But the report from the attorney general's office said the utilities have primarily relied on buying renewable energy certificates from existing renewable facilities to receive the incentives allowed by law rather than build any new renewable energy facilities. Overall the report suggested the bonuses be eliminated or significantly changed because they are not meaningfully protecting customers from unnecessary rate increases, not promoting reliable electricity or fuel diversity, and not providing environmental benefits or stimulating economic development.
Several environmental groups also have criticized that part of the law, saying utilities need to do more in order to earn the renewable energy bonuses.
"The standard is flawed, but there's a clear way to fix that," said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. But he said the proposal between the attorney general's office and the electric utilities is a "radical" and "anti-environmental" step. The group has worked with legislators to introduce other bills to address the incentive program.
Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter, said the proposal announced Tuesday is a "mixed bag" because while customers won't be paying excessive utility bills, the group is disappointed because the state's renewable energy law needs to be "fixed, not gutted."
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum.