FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Communications and Advocacy Director
August 18, 2020
BREAKING: Dominion Energy overcharged Virginians by $502.7 million since 2017
Legislative reform urgently needed during special session to respond to economic crisis and protect Virginia families and small businesses in 2021
Charlottesville — The State Corporation Commission (SCC) found that according to Dominion Energy’s own accounting, the monopoly has overcharged its customers by $502.7 million since 2017 — money collected from customers in excess of the monopoly’s authorized profit level, according to an annual report released today. Unless the General Assembly passes legislative reform during the special session, which begins today, the SCC will not have the full authority to refund this money to customers or lower base rates to prevent overcharges in the future.
“Virginians – particularly Black and Brown households – were already struggling with high energy burdens and rising electricity bills before the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout. Lawmakers can easily soften the blow for families and small businesses by requiring Dominion Energy to shoulder its fair share of COVID-related utility debt from the half a billion dollars it has already taken from Virginians and return the rest of it to the people and businesses they overcharged,” said Clean Virginia Executive Director Brennan Gilmore.
The report’s findings include:
- Dominion overcharged Virginians by $300.8 million in 2017 and $277.3 million in 2018.
- Dominion reports a 11.79% earned return on equity (ROE) level for 2017-2019. This is above the monopoly’s authorized ROE of 9.20%.
- Dominion reports a lower earnings figure in 2019, attributable to Dominion’s decision to record the remaining value of 11 fossil fuel power plants that it retired early – $263.7 million – as an expense that was incurred in a single year. The SCC has the authority to amortize the remaining value of those plants over a much longer period of time, thanks to a law (HB528) passed earlier this year. The passage of that law means the SCC will likely find Dominion to have a much higher earned ROE in 2019 when it is able to review the utility’s accounting in its 2021 rate case.
- Similarly, the SCC notes that Dominion has recorded a $630 million “expense” in the first quarter of 2020, which is the remaining value of the generation facilities Dominion chose to retire that quarter. The SCC will examine this expense in Dominion’s 2021 rate case and, with its authority to protect the interests of ratepayers, the agency may find it has a different impact on Dominion’s 2017-2020 earned ROE than the company is claiming.
“The General Assembly must act immediately to protect Virginians, who especially during this economic crisis, simply cannot afford unfairly high electricity bills. Dominion has shown once again that it will employ every accounting trick possible to make the money it owes Virginians disappear,” Gilmore said. “In the face of an unprecedented economic and public health crisis, Virginians need a fair process determining the cost of their electricity bills more than ever. The General Assembly now has a singular chance to right the historic wrong of Dominion’s egregious overcharges and provide immediate relief for Virginians. This cannot wait.”