Week Five General Assembly Update

Another week has come and gone, which means it’s time for our Friday General Assembly update. It’s been an eventful few days since we last checked in but before we dive into the details we have exciting news to share. The Utility Over-Earnings Bill (the Senate version of which passed today) now includes a commitment of $1 billion in energy efficiency along with a variety of other energy efficiency measures including: removal of the “RIM Test” for utility programs, providing development of an independent stakeholder process on efficiency program implementation. VAEEC has been working hard to advocate for energy efficiency provisions and these additions will be huge for energy efficiency in Virginia.

Now onto the nitty gritty.

Tomorrow marks the halfway point of the General Assembly session and this week was the last full week before Crossover. Meaning, these are the final days for all House bills to be heard in the House and all Senate bills to be heard in the Senate. After next Tuesday, each house will begin reviewing bills that have passed out of the other chamber.

Of all of the bills we supported this session, the following bills are all that remain:

  • SB 894 (Wagner)- Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund
  • SB 966 (Wagner)- Utility Over-Earnings Bill
  • HB 1558 (Kilgore)- Utility Over-Earnings Bill

These bills, and more, can be found on the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS) website: http://lis.virginia.gov.

 Utility Over-Earnings Bills

The Senate version passed that chamber today by a vote of 26 to 13. The House version was reported from the Commerce and Labor committee yesterday evening and will be on 2nd reading tomorrow (Saturday).

As I mentioned last week, the Governor’s office convened a stakeholder group to work out the details on these complex bills. The group wrapped up Friday evening and bill drafts were circulated Sunday afternoon in time for a last-minute Senate Commerce and Labor Subcommittee meeting Monday morning.

VAEEC reviewed the draft legislation on Sunday and the board voted to support it prior to the subcommittee meeting on Monday morning. With over a $1 billion commitment to energy efficiency over the next ten years, this bill is a big win for energy efficiency (see our press release). These gains include:

  • Removing the burdensome hurdle of the “RIM Test” for utility programs to pass in order to receive approval from the State Corporation Commission
  • Committing Dominion Energy to spending $1B in energy efficiency spending over 10 years. This includes $870M in regulated programs (at least 5% of which will be for low-income households) and $6M/year for Energy Share Weatherization, doubling the current level, which will be funded entirely by shareholders.
  • Committing Appalachian Power Company to spending $140 million over 10 years for energy efficiency programs for their customers
  • Providing for the development of an independent stakeholder process to allow for input on energy efficiency program design and implementation

Excerpt from our press release:

“Throughout the process, VAEEC has advocated that any portion of over-earnings that the utilities are allowed to keep should be used to fund energy efficiency programs. We applaud the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee for passing legislation that provides significant energy efficiency gains for Virginia consumers.

“Energy efficiency is one of the easiest, most direct ways to help a vast number of customers lower their electricity bills this year and for years to come.

“Whenever Virginia takes a step to advance energy efficiency, ratepayers win with lower monthly energy costs. Businesses win with lower operating costs. Companies and the economy win with more jobs and economic activity. And we all win with cleaner air and protecting natural resources.

Once these bills are signed into law, that is when the hard work begins. VAEEC will be there to ensure that the most comprehensive and successful programs will be deployed over the next ten years (and beyond). We will continue to work with our utility partners during the design and implementation phases of these programs and we will continue to intervene in support of these programs during State Corporation Commission proceedings.

Next month, we will be participating in both Dominion and Appalachian Power Company’s energy efficiency proceedings. Stay tuned for details on those programs in our upcoming e-newsletter.