by Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy
In 2018, the Virginia legislature passed the Grid Transformation and Securitization Act (GTSA). The legislation included several important commitments made at the time by Dominion Energy, one of which was to spend $870 million on energy efficiency programs that would help lower consumer electric bills while reducing energy consumption. GTSA included a provision that required that a portion of that spending be on energy efficiency programs that “shall benefit low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals.”
I was disheartened to discover that Dominion was arguing that the revenue it stands to “lose” due to decreased energy usage should be counted as money it “spent” on energy efficiency. This claim was destructive to both the public trust and the pocketbooks of the working families to whom Dominion made its commitment. By some estimates, Dominion’s “lost” revenue argument would have erased almost half of the $870 million that it promised it would spend on energy efficiency.
While it is good that Dominion chose to reverse course and has agreed to spend the full $870 million on energy efficiency and programs to benefit low-income, elderly, and disabled Virginians, I am disappointed that this was only accomplished after immense public pressure.
I voted against the GTSA because I did not believe that it was good public policy. However, many of my colleagues supported this legislation because they believed that Dominion had compromised and had agreed to spend $870 million on energy efficiency programs. Their attempt to walk away from their commitment calls into question their ability to negotiate in good faith.
Let me be very clear: Dominion’s attempt to gut spending on energy efficiency would not have only been the wrong choice for Virginia ratepayers, it would have been plain wrong for our planet. Energy efficiency and reducing energy consumption is one of the most effective tools we have to fight climate change.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the federal government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment have issued dire warnings that we must act now to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Faced with this reality, Dominion was seeking to reduce spending on energy efficiency, which translates into more energy usage. This not only runs contrary to the intent of the legislation passed by the General Assembly; it undermines concerted effort to fight climate change.
Given Dominion’s attempt to misconstrue the GTSA, I pledge to support changes to the law next session to ensure Dominion cannot reverse its commitment to improve energy efficiency and to low-income, elderly and disabled Virginians.