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Information Resources Division: 804-371-9141 sccinfo@scc.virginia.gov

 

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RICHMOND – April is National Safe Digging Month, and the State Corporation Commission’s Division of Utility and Railroad Safety (URS) reminds all Virginians to Dig with C.A.R.E. to help keep Virginia’s underground utility infrastructure damage-free and our communities, business districts and environment safe.

Dig with C.A.R.E. is a message for safe digging practices throughout the Commonwealth and its steps are summarized below:

Contact VA811 before you dig.

Allow the required time for marking the utilities.

Respect and protect the marks.

Excavate carefully.

Whether you’re a professional contractor, Do-It-Yourselfer or homeowner, you have an important role in preventing damage to underground utilities. No matter how big or small your project is, contacting VA811 to request the marking of underground utility lines before you dig will help avoid physical injury, property damage, as well as costly utility infrastructure repairs and related service interruptions.

Contact VA811 by going online at va811.com. You may also call 811 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding legal state and national holidays. (Emergency notification service is available 24/7, 365 days a year.)

For more information about safe digging and excavation, contact URS at 804-371-9980 or visit the Damage Prevention page.


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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

 

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is offering the opportunity for public comments to be received by telephone regarding a request by Kentucky Utilities Company, doing business as Old Dominion Power Company, to increase its fuel rate.

Kentucky Utilities is proposing to increase its fuel factor by $0.00163 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from $0.02168 per kWh to $0.02331 per kWh, effective for service rendered on and after April 1, 2021. For the average residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month, it represents an increase of $1.63 per month.

The public witness session will begin at 10 a.m. on June 2, 2021. Public witnesses intending to provide oral testimony must pre-register with the SCC by 5 p.m. on May 27, 2021. Witnesses will be called by SCC staff on June 2 in the order in which they registered. Testimony will be limited to five minutes. The hearing will be webcast at: scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting.

Public witnesses wishing to provide testimony may pre-register in one of three ways:

  • Completing a public witness form for case number PUR-2021-00034 on the SCC’s website at: scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting
  • E-mailing the same form (PDF version on the same website as above) to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov
  • Calling the SCC at 804-371-9141 during normal business hours (8:15 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and providing their name and the phone number to be used by the Commission to receive their testimony.

The hearing will continue on June 3, 2021, at 10 a.m. in the SCC’s second floor courtroom in the Tyler Building at 1300 East Main Street in Richmond to receive testimony and evidence from the company, any respondents and the SCC staff.

Written comments may be submitted through the SCC’s website by May 27, 2021, at https://scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/Submit-Public-Comments. Simply scroll down to case number PUR-2021-00034 and click SUBMIT COMMENTS.

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PUR-2021-00034 – Application of Kentucky Utilities Company to revise its fuel factor

Contact: Andy Farmer, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) has adopted rules that will open more opportunities for the development of small solar projects in Virginia that produce electricity to a shared group of subscribers.

Community solar allows a developer of a small-scale solar project to subscribe eligible customers to purchase a share of the output of the solar facility. The customer, through net metering, gets a bill credit from their utility company for the energy being supplied by the shared solar program.

The introduction of shared solar programs results from legislation adopted during the 2020 session of the Virginia General Assembly. Homeowner’s associations, residential subdivisions, apartment building complexes, office building complexes, and industrial parks may have an interest in being developers of small solar projects.

Initially, there is a program cap on the level of shared solar that is permitted. The program is limited to the service territory of Dominion Energy Virginia. Kentucky Utilities, doing business in Southwest Virginia as Old Dominion Power Company, is participating in a multi-family shared solar program.

The rules adopted by the Commission establish the procedures for becoming licensed as a subscriber organization (the owner of the solar project); registering with the utility company; and the standards the subscribing organization must follow when marketing and enrolling customers.

The rules were developed with the assistance of a stakeholder group of more than 60 participants. The group will continue to provide input to SCC staff as deployment of these programs unfold over the next few years. This will include recommendations for giving low-income customers the opportunity to participate and receive solar energy.

