Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 56. Public Service Companies
Chapter 10. Heat, Light, Power, Water and Other Utility Companies Generally
5/28/2022

Article 3. Powers of Commission in Relation to Service.

§ 56-246. Tests and equipment therefor.

The Commission may purchase such materials, apparatus and standard measuring instruments for such examinations and tests as it may deem necessary, and may provide for the examinations and testing of the service or any part thereof of any public utility in this Commonwealth at such time and under such circumstances as the Commission may deem best.

Code 1919, § 4069.

§ 56-247. Commission may change regulations, measurements, practices, services, or acts.

If upon investigation it shall be found that any regulation, measurement, practice, act or service of any public utility complained of is unjust, unreasonable, insufficient, preferential, unjustly discriminatory or otherwise in violation of law or if it be found that any service is inadequate or that any reasonable service cannot be obtained, the Commission may substitute therefor such other regulations, measurements, practices, service or acts and make such order respecting, and such changes in, such regulations, measurements, practices, service or acts as shall be just and reasonable.

The Commission shall investigate the promotional allowances and practices of public utilities and shall take such action as such investigation may indicate to be in the public interest.

Code 1919, § 4072; 1966, c. 552.

§ 56-247.1. Commission to require public utilities to follow certain procedures.

A. The Commission shall require that public utilities adhere to the following procedures for services not found to be competitive:

1. Every public utility shall provide its residential customers one full billing period to pay for one month's local or basic services, before initiating any proceeding against a residential customer for nonpayment of local service.

2. Pay the residential customer a fair rate of interest as determined by the Commission on money deposited and return the deposit with the interest after not more than one year of satisfactory credit has been established.

3. Every public utility shall establish customer complaint procedures that will ensure prompt and effective handling of all customer inquiries, service requests, and complaints. Such procedure shall be approved by the Commission before its implementation and it shall be distributed to its residential customers. The utility shall disclose to the customer that the Commission is the responsible regulatory agency and that the customer may contact the Commission on regulatory matters and provide the customer with the contact information for the Commission.

4. No electric or gas utility shall terminate a customer's service without 10 days' notice by mail to the customer.

5. No public utility shall terminate the residential service of a customer for such customer's nonpayment of basic nonresidential services as defined by its terms and conditions on file with the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

6. A public utility providing water service shall not terminate service for nonpayment until it first sends the customer written notice by mail 10 days in advance of making the termination but, in no event, shall it terminate the customer's service until 20 days after the customer's bill has become due. Any such notice shall also include contact information for the customer's use in contacting the public utility regarding the notice.

7. Any electric utility formed under or subject to Chapter 9.1 (§ 56-231.15 et seq.) may install and operate, upon a customer's request and pursuant to an appropriate tariff for any type or classification of service, a prepaid metering equipment and system that is configured to terminate electric service immediately and automatically when the customer has incurred charges for electric service equal to the customer's prepayments for such service. Subdivisions 1, 2, 4, and 5 shall not apply to services provided pursuant to electric service provided on a prepaid basis by a prepaid metering equipment and system pursuant to this subsection. Such tariffs shall be filed with the Commission for its review and determination that the tariff is not contrary to the public interest.

8. No electric utility shall terminate the residential service of a customer for such customer's nonpayment for metered services when the electric utility believes that the customer is receiving or has received electric utility services for which the customer was not properly billed as the result of tampering with the electric utility's meter in a manner that prevented the meter from accurately recording usage, until the electric utility has complied with the procedure set forth in subsection C. However, the requirement that the electric utility comply with the procedure set forth in subsection C before terminating service shall not apply if (i) the condition of a customer's wiring, equipment, or appliances is either unsafe or unsuitable for receiving the electric utility service; (ii) the customer's use of the electric utility service or equipment interferes with or may be detrimental to the electric utility's facilities or to the provision of electric utility service by the electric utility to any other customer; (iii) a tamper-evident meter seal securing the meter is broken, damaged, or missing; (iv) electric service is furnished over a line that is not owned or leased by the electric utility and the line is either not in a safe and suitable condition or is inadequate to receive electric utility service; (v) emergency repairs or alterations are needed; (vi) there are unavoidable shortages or interruptions in a supply of utility service; (vii) the electric utility is acting upon orders from an authority having jurisdiction; or (viii) the actions taken are to preserve life or property, or to avoid or abate utility or fire hazard.

B. Any and all Commission rules and regulations concerning the denial of telephone service for nonpayment of such service shall not apply to services found to be competitive.

