RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s largest regulated electricity monopoly says it overcharged some of its customers for years by not properly reading their meters, but isn’t sure how far back the problem may go.
Dominion Energy recently filed a motion with the State Corporation Commission saying it may have overcharged 24,000 small to mid-sized commercial customers between 2013 and 2016 because Dominion’s meter readers were not resetting meters each month to track peak demand. Commercial customers are charged monthly, based on a combination of how much electricity they use and their highest demand for electricity, and some meters need to be physically reset.
State Sen. Chap Petersen, a frequent Dominion critic, said the overcharging “goes to show” the need for greater consumer protections in Virginia. He recently unveiled plans for legislation to create a type of ombudsman to represent Dominion customers.
Dominion serves the eastern two-thirds of Virginia, where its rates, natural gas pipeline plans and outsized political influence have been frequent talking points in Virginia’s closely watched gubernatorial race.
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One of the few legislators pushing back against Dominion Energy Virginia’s influence over state government said Thursday that he hopes to harness a populist wave against the energy giant to pass major reforms in Virginia.
Those include a new ban on campaign contributions from Dominion and other public service corporations, as well as an upheaval at the State Corporation Commission, the government branch tasked with regulating utilities and other businesses.
State Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, wants to add two members to that commission, which is elected by the General Assembly and decides whether electric rate increases are merited. That would bring it up to five members.
Petersen also wants to add a layer to that process, empowering new “intervenors” to represent consumers before the commission as it weighs rate hike requests. It was unclear Thursday how this would differ from what the Attorney General’s Office does now in commission rate cases, as it’s tasked with representing consumers at the SCC.
Petersen laid out five proposals in all Thursday, including a pitch he made last year to undo rate freezes that passed the General Assembly in 2015 and may allow Dominion to exceed the profit margin laid out for the company by state regulation. That freeze was pitched as an answer to uncertainty created by Obama-era clean power regulations, but legislators balked at a rollback this year, despite the Trump administration jettisoning those rules.
Petersen said all these proposals will be ready for the 2018 legislative session. He said the donation ban is more important than all the others combined.
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