September 23, 2023

The Virginia Electrical Utility Act has lowered clients’ month-to-month payments, will result in extra refunds, and can guarantee shoppers are not chargeable for will increase in vitality prices attributable to exterior occasions, like warfare.

After two years of unpredictable and rising vitality prices that strained pocketbooks, Virginia households are set to get some reduction on their electrical payments, due to motion from the Virginia Basic Meeting.

On July 1, Dominion Power Virginia, which companies 2.5 million houses and companies within the state, lowered the common charges it expenses residential clients for electrical energy by about $14 a month.

This fee discount was enabled by bipartisan laws handed in the course of the Basic Meeting’s 2023 session. The Virginia Electrical Utility Regulation Act, which was sponsored by Democratic State Sen. Richard L. Saslaw eradicated about $7 in month-to-month expenses, and allowed Dominion Power to hunt regulatory approval to unfold gas prices over a multi-year interval, taking one other $7 per thirty days off clients’ payments.

“This invoice is filled with good concepts that some members of this physique have been championing for years,” Del. Sally Hudson (D–Charlottesville) mentioned on the Home ground earlier this 12 months, proper after the invoice handed.  

Right here’s a breakdown of what else the laws modifications, and the way it impacts Dominion Power clients. 

Charge Opinions and Doable Refunds 

The Virginia Electrical Utility Act made it so the State Company Fee (SCC), which regulates utilities, insurance coverage, sure monetary establishments, and extra, will now evaluate charges each two years, as an alternative of three. 

Throughout these opinions, Dominion Power will report their earnings to the SCC, which is able to then have a look at what revenue degree was set for the utility in its earlier evaluate, after which decide if the corporate met that threshold, or over- or under-earned. Dominion will then both modify charges for patrons, or subject refunds if essential. 

The laws additionally ditches Dominion’s “earnings collar,” or prescribed revenue vary, which beforehand decided how a lot clients pay. The prescribed revenue vary outlined how a lot cash Dominion was allowed to earn in a given 12 months. Beforehand, if the corporate earned inside the vary, buyer charges stayed the identical. If earnings have been above the vary, refunds have been issued to clients. If the earnings have been beneath vary, charges needed to improve.

With out this prescribed revenue vary, buyer charges will not be topic to a attainable improve ought to Dominion underperform. 

Moreover, Virginia state regulation beforehand allowed Dominion to get better prices related to extreme storm restoration efforts and grid upgrades. If these prices have been above a certain quantity, Dominion was allowed to recoup them sooner or later by elevating buyer charges. 

The corporate used this accounting instrument to lower the quantity of extra earnings it needed to refund to its clients. Successfully, the brand new laws makes it so utility corporations like Dominion can not use sure loopholes to keep away from giving clients their correct refunds. 

Moreover, the laws makes it in order that Dominion can solely hold 15% of its over-earnings, ought to they over-earn. The corporate should then subject the remaining 85% to its clients as refunds. It is a change from earlier laws that allow Dominion hold 30% of its extra earnings. 

Extra Charges and Base Charges 

Because the Virginia Mercury notes, buyer payments are composed of three varieties of expenses: base charges, the gas issue, and fee adjustment clauses, or RACs.

Base charges cowl the price of technology and distribution companies. The gas issue is what the utility pays for gas, like pure gasoline or coal, which generate the electrical energy delivered to the shopper. RACs are the extra charges tacked onto buyer payments that cowl the price of different investments, similar to the development of particular technology amenities or packages like coal ash cleanup.

The Virginia Electrical Utility Act makes it so the SCC now has the flexibility to mix two or extra RACs, which lowers clients’ prices, and contributed to the general lower in buyer charges. 

The act additionally specifies that Dominion can’t request an related base fee improve to offset the prices of the consolidated RACs in its subsequent evaluate. That specification solely applies to 2023, nonetheless.

Gas Prices 

In September, the SCC granted Dominion’s request for an interim fee improve on month-to-month payments to cowl gas will increase attributable to the price of pure gasoline yo-yoing because of the warfare in Ukraine. 

The Virginia Electrical Utility Act features a “gas securitization” provision that permits Dominion to subject $1.6 billion in bonds to pay for the gas upfront, and unfold out repayments on these bonds over a number of years. 

Which means clients, in some unspecified time in the future, might face minor will increase of their payments as the corporate repays its debt. However for now, Virginians might be saving cash due to this provision.