Clean Virginia is advocating for electricity ratemaking reform and refunds of customer overcharges as well as good governance reforms in 2021.

2021 Ratemaking Legislation

Final Outcome: All five ratemaking bills passed the House with bipartisan support, but the Dominion-backed Senate Commerce and Labor committee failed to advance any of them on February 15, 2021.

Restoring Authority to the State Corporation Commission
Bill No: HB 2200
Chief Patron: Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones
Chief Co-Patron: Del. R. Lee Ware

Through minor changes to the wording of the current code, this bill effectively restores the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) discretion over how Dominion Energy sets its rates. It will also give the SCC authority to change accounting practices that allow Dominion to avoid refunding money obtained by overcharging customers. 

Allowing the SCC to set future rates based on future costs
Bill No: HB 1984 
Chief Patron: Del. Sally L. Hudson
Chief Co-Patrons: Del. Dan I. Helmer, Del. Suhas Subramanyam
Co-Patrons: Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones, Del. Sam Rasoul, Del. Ibraheem S. Samirah, Del. Shelly A. Simonds, Del. R. Lee Ware

This is a section one bill that severs the link between past earnings and future rates, allowing the SCC to set rates that reflect the true cost of service.This law also gives back to the SCC the authority to determine a utility’s fair, authorized profit. 

Restores SCC authority to determine the recovery period for large costs
Bill No: HB 1914
Chief Patron: Del. Dan I. Helmer
Chief Co-Patrons: Del. Joshua G. Cole, Del. Sally L. Hudson, Del. Suhas Subramanyam
Co-Patrons: Del. Jeffrey M. Bourne, Del. Carrie E. Coyner, Del. Glenn R. Davis

This bill eliminates an accounting gimmick that allows utilities to choose the time period over which they recover all costs for certain  large expenses (e.g. storm damage, metering retirements), a provision often used by utilities to expense large costs ahead of a rate case to avoid refunding overcharges and dodge rate cuts. The law would return discretionary authority to the SCC to set these cost recovery periods in a way that balanced the interest of the ratepayers as well as the utilities. This would bring the rest of Virginia’s code in line with the General Assembly’s decision last year to restore SCC authority to establish cost recovery periods for retiring generation facilities (HB528).

Preventing Utilities from Keeping Customer Overcharges as Unmerited Profit Bonuses
Bill No: HB 2160
Chief Patron: Del. Kathy Tran
Chief Co-Patron: Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg

This bill removes the unearned, mandatory bonus that is currently written into Virginia’s legal code for only two utilities – Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power – when they overcharge customers. By eliminating the 0.7% (70 basis points) “earnings band” and the provision that allows utilities to keep additional 30% of charges above said band, this bill would allow the SCC to compel utilities to issue refunds for all of the money utilities overcharge their customers. . 

Eliminating Predatory Cost Recovery for Utility Infrastructure Projects
Bill No: HB 2049
Chief Patron: Del. Jeffrey M Bourne
Co-Patrons: Del. Lamont Bagby, Del. Dan I. Helmer, Del. Patrick A. Hope, Del. Sally L. Hudson, Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones, Del. Mark L. Keam, Del. Alfonso H. Lopez, Del. Kenneth R. Plum, Del. Shelly A. Simonds, Del. Suhas Subramanyam

This bill allows utilities to build new infrastructure projects and fully recover the costs of those projects from ratepayers, but eliminates a yet-untested cost recovery mechanism, the Customer Credit Reinvestment Offset (CCRO), to prevent utilities from using already-approved projects to deny customer refunds and prevent rate reductions moving forward.

2021 Good Governance Legislation

Campaign Finance Disclosure Act
Bill No: HB 1952 
Chief Patron: Del. Marcus Simon

Final Outcome: On February 1, 2021, the House passed HB 1952 unanimously (100-0). Read Clean Virginia’s statement on the passage. On February 16, it passed the Senate’s Privileges and Elections Committee 11-2-2. This bill failed in the Senate on Feb. 23.

This bill bans the personal use of funds donated to a political candidate, either by the candidate or their family. 

Creating the Legislative Staff Development Fund
Bill No: HB 1978
Chief Patron: Del. David Reid

Final Outcome: On February 1, 2021, the House passed HB 1978 (legislative staff development fund) (55-44). This bill failed in the Senate Rules Committee.

This bill aims to increase legislative staff retention and quality by creating a fund for continuing education for staff, to be funded with an increase in the corporate lobbyist registration fee. 

Banning Public Service Corporation Campaign Contributions
Bill No: SB 1236 
Chief Patron: Sen. Chap Petersen

Final Outcome: In a 5-10 vote on January 20, 2021, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee failed to pass SB 1236. Read more here.

This bill stops the 60 companies classified as public utility monopolies in Virginia code from contributing to the political campaigns of the legislators who regulate them.

2021 Opposed Legislation

Dominion’s Electric School Bus Plan
Bill No: SB 1380

Chief Patron: Sen. Louise Lucas

Final Outcome: On February 28th, a bill establishing a new grant program to transition Virginia’s school buses to an all-electric fleet passed both the House and Senate and is on its way to the Governor’s desk, while another bill that would have turned over the development of electric school buses to Dominion was defeated four times before it finally died 41-49 in the final vote of the 2021 legislative session. A total of 21 Democratic delegates joined 28 Republican colleagues in killing the measure.

Clean Virginia opposed this bill because:

  • It’s needlessly expensive and the cost recovery is predatory, by increasing electricity rates that are already the sixth-highest in the nation and unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Virginians. It also restricts State Corporation Commission oversight by making a legislative determination that the electric school bus programs are “in the public interest.”
  • The payment structure overly burdens low-income Virginians and the only criteria for choosing districts is grid stabilization. Utility bills make up a higher percentage of income for low-income Virginians and 75% of Virginians already live with an unaffordable energy burden. In addition, this bill prioritizes grid stability instead of health, equity and emissions criteria in determining which schools will benefit from the program.
  • Dominion controls the buses and school divisions are denied revenue. This allows utilities to leave students stranded while the electric school bus batteries are used for grid stabilization and peak shaving. Unlike power-purchase agreement (PPA) solar arrays, in which schools profit from selling excess solar energy to the grid, schools are denied revenue earned from the grid benefits the bus batteries provide.