The Staff of the Virginia State Corporation Commission recommended yesterday that a ceiling be placed on the amount the Virginia Electric and Power Co. could charge consumers under the controversial fuel adjustment clause.
The clause allows Vepco to pass on automatically to customers the cost of fuel used to generate electricity. Fuel adjustment costs vary every month and have been increasing. In January, the fuel adjustment clause cost a fairly heavy user $4.41, compared with $15.78 in February.
Yesterday's staff report was in response to an SCC order to determine whether Vepco was handling fuel costs and power generation efficiently in view of average increases of 15 to 20 per cent since November in customers' bills.
The SCC said increases in fule adjustment charges seemed to follow the different types of fuel rather than fluctuating costs of fuel. The question was whether Vepco was operating its nuclear generators efficiently. Power generated by nuclear units is cheaper than power produced by coal plants.
Yesterday's report agreed with Vepco's contention that the fuel adjustment method should continue in use at least while fuel costs are unstable. The system is in use in one form or another in 43 states, the SCC report said.
The report also recommended adoption of other technical procedures designed to ease the impact of rising fuel costs on the consumer.
Vepco officials maintained in a statement last week that the higher consumer bills were caused by a combination of the severe winter, increased fuel costs and the mechanical breakdown of both its nuclear units at the Surry power station on the James River during the last quarter of 1976.