It’s finally Friday, which means, it is time for another legislative update. This week followed in the footsteps of last week in terms of being very, very busy.
Utility Over-Earnings Bill: HB 1558
Over the weekend, the Governor’s office invited stakeholders to participate in a multi-day convening with the intention of coming to consensus on enough pieces of the legislation to pass it. While VAEEC was not invited to participate in this stakeholder process, I was in contact with the Governor’s staff, Dominion Energy staff and other key stakeholders throughout the week. The stakeholder group met Monday-Wednesday this week and is meeting again today (Friday). I understand, from several stakeholders, that the energy efficiency pieces have broader consensus than some of the other areas of contention. Hopefully today, all of those issues are resolved and new language is drafted in time for the Senate bills to be heard in Senate Commerce and Labor on Monday.
VAEEC shared these talking points with members of the Commerce and Labor committees this week to advocate for stronger commitments to energy efficiency. We had many positive meetings and most legislators seemed to agree that energy efficiency should be a top funding priority if the utilities are ultimately allowed to keep any portion of over-earnings.
On Tuesday, a substitute bill was introduced during the House Commerce and Labor Committee subcommittee #3 meeting by Chairman Kilgore who gave a presentation on the details. In terms of energy efficiency, the only two pieces included in the substitute were a commitment to fund the Energy Share low-income program “at existing levels” and language regarding the cost-benefit tests, which is slightly different language from the Hugo bill we are supporting.
Before voting on a motion to report the bill out of committee, four members of the subcommittee gave brief remarks stating that their votes were procedural in nature only and didn’t reflect their feelings on the bill directly. Meaning, the intent was to keep the bill alive to allow stakeholders more time to develop consensus on some of the most contentious pieces of the legislation. The bill passed out of the subcommittee 7:2 with one Republican and one Democrat voting against the motion.
Substitute versions of these bills will be introduced in Senate Commerce and Labor on Monday and in House Commerce and Labor on Thursday. While we do not currently know what will be included in those substitutes, we will have a clearer understanding after the stakeholder meeting wraps up today.
Other Bill Updates
At this week’s subcommittee hearing, many smaller bills, including Del. Hugo’s HB 1261 on the cost-benefit tests for utility energy efficiency applications, which VAEEC supported, were rolled into the omnibus utility over-earnings bill. Rolling a bill (Bill A) into another bill (Bill B) means that the language from Bill A will be inserted into Bill B and Bill A will not move forward.
Due to timing constraints, the subcommittee chairman decided to split the agenda and will hear some of the bills next Tuesday. That docket will include Del. Sullivan’s (HB 560) Energy Efficiency Revolving Loan Fund bill, which we are supporting.
We will continue to update you as we make progress on advancing energy efficiency policies during the 2018 General Assembly Session.