Northam Opposes Coming Retail Choice Bill?

By Steve Haner

Governor Ralph Northam is quoted in a Standard and Poor’s Market Intelligence news article Friday as opposing any efforts to change Virginia’s electricity regulations, which presumably would include the 2020 retail choice proposal gathering steam in the background.

Reporter Michael Copley wrote about Friday’s state solar and wind power purchase agreements and added this near the bottom, under the heading “No changes seen to Va. utility regulation”:

To advance its clean energy initiatives, the Northam administration is partnering with a utility company (Dominion Energy Virginia) that is facing a backlash over perceptions that it uses political donations to wield outsized influence in Virginia. In August, Virginia utility regulators said Dominion Energy Virginia earned $277.3 million above its authorized return on equity in 2018.

Some lawmakers in the Southeast U.S. have called for breaking up monopoly utility businesses such as Dominion’s, arguing that customers would benefit from more competition.

Northam said he does not plan to overhaul utility regulation in Virginia. “I think right now as we move forward, we’re going to work with the system that we have,” he told S&P Global Market Intelligence. “That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect system, but it is a system that we can work with.”

Unfortunately, neither Jim Bacon nor I subscribe to this news service and thus cannot provide a link.  A copy of the full story is here, provided by somebody with a subscription.  It may appear on a public S&P site at some point.

While his exact purpose in doing so is not clear, a major Virginia environmentalist is in the process of buying the 2020 General Assembly.  Charlottesville hedge fund baron Michael Bills is coy about why in this friendly interview with Virginia Mercury today.  But the Clean Virginia movement he heads has links to other groups expected to push against Dominion Energy Virginia under a reform coalition banner.  It must be a high priority.

To give us the opportunity to choose a competitive supplier to Dominion at some point in the future, they may need two-thirds votes in both chambers so they can overcome a gubernatorial veto.  Other reporters, or the advocates for that position, can now fill in the blanks.