Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) filed a request with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (VSCC) June 1, 2020, seeking to implement customer-focused enhancements and recover costs incurred from investments in infrastructure, technology and workforce development to ensure continued safe and reliable service to our customers. The new rates go into effect Nov. 1, 2020 and are subject to refund after approval by the VSCC.
We understand these are challenging times for the Commonwealth as a result of COVID-19, and we are mindful of the impacts to our customers. We realize the impact any rate increase can have on our customers, and we do not make this request lightly.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, VNG has voluntarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment to ensure that those who cannot pay their bills or whose jobs have been affected by COVID-19 do not face the added hardship of interruption of services. We are also working with local and state agencies to provide energy assistance to customers in need and providing a new payment program of up to 12 months with no down payment.
The request, if approved, will allow Virginia Natural Gas to continue to meet our public service obligation and commitment to provide safe and reliable natural gas service to our more than 300,000 customers throughout central and southeastern Virginia.
Key drivers in the request:
VNG seeks to eliminate bill-payment transaction fees to improve customer service, while recovering costs associated with significant capital investments in the areas of safety, compliance and strategic system connections to support the long-term needs of our customers.
The request also allows VNG to address the needs of workforce development with an added focus on training and compliance, to ensure the continued provision of safe and reliable natural gas service at just and reasonable rates.
Customer service improvements include a proposal to improve customer call-waiting times and interactive assistance by establishing a virtual call center, creating employment opportunities for individuals who may prefer to work from home, including disabled veterans and military spouses, who are among the region’s most underemployed residents.
The filing seeks approximately $49.6 million for the recovery of capital expenditures since the company’s last rate request three years ago that include the implementation of major infrastructure, the modernization of pipelines and services, and the removal of low-pressure pipeline from our system. The request also includes additions to our tariff to allow Renewable Natural Gas into the VNG pipeline system and offers a framework for a fixed bill option to help customers manage their monthly bills.
Importantly, the operational and economic benefits recognized from placing major infrastructure into service has provided more than $2.5 million in savings to VNG customers since October 2019.
Beginning Nov. 1, 2020, an average residential customer using 600 ccf/year can expect an increase in their monthly bill of approximately $11. These rates are subject to refund after final approval by the VSCC.