Dominion Must Move Customers To Competitors

by Steve Haner

The State Corporation Commission Wednesday granted motions by two competitive service providers and ordered Dominion Energy Virginia to hand over various customers.  The two companies, Direct Energy Business LLC and Calpine Energy Solutions LLC, offer a 100 percent renewable energy option in the monopoly utility’s territory.

“The Commission has found that: (a) absent the instant order, Direct Energy and Calpine will suffer irreparable harm; (b) Direct Energy and Calpine have no adequate remedy at law; and (c) the Commission is satisfied of Direct Energy’s and Calpine’s equity,” reads a footnote in the order (here).

As previously reported on Bacon’s Rebellion, the utility filed its own motion with the SCC first, seeking a ruling on whether the companies complied with Virginia law. It then behaved as if it had prevailed on that motion and stopped transferring over any customers they had recruited. The companies immediately asked the SCC to reverse Dominion’s action, which was hurting both their finances and their reputations.

Those motions were granted in today’s opinion, but the underlying dispute continues.  The SCC listened all day Tuesday to testimony and argument on the issue, and having explored much of it before, Bacon’s Rebellion will await the final outcome for a more detailed report.

The customers in question are mainly larger users, and the dispute has been officially joined by Costco Wholesale, the Kroger Company and an association of renewable energy buyers.  One or more proposals to expand retail choice are expected at the 2020 Virginia General Assembly.

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16 responses to “Dominion Must Move Customers To Competitors

  1. Wow. Sounds like an important development

  2. I’d switch as a boycott on Dominion rather than a burning need to consume only green energy. If the switch helps the environment that’s just icing on the cake.

    Dominion needs to be taken down quite a few notches.

  3. The thing about a Govt-sanctioned monopoly. It’s NOT to serve the interests of the investor-owned untility. It’s purpose is to serve the ratepayers and if or when it no longer does – then it needs to be changed.

    Dominion does not have a lifetime-guaranteed monopoly that cannot be altered.

    They have a negotiated monopoly that CAN be changed and should if it no longer meets the needs of Virginians.

    At some point – enough principled folks with backbones in the GA will follow that line of thought.

  4. I don’t know if anything was said from the bench at the end of yesterday’s hearing. I listened intermittently (writing about solar, I learned how that’s spelled) because it was really the same basic issues over and over. For Dominion to act unilaterally to suspend the customer transfers seemed way over the top, but just when you think they can go no further…..they do.

  5. Who represents the 13 or so Rural electric co-operatives on these kinds of issues? Can these companies make different arrangements with the rural co-opts? Can the rural co-opts agree to 3rd party provider arrangements for solar or similar?

    I know Dominion is the 600 lb gorilla but the co-ops – even though they have far fewer customers – probably have as large or larger geographic territory.

    But it would seem that some of these companies go located in – say NoVec or REC territory and negotiate perhaps easier or better terms.

    There must be something in the law that requires all these type issues to go to Dominion???

    • The statutes under which these issues are being contested do not apply to the cooperatives, Larry. Direct Energy and Calpine are looking only to sign customers currently being served by Dominion.

      All this could be moot in a few weeks anyway, depending on how the Commission rules on Dominion’s petition to offer its own 100% green energy tariff. But, until it prevails in that case (if it does) Dominion had no reason to act as if it had won already and stop these customers from legally shopping.

      • So why are the Co-operatives not potential competition especially if Dominion gets favorable decisions?

        Are these companies trying to do business in Dominion’s service area? Could they do business in other non-Dominion service areas?

        • As I recall, Larry, this statewide law, passed in 2007, repealing retail access generally but preserving the right of CSPs to serve retail-access customers in certain highly limited circumstances (i.e., load >5mw or all-renewables/not available from the local LSE) in ANY utility’s retail territory (including of course co-ops) — was amended to remove its applicability to co-ops at the co-ops’ request. You’ll have to ask REC why. The bottom line is, co-ops are exempt from this limited competition from CSPs, unlike Dominion.

  6. Thanks Acbar – so the C o-ops were successful in evading the thing Dominion was not?

    Steve knows lobbying and I often wonder when he relates Dominion’s reps at the SCC – if the 13 RECs also have a lobbyist… who advocates for what the RECs want or not.

  7. Please call them co-ops. I see REC and I think renewable energy certificate…so many acronyms….

    The co-ops that remain in the Old Dominion group (ODEC) have a lobbying team together, and the Northern VA coop, NOVEC, has left that group and has its own team. In house staff and outside folks. NOVEC is now using someone who used to work at the SCC. What position they took and why in 2007 fades with the memory…I’d have to ask them. My employer, the shipyard, was not asking me to pay attention to the co-ops over the years.

    I fully expect a big legislative push on all this come January, which is why I’m educating myself (and my dear readers…)

    • And we appreciate your educating yourself and, in turn, educating us.

      • ditto……… much appreciated – but ask that we recognize that Virginia is not just Dominion. It includes Apco and 13 rural electric coops – as well as a number of other smaller entities – Towns and the like.

        And so when we hear that Dominion is doing this or doing that or the SCC has approved or denied something that affects Dominion – one does wonder if that appies to these other entities like NoVec and the other 12 rural cooperatives -and THEIR customers……….

        Here’s a link to an excellent summary of Virginia’s rural co-ops:

        http://www.virginiaplaces.org/energy/coop.html

        • Generally, nothing that the Commission does to or for either Apco or DVP affects the cooperatives. They are regulated under a separate set of laws. Also, out in far west Virginia, the Old Dominion Power Company, an affiliate of Kentucky Utilities, is largely exempt from the Electric Restructuring Act. Two former investor-owned utilities that were subject to the Restructuring Act, Potomac Edison Company and Delmarva Power and Light, sold off their service areas to, respectively, Shenandoah Valley and Rappahannock Cooperatives (PotEd) and A&N Cooperative (Delmarva). Powell Valley Cooperative, that little lavender spot at the tip of Virginia, is a customer of TVA and regulated, if at all, by that federal entity.

          The Virginia Electric Restructuring Act became the Virginia Electric Reregulation Act in 2007

          • Thanks Rowing guy. So why would these CSPs not just go to the Co-ops for these projects and not mess with Dominion at all?

            If Dominion succeeds with the SCC approval – wouldn’t that just drive these companies to the RECs or why not?

  8. In other words, why do these companies have to do business with Dominion?

  9. Pingback: Dominion's Move Against Green Competitors Fails - Bacon's Rebellion

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