Governor Northam Statement on Rate Freeze Repeal Legislation
RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam released the following statement on pending legislation to repeal the freeze on utility rates:
“On my first day in office, I promised to weigh every decision by one standard: Doing the most good for the most Virginians.
“This year, the General Assembly is rightly working to change the law to lift a freeze on electric utility rates that was originally devised to help utility providers cope with federal regulations that have since been repealed.
“The goal of that legislation should be simple: Give Virginians as much of their money back as possible, restore oversight to ensure that utility companies do not overcharge ratepayers for power, and make Virginia a leader in clean energy and electrical grid modernization.
“At my direction, the Secretaries of Natural Resources and Commerce and Trade convened a diverse group of stakeholders to suggest changes to the proposed legislation that would accomplish those goals.
“After many hours of meetings between representatives of my administration, the Attorney General’s office, utility providers, conservation advocates, clean energy companies, consumer advocates, and other key stakeholders, we have approached the legislators carrying these bills with a compromise that makes substantial improvements to the original proposed legislation and to current law.
“This compromise puts more money in ratepayers’ pockets, ensures real oversight of utility rates, paves the way for significant upgrades to Virginia’s electrical grid, and mandates historic investments in energy efficiency and clean power. I want to thank the patrons of this legislation for engaging in this important process with us. I look forward to signing this compromise and continuing to work with this group of stakeholders to make Virginia a global leader in clean, affordable, and abundant energy.”
Below are key details of the suggested changes the Governor’s working group made to the bill’s patrons:
Restores Consumer Protections for Utility Rates
- Repeals the 2015 rate freeze and restores full regulatory oversight of electric utilities.
- Allows the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to evaluate rates in 2021 and consider
- Empowers the SCC to consider reducing rates in 2021 with no possibility of a rate increase for Dominion.
- The SCC will consider rate reduction in 2020 for Appalachian Power.
- Allows the SCC to perform full rate reviews in subsequent three-year periods.
Offers Immediate and Historic Relief for Ratepayers
- Requires Dominion to issue $200 million in rate credits to consumers who were overcharged during the rate freeze period. Appalachian Power will issue $10 million in credits.
- Requires Dominion to reduce power rates by an additional $125 million and Appalachian Power to reduce rates by $50 million.
- Additional refunds and rate reductions possible in the first SCC review and all subsequent reviews.
Makes Massive Investments in Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency
- Requires utilities to make $1.145 billion in investments in energy efficiency projects and low-income energy assistance over the next 10 years.
- Authorizes the SCC to deem 5,000 megawatts of solar and wind energy projects to be in the public interest, paving the way for approval of new clean energy projects.
- Commits Appalachian Power to make a separate investment in 200 megawatts of new solar capacity.
- Promotes energy technology including battery storage and pumped storage in Southwest Virginia.
- Requires review of state regulations that hinder clean energy development.
- Creates a transparent stakeholder process to expand energy efficiency program offerings.
- Creates a transparent stakeholder process to make recommendations for solar program expansion, including net metering, community solar, and siting.
Ensures Development of a Modern and Resilient Energy Grid
- Deems projects to modernize the grid and support clean energy in the public interest.
- Deems projects to make the grid more reliable in the public interest.
- Requires equal commitment by utilities to grid resilience and grid modernization.
- Allows for a utility line undergrounding pilot project in Haymarket, and a process for the review of additional undergrounding projects.