Dominion “Bill Relief” Disappears September 1

By Steve Haner

Homeowners willing to cut back power usage when Dominion Energy Virginia asks them could earn rebates of up to $28 a year. So reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, citing yet another final order from the State Corporation Commission.

The Richmond paper is always bringing us such great news about the folks at the giant utility looking out for us. The headline in the print edition today is even more positive: “New Rebate Program Could Lower Power Bills.”

Who is actually going to provide the $28 in hard cash? Yep, Bacon’s Rebellion readers get it on the first try. Dominion will raise the rebate money given to the few by raising its cost of electricity to everybody. Even the people getting rebates will pay the surcharge. But your bill just goes up a bit — so little you won’t notice the increase starting on September 1.

You also won’t notice it because the increase in the energy efficiency program’s rate adjustment clause (a separate charge also known as a RAC or rider), is just one of several such increases, all hitting September 1.

The higher bill totals will be creeping into your email and snail mail inboxes along with all the campaign brochures about how the 2023 General Assembly provided “bill relief.” That is gone in a puff of smoke. Come September 1 Dominion customers also start paying for, or start paying more for:

  • The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. As previously reported, the utility reversed course again and is now going direct to its customers to cover its carbon tax bills. The Return of RGGI will add $4.43 cents to a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours for a month, and this time of year plenty do. Look for Rider RGGI on the actual bill.
  • Transmission Costs. This is the long-standing Rider T on monthly bills, and what Dominion is doing as of September 1 is merely increasing the amount collected. For that exemplar homeowner who sticks to one megawatt hour a month the addition works out to $2.67.
  • Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind. Again, Rider OSW already exists, but for the early stages of the turbine project Dominion hasn’t been asking much cash up-front every month. That changes as of September 1. Where it was charging Mr. Homeowner One-K $1.45 a month, that is going up to $4.74 – an increase of $3.29. As construction really begins in earnest in 2024 and 2025, that will really go up for a period of time. And don’t forget, they want a second phase.

Those amounts are actually much higher than the cost of the revised energy efficiency programs just approved, including the new demand reduction payments for residential customers. It is only going up an additional 24 cents per month on that mythical 1,000 kilowatt hour bill (the actual average residential bill is bigger.) Add the four of them together, however, and the net change is an increase of more than $10.60 (almost $128 over 12 months.)

And there is at least one more increase pending, but in this case delayed until November 1. That is for the low-income subsidy program previously discussed (often) on Bacon’s Rebellion, called the Percentage of Income Payment Plan, or PIPP. Dominion is predicting fairly small participation in PIPP at first, so is only asking to increase the monthly charge to 76 cents per month on that 1,000 kilowatt hour bill. The current PIPP placeholder, however, is 3 cents, so the difference is noticeable.

Tally those five changes and by November 1 the bill is up more than $11.35 per month, or $136 per year. That is the figure for small residential customers. Business customers, especially the large industrial users, often face higher percentage increases. Some of these charges are even imposed on customers who have fled to competitive suppliers.

These aren’t all the moving parts. There are other cost elements in electric bills changing all the time, up or down. You will recall that the recent drop in the fuel charge is very temporary, an election-year trick to mask the impact of all these other additions, and ultimately adds to customer cost. Odds are still overwhelming that the way Dominion folded three other rate riders into its base rates mainly prevented a possible reduction in its base rates, but that accounting is still underway. The one-handed applause granted to this year’s politically motivated claims of “bill relief” was being too generous.

Inflation, the ever-increasing demands of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and Dominion’s continued influence over our legislature (and media) will continue to work together to apply upward pressure for years. And be thankful that despite all the hype, this has actually been a fairly reasonable summer so far. That has actually lowered bills.