Press release: March 12, 2020

Legislative Session Opens Door for Ambitious Energy Reform in Virginia



Cassady Craighill, [email protected], 828-817-3328

March 12, 2020

Clean Virginia: Legislative Session Opens Door for Ambitious Energy Reform in Virginia

Lawmakers Should Continue Holding the Line on Dominion Energy Accountability 

Richmond — A suite of energy bills that challenge the dominant role of Virginia’s regulated utility monopolies passed with bipartisan support and are now on their way to Governor Northam’s desk upon adjournment of the General Assembly on Thursday. 

“For the first time in decades, legislators overcame Dominion Energy’s strong opposition to pass legislation that first and foremost protects ratepayers. A newly emergent bipartisan coalition of lawmakers rightfully put the interests of Virginians above those of shareholders, sending a strong message that Dominion Energy will no longer be able to use the General Assembly as a rubber stamp for its profit-padding legislation,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore. “New lawmakers have joined seasoned members of both chambers to build a firewall of support for consumer protection, good governance, and distributed clean energy.” 

Legislators from both parties worked vigilantly this session to shift the power from utility monopolies to third-party regulators and Virginia energy customers: 

  • Passing the first Dominion-opposed bill in recent memory. House Bill 528 (Delegate Suhas Subramanyam, D-Loudoun) restores the State Corporation Commission’s oversight of cost recovery for early retirements of power plants for Dominion Energy. Without passage of this legislation, Dominion could force ratepayers to shoulder a disproportionate financial burden for the clean energy transition and use these expenses to deny customer refunds when they overcharge Virginians, a notable concern of both Democratic and Republican representatives.
  • Blocking the first Dominion-supported bill in the General Assembly. A top priority for the utility, Senate Bill 1096 (Senator Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth), would have significantly raised customer bills and handcuffed public schools to Dominion Energy’s profit incentives through an exclusive electric school bus contract. While earlier versions of companion legislation in the House would have balanced the goal of electrifying school transportation with ratepayer protection, SB 1096 was a clear example of monopoly overreach.
  • Advancing multiple attempts to increase competitive options for energy providers to next year. Both chambers passed pilot competition bills with bipartisan patrons and support, signaling interest in overhauling Virginia’s vertically-integrated monopoly structure.
  • Advocating for a fair rate case hearing for Dominion Energy next year. Despite broad bipartisan support from the Office of the Governor, Office of the Attorney General, environmental groups, low-income advocates, faith organizations, the business community, real estate interests, data centers, and conservative grassroots coalitions, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee failed to advance the Fair Energy Bills Act (Delegates Jay Jones, D-Norfolk, and Lee Ware, R-Powhatan) by one vote after passing the House of Delegates 77 (Y) – 23 (N). 

“There is still tremendous work to be done to fight utility monopoly corruption in Virginia politics and to distribute both electric and political power more equitably across the Commonwealth,” Gilmore said. “General Assembly leadership can start by committing to grant all bills a fair hearing next session — Delegates were never given a chance this session to vote on a good governance bill that would have prohibited unlimited campaign contributions from utility monopolies. Virginia voters gave the legislature a clear and overwhelming mandate on this issue last November and the General Assembly must listen.”

“Lawmakers overcame what once seemed like an insurmountable barrier during the 2020 legislative session — considering Virginia’s energy market on the customers’ terms, not the terms of Dominion Energy. The outcome of this legislative session demonstrates that there is a growing bipartisan appetite to broadly reform Virginia’s utility monopoly structure. We look forward to working with legislators and stakeholders to ensure that legislation to power Virginia with a 21st-century energy market is as strong as possible.”