Virginia Power formerly Vepco revised its rate request this week to $78 million, down from a $90 million increase requested last November.

The revised request would boost Virginia Power's residential customers' rates by about 5.8 percent, down from the 6.2 percent increase customers would have seen on their bills under the original request. The company's revenue will be increased by 4.1 percent if the request is granted.

Should Virginia Power be awarded $78 million, the average 1,000-kilowatt hour residential customer's bill would rise from $68.23 to $72.18 a month, said Bill Hall, a utility spokesman.

The reduced request was possible because of revisions lowering the amount of revenue the company needed, complemented by further fuel cost reductions, Hall said.

Virginia Power had originally requested $150 million in additional revenue, offset by a $60 million fuel cost reduction. In the amended filing, the company is asking for $145 million in additional revenue and increasing the $60 million fuel cost reduction to $67 million, Hall said.

The $5 million adjustment in the amount of needed revenue was made possible through a decrease in the amount needed to start operations at the $968 million hydroelectric Bath County Power Station project and because of updated financial data not available at the time of the original filing. The Virginia State Corporation Commission had also asked for adjustments left over from the last rate case, Hall said.

The new Bath County Power Station, a hydroelectric plant, is expected to come on line May 1. Hearings on the case are to be held March 25 and 26, with the SCC expected to rule by May 1.

Virginia Power, which serves 1.4 million Virginia residents as well as residents of West Virginia and North Carolina, also said it would not build a conventional, coal-fired generating unit originally included the company's plans for 1993. Such a new unit would have cost Virginia Power at least $1.5 billion.

Instead, the utility will pursue a variety of other options, including new technologies with the potential for burning coal cleanly, Hall said.

In a separate statement, the Virginia State Corporation Commission said this week it had ordered Washington Gas Light Co. to refund customers excess revenue it had collected since last August.

The SCC said the company instituted a $6.2 million increase last year, instead of the $4.9 million increase it had authorized. Washington Gas Light Co. said customers would receive an average $5 credit on their bills, probably during the April billing period.