The Virginia House of Delegates on Monday passed the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018 which will return money to utility customers immediately, unwind the rate freeze, reform the oversight process for electric utilities, and establish a path to investing in long-term, sustainable energy technologies and grid modernization. The legislation was amended to include provisions that safeguard ratepayers from potentially being charged twice for investments made by the utility company.
“With the rollback of the Obama administration’s overreaching carbon regulations, Virginia is now in position to reconsider the 2015 legislation that established a rate freeze to provide stability in the uncertainty regulatory environment,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “This legislation will lower electric bills, put money back in people’s pockets, unwind the rate freeze, and set up a viable long-term model for securing our electric grid and investing in sustainable energy.”
Senate Bill 966 passed the House Monday by a vote of 65 to 30. The House companion of this bill, HB 1558, passed the House earlier this month. The package would return over $1 billion to customers over the next eight years, including a $200 million direct refund over the next two years. The bill also passes on to customers more than $100 million in savings from federal tax reform faster than under existing law and unwinds the rate freeze four years ahead of schedule.
“Members from both sides of the aisle came together to repeal the rate freeze and ensure customers are getting affordable, stable electricity bills every month,” said Commerce & Labor Committee Chairman Terry Kilgore (R-Scott). “I am proud this piece of legislation includes strong oversight measures to ensure if utility companies overearn in the future, ratepayers will see refunds sooner.”
The bill also reforms the oversight process, instituting streamlined three-year reviews of electric utility companies. The first review would be in 2021 and would consider earnings for 2017 through 2020. The current bill removes the requirement that utility companies overearn for two consecutive rate periods before issuing refunds, a provision included in previous versions.
The bill also prioritizes investment in renewable energy, grid modernization and undergrounding power lines, helping lower costs over the long run. These investments cannot be used to justify a base rate increase in the future. The bill also sets up a process to explore expanding broadband coverage using existing utility lines at a time when Virginia is searching for options to provide broadband to every last mile.
This legislation makes certain that the proposed Haymarket power lines are underground,” said Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax). “Additionally, I’m happy that this legislation incorporates my three standalone bills that focused on encouraging renewable energy development. This bipartisan legislation will not only provide insight into how we can harden our grid for security and reliability, but will significantly expand our use of renewables here in Virginia.”