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Kilgore, Surovell seek to revive energy oversight committee

Sen. Scott Surovell, wearing a mask, speaks into microphone
Crixell Matthews
VPM News
Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) at a 2022 subcommittee meeting.

The Commission on Electric Utility Regulation last met in 2017. A bipartisan, bicameral approach may bring it back.

The General Assembly looks set to pass a bill that would reinvigorate the Commission on Electric Utility Regulation.

House Majority Leader Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Lee County) and Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) are working together on a measure that would require the commission to meet at least twice a year.

Surovell estimated the revenue from Virginia’s two biggest electric utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, equals about 70% of the state’s general fund — $22.7 billion in 2022. Dominion posted a revenue of $14 billion in 2021, while Appalachian Power brought in about $3 billion from Virginia customers.

“And we typically give it the attention — maybe 30 minutes or an hour — in a hearing or something that as opposed to what we spend on the budget,” he said, speaking to the Senate Commerce and Labor committee Monday.

He said reviving the committee, which last met in 2017, would allow lawmakers to better scrutinize complicated energy legislation.

The bill would also take a range of steps to provide the commissioners with more information and input, including adding three citizen members to the panel.

It would also set up the Commonwealth Energy Research Consortium and Fund. This commission would distribute research grants from the fund to the consortium, which would consist of Virginia higher education institutions. Those institutions, in turn, will provide relevant research for a transitioning energy economy.

If passed, the state Department of Energy would be required to publish a draft of the Virginia Energy Plan ahead of its official release.

Similarly, major electric utilities would have to release draft versions of integrated resource plans — big documents outlining how the utility will meet demand and decarbonization goals over the next 15 years — and take public comment.

On top of all those measures, the State Corporation Commission would also be on the hook for an annual report on implementation of the Virginia Electric Utility Regulation Act.

Harry Godfrey, a managing director of the advocacy group Advanced Energy United, said with the complexity of a grid transitioning to carbon-free resources, legislators need the extra time and support “both to react to energy policy that comes before them and proactively develop good energy policy that moves us to the goals of the Clean Economy Act and a 100% clean future.”

The bill has received unanimous support from the Senate Commerce and Labor committee and the House Commerce and Energy committee. The finance committees for both bodies are set to consider fiscal impacts before the full House and Senate can take a vote.

This story was powered by the 2023 People’s Agenda.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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