C. If an electric utility believes that a customer is receiving or has received electric utility services for which the customer was not properly billed as the result of tampering with the electric utility's meter in a manner that prevented the meter from accurately recording usage, the electric utility shall (i) retrieve the meter from the customer's premises, which may be done without providing prior notice to the customer; (ii) immediately replace it with a new meter; and (iii) determine whether the meter has been tampered with. Within 60 days after any such determination of meter tampering has been made, the electric utility shall provide evidence of such tampering to the customer. If, after determining the meter has been tampered with, the electric utility seeks payment for electric utility services not properly billed, the electric utility shall provide the customer with an invoice with a reasonable and final estimate of the amount owed by the customer as a result of the meter's failure to accurately record the customer's usage. The invoice shall explain the electric utility's calculation of the estimated amount owed as a result of any suspected failure. The electric utility shall provide the customer one full billing period to pay the amount billed in such invoice before initiating any proceeding against the customer for nonpayment. During such billing period, the customer may submit an informal complaint to the Commission disputing the amount sought by the utility. The customer may commence a formal proceeding after the informal complaint process has been exhausted in accordance with Commission regulations.

1976, c. 738; 1977, c. 59; 1980, c. 415; 2010, c. 320; 2011, cc. 500, 738, 740; 2020, c. 668.

§ 56-248. Commission to prescribe standard units of products or service.

The Commission shall ascertain and prescribe for each kind of public utility suitable standard commercial units of products or service. This section shall not apply to telephone companies.

Code 1919, § 4070; 2011, cc. 738, 740.

§ 56-248.1. Commission to monitor fuel prices and utility fuel purchases; fuel price index.

The Commission shall monitor all fuel purchases, transportation costs, and contracts for such purchases of a utility to ascertain that all feasible economies are being utilized.

In addition, the Commission shall establish a fuel price index in order to compare the prices paid for the various types of fuel by Virginia utilities with the average price of the various types of fuel paid by other public utilities at comparable geographic locations in the market. This section shall not apply to telephone companies.

1976, c. 507; 1982, c. 107; 2011, cc. 738, 740.

§ 56-249. Reports by utilities.

The Commission, with or without an investigation, may require any public utility to furnish to it in such form, at such times, and in such detail as the Commission shall require, such accounts, reports and other information of whatsoever kind or character as it may deem proper and in such form and detail as it may prescribe, in order to show completely the entire operation of the public utility in furnishing the unit of its product or service to the public.

Code 1919, § 4070.

§ 56-249.1. Commission may require transfer of gas, water or electricity by one utility to another; compensation.

The Commission may require a public utility to transfer to another public utility of like business, gas, water or electricity, whenever the public health, welfare or safety shall be found to so require; provided, however, that the transferring public utility shall be compensated, at a rate fixed by the Commission, for all such deliveries by the receiving public utility.

1975, c. 358.

§ 56-249.2. Certain records to be maintained.

All public utilities doing business in the Commonwealth that file a rate of return statement shall, on and after January 1, 1977, or the beginning of the next fiscal year of the public utility after such date, maintain all records necessary to prepare and submit annually a rate of return statement reflecting that part of its total business under regulation of the Commission.

1976, c. 742; 1979, c. 617; 2011, cc. 738, 740.

§ 56-249.3. Certain electric utilities to file reports in relation to fuel transactions, fuel purchases, fuel adjustment clauses, etc.

The Commission shall require that public electric utilities, owning and operating generating facilities, or privately owned utilities purchasing power at wholesale for retail sales within this State, file monthly with the Commission for its review such information as it may deem necessary, which may include the following:

1. The various types of fuels received such as coal, oil, nuclear fuel or natural gas;

2. The following information on fossil fuels:

a. The supplier of the fossil fuel, the cost in cents per MBTU of the fuel, with a notation of whether the fuel was contracted for, purchased on the spot market or purchased from an affiliate of the electric utility;

b. The quantities of the various types of fossil fuels received stated in tons of coal, barrels of oil, millions of cubic feet of natural gas;

c. The average BTU content per pound, gallon or cubic foot received, whichever is applicable;

d. The average sulfur and ash content, where applicable, of the fuel received;

3. Total demurrage charges incurred at each generating plant;

4. Total cost of transportation incurred at each generating plant;

5. The quantity of fuel consumed by each generation unit in the generating plant;

6. The average cost of the fossil and nuclear fuel in cents per MBTU's consumed at each plant with and without handling charges;

7. The monthly net heat rate expressed in BTU's per kilowatt-hour for each generating unit;

8. The kilowatt-hour output delivered into the system on a monthly basis;

9. The monthly net kilowatt-hour interchange; and

10. The monthly system kilowatt-hour sales.

1977, c. 125; 1979, c. 617.