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Contact: Ken Schrad, 804-371-9858

Case number PUR-2020-000124 – multi-family shared solar program regulations
Case number PUR-2020-000125 – shared solar program regulations

RICHMOND – The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) is a critical emergency resource and can be reached, day or night, at 800-273-8255. Starting in July 2022, the NSPL will also be getting its own three-digit dialing number – 988 – as approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year. Dialing 988 will therefore directly reach the NSPL.

Before that can happen, dialing changes will be necessary in two Virginia area codes – 804 and 276 – starting in late April 2021.

In the Richmond region (area code 804) and the Southwest Virginia region (area code 276), 988 is an existing working prefix (i.e., the first three numbers dialed after the area code) for local exchanges in those area codes that currently permit seven-digit dialing to make a local call. To prepare for 988 becoming a national number for the NSPL, 10-digit dialing (area code + phone number) will be required to make local calls in those two geographic regions.

Virginia is not alone. There are 81 area codes in 36 other states that must also prepare for 10-digit dialing to accommodate the 988 national number roll-out.

The State Corporation Commission, the FCC and the telephone industry will be reminding consumers of this change in the 804 and 276 area codes over the next 18 months. The timeline for implementation is as follows:

  • April 24, 2021 – permissive 10-digit dialing begins for all local calls
  • October 24, 2021 – mandatory 10-digit dialing required for all local calls
  • July 16, 2022 – 988 for NSPL is active

Very little else will change for telephone users inside the 804 and 276 area codes. The NSPL is – and will always be – available at 1-800-273-8255. Other three-digit services – like 211, 711, 811, and 911 – are not affected. Telephone numbers, coverage areas, local call boundaries, and area code numbers remain the same.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that roughly four percent of Virginia adults live with serious mental health conditions. While the holiday season brings joy and relaxation to some, it also may mean stress and sadness for others. During the holiday season and beyond, it is particularly crucial to be aware of available mental health resources such as the NSPL hotline (800-273-8255) and suicidepreventionlifeline.org. As always, 911 is available for emergency situations.

For more information about phone service changes regarding the NSPL’s upcoming 988 number, visit the FCC website at fcc.gov/suicide-prevention-hotline.

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – Appalachian Power Company has earned a rate of return (profit) that is within the range authorized by Virginia utility law for calendar years 2017, 2018 and 2019. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) made the finding following a triennial financial review of the company in which it was seeking an increase in rates.

The SCC order means Appalachian Power does not receive a rate increase. And, it means customers are not due refunds. The company was seeking to increase rates by approximately $10 per month for a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.

The company’s authorized rate of return on equity during the three-year review period was 9.42 percent. After reviewing the reasonableness of the company’s expenses and revenues during the period, the Commission determined the company earned slightly above that level.

The Commission also set a new authorized rate of return on equity of 9.2 percent. That is the rate that will be used to evaluate the company’s earnings during the next triennial financial review case in 2023. It will also be the return used for any new rate riders or adjustments to existing riders.

In its final order, the Commission made the following determinations:

  • denied the company’s request to apply the 2015 planned retirements of three coal-fired power plants to 2019 earnings.
  • denied a request to increase the residential basic service charge from $7.96 to $14.
  • denied implementation of a residential rate design that would have charged higher rates during summer months and lower rates during the winter. The company will continue charging the same residential rate year-round.
  • approved voluntary energy efficiency rate schedules to provide residential customers with pricing signals that shift consumption to hours when demand is less, and prices are lower (Smart Demand and Time-of-Use).

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Contact: Ken Schrad, 804-371-9858

Case Number PUR-2020-00015 – Application of Appalachian Power Company for a 2020 triennial review of its base rates, terms and conditions
View Final Order 

RICHMOND – Rail Safety Week – the annual, nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the need for rail safety education – will appear differently this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) and others will observe the entire week (September 21-27) digitally.

SCC Rail Safety Manager Renee Salmon and VA Operation Lifesaver Coordinator Tracey Lamb agree that the goal is the same: to address head-on the need for rail safety awareness to combat the statistic that either a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours in the U.S., as reported by Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI).

Although in-person events will not be possible this year, the SCC plans to share potentially life-saving information on its website and social media pages. OLI has assigned each day of Rail Safety Week its own safety theme:

  • Monday – Proclamations, Media Outreach;
  • Tuesday – Law Enforcement Partnerships;
  • Wednesday – Crossing Safety, Professional Drivers;
  • Thursday – Commuter and Transit Safety;
  • Friday – Wear Red for Rail Safety;
  • Saturday – Trespass Prevention;
  • Sunday – Photographer Safety.

“Rail safety is much more than just a single tip or slogan,” said Salmon. “It’s a set of guidelines for different groups of people, including children, first responders, media professionals, photographers, personal and professional drivers, and more.”

OLI is encouraged by a 76% decrease in nationwide collisions at U.S. highway-rail grade crossings over the past 40 years. “But there’s still more rail safety awareness work to do,” said Lamb.

This year’s digital focus is perhaps most appropriate for photographer safety, the seventh and final day of Rail Safety Week. Photo shoots and ‘selfies’ on train tracks may be tempting for posting on social media, but both activities are dangerous and illegal.

Both Lamb and Salmon acknowledge the same rail safety awareness statistic: “Trains can take a mile or more to come to a complete stop and overhang the track by at least three feet. Please never put yourself – or your clients – in harm’s way, and remember that people mimic your behavior when they see your photos on the web,” Lamb said.

Virginia Operation Lifesaver is administered by the SCC’s division of Utility and Railroad Safety, which offers education sessions virtually and can be reached at Virginia@oli.org. Keep an eye out for the SCC’s digital messaging during Rail Safety Week. In the meantime, check out the SCC’s full list of resources at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Railroad-Regulation.
 

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The general moratorium on utility shutoffs is extended through October 5, 2020. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued the order following a request from Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam. The moratorium was originally set to end on September 16.

In a letter to the Commission on September 14, the Governor said, “My request for an extension will give the General Assembly the time they need to address this issue, finalize their budget, and complete their important work during this special session.”

In granting another extension, the Commission said it will not extend the moratorium beyond October 5, 2020. The Commission urged the Governor and General Assembly to appropriate funds for direct financial assistance to those customers who are unable to pay their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission said, “We hope the General Assembly uses this additional time to act on this recommendation.”

The Commission wrote, “Since we first imposed the moratorium on March 16, 2020, we have warned repeatedly that this moratorium is not sustainable indefinitely. The mounting costs of unpaid bills must eventually be paid, either by the customers in arrears or by other customers who themselves may be struggling to pay their bills. Unless the General Assembly explicitly directs that a utility's own shareholders must bear the cost of unpaid bills, those costs will almost certainly be shifted to other paying customers.”

The SCC’s latest extension order means the moratorium will have been in place for more than six months. It was originally imposed on March 16, 2020, as an emergency measure to protect customers from the immediate economic impacts of the COVID crisis.

The end of the Commission-directed moratorium on October 5 does not mean the end of protections for customers in arrears who are making a good-faith effort to pay their bills over a longer time period. Customers who enter such extended payment plans with their utilities will continue to be protected from service cut-offs even after the end of this moratorium.

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Case number PUR-2020-00048 - View Additional Order on Moratorium
Contact: Ken Schrad, 804-371-9858

RICHMOND – Staying connected and having access to local emergency services and community resources is more important than ever during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is partnering with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates during “National Telephone Discount Lifeline Awareness Week” September 14-18, 2020.

Lifeline, a federal program, offers a monthly discount of up to $9.25 toward phone or broadband services for eligible consumers and is available through certain local telephone and wireless companies. The goal of this nationwide outreach effort is to increase awareness about the Lifeline program and provide information to qualified participants. In addition to falling below a certain income level, you could be eligible if you participate in one of these federal assistance programs: 

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit

Participants are limited to one Lifeline benefit per household. Participating companies can provide assistance with enrollment. A new option – the National Verifier (www.checklifeline.org) – makes it easier for consumers to assess eligibility and sign up for Lifeline. The SCC encourages Virginians to contact companies from whom you wish to receive service since not all companies are required to offer Lifeline service.

To learn more about Lifeline and the National Verifier, and to see if you are eligible, call 1-800-234-9473 or email lifelinesupport@usac.org or visit www.lifelinesupport.org or the FCC website at  www.fcc.gov/lifeline-consumers. You may also contact Lean Sorini with Universal Service Administrative Co., the company that administers the Lifeline program, at 202-772-6274 or at LifelineProgram@usac.org.

