Dominion Offers Small Business Bill Assistance

Dominion Energy is—for the first time—extending its EnergyShare assistance program to small businesses, nonprofits, and houses of worship.

The energy giant is adding an additional $1 million to the $13 million annual program. Small businesses, nonprofits, and houses of worship will be eligible for one-time assistance of up to $1,000 from a $500,000 pool until funds are exhausted. The remaining $500,000, like the rest of the EnergyShare fund, will be used to help residential customers.

The move comes as a bill waits for action in the General Assembly that would return to customers some of the $502.7 million that Dominion Energy has overcharged accounts since 2017.

The State Corporation Commission determined in a report published Aug. 18 that Dominion Energy brought in revenues in excess of its approved 9.2 percent return on investment in 2017 and 2018, followed by bringing in slightly less than its entitled return in 2019. Over three years, the report shows the energy giant raked in $502.7 million more from customers in Virginia than it was authorized to do.

The bill, House Bill 5088, would refund some of that in the form of more than $250 million in accelerated refunds, and a more than $100 million utility debt forgiveness fund to help people who have accrued debt to Dominion because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

State law does not require the company to return all of the money it overcharges—Dominion can keep some of the overcharge. According to the SCC, the utility will only have to refund $256.8 million, and some of that amount may instead be spent on capital projects. The company has $199.9 million in projects eligible for that.

The $100 million utility debt forgiveness fund would come out of the 30 percent of overcharges that, under current state law, the energy giant keeps. The bill has been referred to committee but not scheduled for a vote.

The bill’s local patrons include Dels. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87), David A. Reid (D-32), and Wendy W. Gooditis (D-10).

To distribute the EnergyShare funds, Dominion has partnered with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which is establishing an advisory council that includes representatives from the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Asian Foundation, the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League of Hampton Roads, the Virginia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, and the Metropolitan Business League of Richmond.

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce Foundation will administer the program and United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg will manage distribution of funds, as they have done for EnergyShare since the program’s inception in 1982.

Applications open Sept 1. at www.vachamber.com/foundation/small-business-relief-program. Applicants must submit their completed and e-signed application via e-mail to [email protected] for review; they will receive an e-mail with the assistance decision within 14 business days. Applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, with a rolling application period until program funds are exhausted. Additional small business support is available in the form of on-site energy efficiency assessments, rebates for energy efficiency measures and other incentives for business improvements: www.dominionenergy.com/virginia/save-energy/small-business-improvement.

For residential customers, the company in June announced that it is doubling the maximum benefit from $300 to $600, and removing the requirement of a disconnect notice to qualify for the program. Residential customers can learn more about EnergyShare, find out if they are eligible, or apply for assistance at www.dominionenergy.com/energyshare or by calling 2-1-1.

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