By Joy Loving
Augusta Free Press, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021
Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative is proposing an unjustified rate increase that will disproportionately harm low income customers, those on fixed incomes, and those whose electricity use is low. If approved, the increases will make it harder for all customers to control monthly electric bills through smart investments in energy efficiency and rooftop solar.
SVEC wants the Virginia State Corporation Commission to approve a 20 percent increase in the basic monthly customer or ‘connection’ charge. Plus, it wants a new ‘demand charge’ that will further increase monthly bills for residential customers. The proposed increase is the latest in recent years for SVEC customers. SVEC’s basic monthly charge went from $13 to $25 within the last 18 months; SVEC now proposes to raise it again to $30.
So, SVEC customers would pay basic connection charges up to three to four times more than their neighbors who have electric service from other utilities. Dominion Energy customers pay a $6.58 basic monthly charge; neighboring Rappahannock Electric Co-op members pay $14/month. Neither has a demand charge for residential customers.
Approval of the proposed increase will mean nearly a third of the average residential monthly bill will be a fixed charge–one a customer can’t reduce through energy conservation or greater efficiency. Higher fixed charges give customers less ability to reduce monthly bills with smart investments in solar or wind energy, which create jobs and build clean, local energy in our community.
Extensive testimony to the SCC reports that about 17 percent (~14,800) of SVEC’s households would qualify as low‑income (meaning an average yearly income of $16,206). These households tend to be lower energy users. SVEC’s higher fixed charge would affect these members most, because their homes use the least energy.
You have an opportunity to stop SVEC’s proposal. If you’re interested in fair electric rates, you can oppose this increase even if you’re not an SVEC customer.
On Oct. 6 at 10 a.m., the State Corporation Commission will hold a virtual public hearing on SVEC’s proposal. Anyone can submit written comments through Sept. 29. If you sign up to testify at the hearing by Oct. 4, you’ll get five minutes to give oral testimony. You do not need to file written comments to speak on Oct. 6.
Are you interested in helping protect low income, retired, and low use SVEC customers? Want to send a message to the SCC about high electricity bills? If yes, ask the SCC to deny this rate increase.
- Make written comments at scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/comment/PUR-2021-00054 .
- Make a five-minute oral comment at the Oct. 6 hearing. To do that, you need to:
- Fill out the Public Witness Form on the Commission’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting ; OR
- Send a PDF copy of a completed Public Witness Form obtained from scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov ; OR
- Call 804-371-9141 during normal business hours.
- Learn more—join the Sept. 15 virtual forum at 6:30 p.m., sponsored by Appalachian Voices; register at tinyurl.com/hcfpthbu.
Story by Joy Loving from the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.