§ 56-249.4. How reports shall be filed; reports open to public; rules and regulations.

A. The information filed pursuant to § 56-249.3 shall be filed with the Commission in affidavit form within forty-five days following the close of the reference month.

B. All such information and reports filed pursuant to this section and § 56-249.3 shall be open to the public and available for inspection.

C. The Commission shall promulgate all rules and regulations necessary to implement this section and § 56-249.3.

1977, c. 125; 1982, c. 107.

§ 56-249.5. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1979, c. 492.

§ 56-249.6. Recovery of fuel and purchased power costs.

A. 1. Each electric utility that purchases fuel for the generation of electricity or purchases power and that was not, as of July 1, 1999, bound by a rate case settlement adopted by the Commission that extended in its application beyond January 1, 2002, shall submit to the Commission its estimate of fuel costs, including the cost of purchased power, for the 12-month period beginning on the date prescribed by the Commission. Upon investigation of such estimates and hearings in accordance with law, the Commission shall direct each company to place in effect tariff provisions designed to recover the fuel costs determined by the Commission to be appropriate for that period, adjusted for any over-recovery or under-recovery of fuel costs previously incurred.

2. The Commission shall continuously review fuel costs and if it finds that any utility described in subdivision A 1 is in an over-recovery position by more than five percent, or likely to be so, it may reduce the fuel cost tariffs to correct the over-recovery.

3. Beginning July 1, 2009, for all utilities described in subdivision A 1 and subsection B, if the Commission approves any increase in fuel factor charges pursuant to this section that would increase the total rates of the residential class of customers of any such utility by more than 20 percent, the Commission, within six months following the effective date of such increase, shall review fuel costs, and if the Commission finds that the utility is, or is likely to be, in an over-recovery position with respect to fuel costs for the 12-month period for which the increase in fuel factor charges was approved by more than five percent, it may reduce the utility's fuel cost tariffs to correct the over-recovery.

B. All fuel costs recovery tariff provisions in effect on January 1, 2004, for any electric utility that purchases fuel for the generation of electricity and that was, as of July 1, 1999, bound by a rate case settlement adopted by the Commission that extended in its application beyond January 1, 2002, shall remain in effect until the later of (i) July 1, 2007 or (ii) the establishment of tariff provisions under subsection C. Any such utility shall continue to report to the Commission annually its actual fuel costs, including the cost of purchased power.

C. Each electric utility described in subsection B shall submit annually to the Commission its estimate of fuel costs, including the cost of purchased power, for successive 12-month periods beginning on July 1, 2007, and each July 1 thereafter. Upon investigation of such estimates and hearings in accordance with law, the Commission shall direct each such utility to place in effect tariff provisions designed to recover the fuel costs determined by the Commission to be appropriate for such periods, adjusted for any over-recovery or under-recovery of fuel costs previously incurred; however, (i) no such adjustment for any over-recovery or under-recovery of fuel costs previously incurred shall be made for any period prior to July 1, 2007, and (ii) the Commission shall order that the deferral portion, if any, of the total increase in fuel tariffs for all classes as determined by the Commission to be appropriate for the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2007, above the fuel tariffs previously existing, shall be deferred without interest and recovered from all classes of customers as follows: (i) in the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2008, that part of the deferral portion of the increase in fuel tariffs that the Commission determines would increase the total rates of the residential class of customers of the utility by four percent over the level of such total rates in existence on June 30, 2008, shall be recovered; (ii) in the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2009, that part of the balance of the deferral portion of the increase in fuel tariffs, if any, that the Commission determines would increase the total rates of the residential class of customers of the utility by four percent over the level of such total rates in existence on June 30, 2009, shall be recovered; and (iii) in the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2010, the entire balance of the deferral portion of the increase in fuel tariffs, if any, shall be recovered. The "deferral portion of the increase in fuel tariffs" means the portion of such increase in fuel tariffs that exceeds the amount of such increase in fuel tariffs that the Commission determines would increase the total rates of the residential class of customers of the utility by more than four percent over the level of such total rates in existence on June 30, 2007.