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Contact: Katha Treanor, 804-371-9141

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) is extending the existing general moratorium on utility shutoffs from August 31 until September 16. The extension gives the General Assembly, currently in special session, additional time to enact any legislation it may choose addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on utility customers.

The SCC’s latest extension order means the moratorium will have been in place for six months. It was originally imposed on March 16, 2020, as an emergency measure to protect customers from the immediate economic impacts of the COVID crisis. 

While the general moratorium will expire, utility customers who entered into extended payment plans as a result of a prior Commission order will continue to be protected from service shutoffs if they remain current or enter into individualized new repayment plans with the utility.  

In its June 12 order, the SCC directed all utilities to offer extended payment plans of up to 12 months to customers struggling to pay bills due to the economic impacts of COVID. All utilities under the SCC’s jurisdiction have done so and many customers have used the option of entering such plans.

No late payment fees may be charged to customers in such extended payment plans. The Commission’s latest order continues that protection beyond the expiration of the moratorium.

The SCC said, “The expiration of our moratorium does not mean that customers are without options for continuing utility service, and we strongly urge utilities to make every effort to accommodate customers who are making good-faith efforts to pay their bills.”

The SCC also emphasized that prior to its moratorium, utilities already had existing tariffs approved by the SCC that contained protections, especially for medically vulnerable customers, to avoid shutoffs, and that those tariff protections will remain in place beyond the moratorium.

The SCC reiterated what it has stated in several previous orders:

  • That an indefinite moratorium on service disconnections is not sustainable. “If such bills are never paid, the costs of these unpaid bills are ultimately borne by paying customers as operational costs of the utility. These costs do not disappear; they are shifted to other customers, who themselves may be struggling to make ends meet in the economic catastrophe caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • That “utility regulation alone cannot adequately address what is a much broader socioeconomic catastrophe."

The SCC’s June order cited examples of more comprehensive solutions, offered by parties in the proceeding, such as programs of financial aid directly to those utility customers with no ability to pay their bills, funded by federal or state appropriations. The SCC noted that such direct financial aid to utility customers would require legislation.

The SCC added, “This Commission will follow any legislation the General Assembly enacts but cannot continue the moratorium indefinitely unless legislatively required to do so."

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Case number PUR-2020-00048
View Order on Moratorium

Contact: Ken Schrad, 804-371-9858

RICHMOND – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) will receive public witness testimony by telephone on September 14, 2020, on an Appalachian Power Company rate filing that seeks a $65 million increase in annual operating revenue.

Appalachian Power filed its application on March 31, 2020. The company estimates its request would result in an increase in residential rates by approximately 6.5%. For a residential customer with monthly usage of 1,000 kilowatt-hours, that is about $10 per month.

The company's rate case also includes a financial review by the SCC of the company's earnings, rates, and other issues associated with providing electric service to 532,000 Virginia customers in southwest Virginia over the three-year period of 2017 through 2019. Pre-filed testimony by case participants differs as to the necessity of the rate increase. If an increase is warranted, its earliest implementation would be late January 2021.

The Commission hearing begins at 1 p.m. on Monday, September 14. Public witnesses intending to provide oral testimony must pre-register with the SCC by 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 10. Witnesses will be called by SCC staff on September 14 in the order in which they registered. Testimony is limited to five minutes. The hearing will be webcast at: https://scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting.


To provide testimony, public witnesses must pre-register in one of three ways:
 

  • Completing a public witness form for case number PUR-2020-00015 on the SCC’s website at: https://scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting;
  • E-mailing the same form (PDF version on the same website as above) to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov; or
  • Calling the SCC at 804-371-9141 during normal business hours (8:15 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and providing the name and phone number the Commission should dial to reach you during the hearing.

Those who prefer to submit comments in writing may do so electronically by September 8, 2020, at the SCC’s website at https://scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/Submit-Public-Comments. Find the comment box for case number PUR-2020-00015, and hit the SUBMIT COMMENTS button.
 
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Case Number PUR-2020-00015 – Application of Appalachian Power Company for a 2020 triennial review of its base rates, terms and conditions

Contact: Allan A. Sharrett, 804-371-9968
 
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