2015 rate freeze and restores full regulatory oversight of electric utilities.
· Allows the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to evaluate rates in 2021 and consider issuing refunds to consumers who may have been overcharged.
· Empowers the SCC to consider reducing rates in 2021 with no possibility of a rate increase for Dominion.
· The SCC will consider rate reduction in 2020 for Appalachian Power.
· Allows the SCC to perform full rate reviews in subsequent three-year periods.
Offers Immediate and Historic Relief for Ratepayers
· Requires Dominion to issue $200 million in rate credits to consumers who were overcharged during the rate freeze period. Appalachian Power will issue $10 million in credits.
· Requires Dominion to reduce power rates by an additional $125 million and Appalachian Power to reduce rates by $50 million.
· Additional refunds and rate reductions possible in the first SCC review and all subsequent reviews.
Makes Massive Investments in Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency
· Requires utilities to make $1.145 billion in investments in energy efficiency projects and low-income energy assistance over the next 10 years.
· Authorizes the SCC to deem 5,000 megawatts of solar and wind energy projects to be in the public interest, paving the way for approval of new clean energy projects.
· Commits Appalachian Power to make a separate investment in 200 megawatts of new solar capacity.
· Promotes energy technology including battery storage and pumped storage in Southwest Virginia.
· Requires review of state regulations that hinder clean energy development.
· Creates a transparent stakeholder process to expand energy efficiency program offerings.
· Creates a transparent stakeholder process to make recommendations for solar program expansion, including net metering, community solar, and siting.
Ensures Development of a Modern and Resilient Energy Grid
· Deems projects to modernize the grid and support clean energy in the public interest.
· Deems projects to make the grid more reliable in the public interest.
· Requires equal commitment by utilities to grid resilience and grid modernization.
· Allows for a utility line undergrounding pilot project in Haymarket, and a process for the review of additional undergrounding projects.