A. Consistent with the objectives pertaining to energy issues set forth in § 67-101 and the policy elements stated in § 67-102, it is in the public interest to authorize and encourage the adoption of natural gas conservation and ratemaking efficiency plans that promote the wise use of natural gas and natural gas infrastructure through the development of alternative rate designs and other mechanisms that more closely align the interests of natural gas utilities, their customers, and the Commonwealth generally, and improve the efficiency of ratemaking to more closely reflect the dynamic nature of the natural gas market, the economy, and public policy regarding conservation and energy efficiency. Such alternative rate designs and other mechanisms should, where feasible:
1. Provide utilities with better tools to work with customers to decrease the average customer’s annual average weather-normalized consumption of natural gas;
2. Provide reasonable assurance of a utility’s ability to recover costs of serving the public, including its cost-effective investments in conservation and energy efficiency as well as infrastructure needed to provide or maintain reliable service to the public;
3. Reward utilities for meeting or exceeding conservation and energy efficiency goals that may be established pursuant to the Virginia Energy Plan (§ 67-100 et seq.);
4. Provide customers with long-term, meaningful opportunities to more efficiently consume natural gas and mitigate their expenditures for the natural gas commodity, while ensuring that the rate design methodology used to set a utility’s revenue recovery is not inconsistent with such conservation and energy efficiency goals;
5. Recognize the economic and environmental benefits of efficient use of natural gas; and
6. Preserve or enhance the utility bill savings that customers receive when they reduce their natural gas use.
B. Natural gas utilities are authorized pursuant to this chapter to file natural gas conservation and ratemaking efficiency plans that implement alternative natural gas utility rate designs and other mechanisms, in addition to or in conjunction with the cost of service methodology set forth in § 56-235.2 and performance-based regulation plans authorized by § 56-235.6, that:
1. Replace existing utility rate designs or other mechanisms that promote inefficient use of natural gas with rate designs or other mechanisms that ensure a utility’s recovery of its authorized revenues is independent of the amount of customers’ natural gas consumption;
2. Provide incentives for natural gas utilities to promote conservation and energy efficiency by granting recovery of the costs associated with cost-effective conservation and energy efficiency programs; and
3. Reward utilities that meet or exceed conservation and energy efficiency goals on a weather-normalized, annualized average customer basis through the implementation of cost-effective conservation and energy efficiency programs.
C. This chapter shall be construed liberally to accomplish these purposes.
2008, c. 639.