D. In proceedings under subsections A and C:

1. Energy revenues associated with off-system sales of power shall be credited against fuel factor expenses in an amount equal to the total incremental fuel factor costs incurred in the production and delivery of such sales. In addition, 75 percent of the total annual margins from off-system sales shall be credited against fuel factor expenses; however, the Commission, upon application and after notice and opportunity for hearing, may require that a smaller percentage of such margins be so credited if it finds by clear and convincing evidence that such requirement is in the public interest. The remaining margins from off-system sales shall not be considered in the biennial reviews of electric utilities conducted pursuant to § 56-585.1. In the event such margins result in a net loss to the electric utility, (i) no charges shall be applied to fuel factor expenses and (ii) any such net losses shall not be considered in the biennial reviews of electric utilities conducted pursuant to § 56-585.1. For purposes of this subsection, "margins from off-system sales" shall mean the total revenues received from off-system sales transactions less the total incremental costs incurred; and

2. The Commission shall disallow recovery of any fuel costs that it finds without just cause to be the result of failure of the utility to make every reasonable effort to minimize fuel costs or any decision of the utility resulting in unreasonable fuel costs, giving due regard to reliability of service and the need to maintain reliable sources of supply, economical generation mix, generating experience of comparable facilities, and minimization of the total cost of providing service.

In any proceeding for the recovery of fuel costs under this subdivision in which the costs a utility seeks to recover include costs incurred under a natural gas capacity contract for a term of more than 10 years that procures more than 250,000 dekatherms per day that has not previously been subject to a review under this subdivision, the Commission shall require the utility to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the utility has (i) determined that the utility cannot meet its service obligations, giving due regard, in the Commission's sole discretion, to reliability of service and the need to maintain reliable sources of supply, without an additional fuel resource; (ii) reasonably identified and determined the date and amount of the new fuel resource it needs; (iii) objectively studied available alternative fuel resource options, as verified by the Commission, including options other than a new natural gas capacity contract or contracts to meet the identified and determined need; and (iv) determined that the natural gas capacity contract or contracts are the lowest-cost available option, taking into consideration fixed and variable costs and a reasonable projection of utilization. Absent the Commission's finding that the utility has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the utility had complied with the requirements of clauses (i), (ii), (iii), and (iv), the Commission shall deny the utility's recovery of such costs. Nothing in this subdivision shall limit the Commission's discretion to review and make a determination as to the reasonableness of the recovery by a utility of costs, including costs incurred under a natural gas capacity contract, that were previously subject to a review under this subdivision.

E. The Commission is authorized to promulgate, in accordance with the provisions of this section, all rules and regulations necessary to allow the recovery by electric utilities of all of their prudently incurred fuel costs under subsections A and C, including the cost of purchased power, as precisely and promptly as possible, with no over-recovery or under-recovery, except as provided in subsection C, in a manner that will tend to assure public confidence and minimize abrupt changes in charges to consumers.

1978, c. 636; 1979, c. 492; 1980, c. 384; 1982, c. 584; 1984, cc. 716, 725; 1989, c. 666; 2004, c. 827; 2006, c. 939; 2007, cc. 888, 933; 2009, c. 244; 2020, c. 661.

§ 56-249.7. Certain directors and officers of utility to file shareholder information.

The directors and officers of any public utility as defined in § 56-232 shall file with the Commission a record of all officers and directorships and all sources of income in excess of $25,000 per year arising from voting securities in all other corporations which to the knowledge of the director or officer furnishes fuel with a value in excess of $50,000 per year to the public utility. Such records for the past year shall be filed or made current on or before September 1 of each year.

1985, c. 522.

§ 56-250. Commission may authorize action by public utility in time of emergency or shortage; plans.

(1) Whenever it shall appear by satisfactory evidence that any public utility furnishing in this State power, heat, light or water cannot supply all of its customers the usual requirements of each by reason of strikes, accidents, want of fuel, or for any other reason, the Commission may authorize such public utility to take such action as, in the opinion of the Commission, will minimize adverse impact on the public health and safety and facilitate restoration of normal service to all customers at the earliest time practicable.

(2) To facilitate implementation of this section, the Commission may require any such public utility to file, as a part of the rules and regulations referred to in § 56-236, its plan for curtailment of service in such a condition of emergency or shortage. Such plans shall be considered and shall take effect in the manner provided in this chapter for the schedules of rates and charges and rules and regulations of public utilities.

1920, p. 232; Michie Code 1942, § 4072a; 1974, c. 478; 1975, c. 358.

§ 56-251. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1974, c. 478.

§ 56-253. Existing remedies retained.

Nothing contained in this chapter shall in any way abridge or alter the remedies at common law, in equity, or by statute, but the provisions hereof shall be deemed to be in addition to such remedies.

Code 1919, § 4073.