electric plugs

By Ken Cuccinelli and Andrew P. Miller

If you live in Virginia, you know your electric bill is too high. Here’s why:

In 2015, the Virginia General Assembly — your state delegates and senators — passed a bill, which Governor McAuliffe signed, that locked in profits for Virginia’s two major utilities: Dominion Power and Appalachian Power Co. (APCo).

Unfortunately for Virginians, the bill has worked exactly as it was designed.

On Sept 1, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) — the government oversight commission created to regulate monopoly utilities like Dominion and APCo — released a report on how much extra money they are making.

According to the report, Dominion overearned, or overcharged consumers, approximately $250 million; that’s a quarter of a billion dollars in one year. Virginia’s smaller electric monopoly, APCo, earned about an extra $20 million.

And it gets worse: The SCC also reported that it expects Dominion to earn approximately $400 million extra in the coming year. That’s almost half-a-billion dollars coming out of Virginians’ pockets to line Dominion’s pockets.

Normally, this kind of overcharging is prohibited. And if it happens, the SCC is required to order refunds to consumers. That’s money in your pocket. But not anymore.

Your state delegates, senators, and your governor decided that refunds are bad for consumers. And the “New Virginia Economy” is best served by taking money from your pocket, and the pockets of small business owners, and sending that windfall to Dominion and APCo shareholders and executives.

Well, that’s wrong.

We applaud the bipartisan group of six senators and 24 delegates who opposed this bill.

And we applaud those elected officials, including the governor, who have now acknowledged that their actions supporting this bill were wrong and unfair for Virginia families and small businesses.

It’s not too late.

The 2018 General Assembly has the opportunity to repeal this bill once and for all. If it does, the Virginia State Corporation Commission can exercise its constitutional oversight and initiate an immediate electric rate review. It can analyze Dominion’s and APCo’s costs and profits, and adjust their electric rates to be fair to consumers, not provide a windfall to monopoly utility shareholders.

Repealing the 2015 law locking in profits has the potential to bring hundreds of millions in savings to Virginians who use electricity.

Affordable electric power is part of the deal we made when Virginia’s monopoly utility system was designed. Dominion and APCo were allowed to have monopolies in exchange for having regulated electric rates and profits.

Fellow Virginians, we cannot have one side of the deal without the other.

When the system is unfairly biased in favor of the monopolies, the people lose.

We can all do better than this.

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Republican Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II served as Virginia’s attorney general 2010-2014. Contact him at ken@cuccinelli.com.

Democrat Andrew P. Miller served as Virginia’s attorney general 1970-1977, and is the founder of the Division of Consumer Counsel in the Office of the Attorney General. Contact him at andrewpmiller@verizon.net.

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