The electricity rate-freeze legislation Virginia lawmakers passed in 2015 has not exactly enjoyed widespread support, at least not outside the halls of the General Assembly and the offices of Dominion, the state’s largest electric utility. Now it has even less.
Earlier this week Dominion officials said the time had come to “transition away” from the law. The state’s recently announced plan for a carbon cap-and-trade program grants the company the stable regulatory climate it needs in the absence of the rate freeze, it believes. News about the law’s actual effects has not done Dominion much good in the realm of public relations, either.
In September the State Corporation Commission estimated that, absent the rate freeze, customers would be due a refund of $133 million. Supporters of the bill had promised it would save customers money, not cost them. Dominion questioned the SCC’s accounting methods, and it has noted all the other benefits that have flowed from the rate freeze — including the expansion of EnergyShare (which helps those with low incomes) and increased solar generation.
Then there’s the small matter of the November election, which brought a raft of new, often liberal Democrats into the House of Delegates. That’s some large-font writing on the wall right there.
Whatever the reason for Dominion’s change of heart, it should encourage the General Assembly to revisit legislation whose benefits are open for debate, and whose very constitutionality has been vigorously disputed. When even the principal beneficiary of the legislation says it has served its purpose, who — if anyone — would now defend keeping it?