Senate passes Dominion Energy backed bill

PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) —  The Virginia senate passed a bill today that could have an impact on your energy bills.

The bill, co-sponsored by Republican Senator Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach, would open the door to refunds for customers if they’ve been overcharged.

However, another provision in that bill would allow Dominion to keep the funds under certain circumstances.

First, the legislation would lift a rate freeze that’s been on Dominion since 2015. It would return oversight power to the State Corporation Commission.

Every three years the SCC would look at Dominion Energy’s earnings and determine whether customers have been overcharged. If it’s over earnings are determined, then customers would be issued a refund, according to the bill.

Dominion would be allowed to keep the refund money if it used it for certain projects such as grid transformation and renewable energy to include things like solar power or wind farms.

“I think the folks in my districts would want to see those refunds, or at least show us the numbers. Where are the numbers showing how much each of our constituents is going to get?” said Republican Senator Amanda Chase of Chesterfield during a debate over the bill. “Is it $6? Is it $20? And if so, what is the cost of the grid revitalization?”

The SCC also thinks the bill is a bad idea.

In letters obtained by 10 On Your Side, it warns lawmakers that customers would effectively pay twice for some projects.

Dominion disagrees. Spokesperson Bonita Billingsley Harris told WAVY.com, “This bill would make sure that the enormous cost of upgrading the grid would be supported by the prices customers already pay for their electricity.”

Harris said Dominion Energy customers now pay 15 percent below the national average and customers would benefit more from system upgrades.

“We’re talking about everything from smart meters on our customers homes to smart devices that would give us a better sense of what’s gong on so we can detect outages before you call in,” said Harris.

The house is expected to vote on its version of the bill Monday. It could still be tweaked before a final version would go to the Governor Ralph Northam, who strongly supports it.