Wilt says Virginia’s new energy bill should decrease rates for Dominion customers
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Prior to the end of the Virginia General Assembly Session last weekend, the House and Senate passed a major bi-partisan energy bill that should lead to lower electric bills for Dominion Energy customers. The bill changes how state regulators set and oversee Dominion’s rates and profit margin.
WHSV spoke with Harrisonburg and Rockingham Delegate Tony Wilt (R) this week about the bill.
“Everyone knew that this was time, we need to make a real substantive change in how Dominion does business,” said Wilt. “Folks just got tired of business as usual with over earnings on the bills and so forth so that’s what brought about this year.”
Lawmakers passed the bill just before leaving Richmond. It sets Dominion’s profit margin at 9.7% for the next two years.
“Ratepayers should be able to see some form of a rate reduction based on that rate of return,” said Wilt. “That rate of return, from the things that I saw and the things that I read, I think it probably landed a little bit high but in the legislature, there is often times compromise.”
The Republican-held House of Delegates and Democrat-held Senate initially passed very different versions of the bill. Still, legislators were able to hammer out a compromise that passed nearly unanimously.
“The saying is if you end up with a product that everyone is not happy with you probably got a pretty good bill. Some would say it should’ve been higher, some would say so lower, so that is a figure that was agreed upon,” said Wilt.
The bill gives the State Corporation Commission (SCC) the authority to set Dominion’s profit margins going forward at the end of the two-year window. It also returns some of the SCC’s oversight on Dominion.
“Sadly that was a thing that had been whittled away at over the years in some legislation that was passed. It kind of handcuffed the commission on how they could make determinations and then there was some legislation that just took the ability completely away from them,” said Wilt.
Wilt said the restoration of the SCC’s oversight was the highlight of the energy bill for him.
“That’s their job, to look at a lot of entities and insurance, they look at a lot of different things. But energy, and in the energy sector, they have a lot of experts in the field,” he said. “A really exciting part of this whole process is to see the State Corporation Commission that they deserve and that they’re actually mandated to do.”
The bill includes a provision that gives the SCC the ability to review older-generation energy facilities and make determinations as to when they should be retired. This was the focus of a bill that Wilt previously carried that did not pass the Senate.
“The SCC says that ‘even though it’s written in there in the plan we don’t feel like we have unfettered authority to be able to sit back by ourselves and look at this’. They can if the utility asks them to but they said ‘we need something that makes it more substantive,” said Wilt.
The bill also includes $350 million in rate adjustment clauses that will go into Dominion’s base rates. The money will allow Dominion to spread out upcoming fuel costs over the next decade and should lead to a $6 or $7 decrease in the average monthly residential bills of Dominion customers.
Wilt said this was needed at a time when fuel costs around the globe are so high.
“We’re not doing a good job of controlling that. We really missed the boat at the federal level in helping keep constraints on what our energy costs could be,” he said.
The energy bill will also decrease the number of excess earnings that Dominion is allowed to keep from 30% to 15%.
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