Others will have this story and I like to post things on Bacon’s Rebellion which are unique. But I do have something to add to today’s State Corporation Commission decision to deny Wal-Mart Stores permission to leave Virginia’s monopoly electric companies. The short decision is worth reading.
My extensive notes on the 2007 stakeholder negotiations on that year’s regulatory legislation stayed with the client. My recollection is that during those discussions, and as the bill progressed through amendments, everybody realized it was not creating real consumer choice. It was a full retreat from consumer choice.
Yes, large industrial customers with five megawatts of steady demand could leave, but under threat of being prevented from returning for up to five years if their new deal collapsed. That’s real risk, and industrial users are highly risk averse. The industrials agreed to the restriction, in exchange for certain other good and valuable considerations…..which quickly evaporated.
Likewise, we all fully understood that the kind of account aggregation Wal-Mart and other customers were seeking to make a third-party provider contract attractive would likely be denied by the SCC. It was in the bill largely for show. I think, but I’m not sure, that 100 percent renewable choice came later in the process and was not discussed at the negotiating table. That has been a true window for choice for a while.
The reality, Virginia, is we’re stuck with what we have until we make it something better. No escape. One of my goals in writing for Bacon’s Rebellion, and I must decide whether to continue this unpaid quest, is to highlight the very deep problems with the situation we are in.
I remain discouraged, because the members of the General Assembly do not understand what they do not understand, and do not care unless the voters start screaming. The voters are not screaming because they don’t really feel the price increases that have hit them, at least not Dominion Energy Virginia customers, and the big price increases to come will trail the next couple of elections. I don’t call the 2018 legislation the Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act in jest.
Those who claim to be fighting this battle on the same side as consumers, groups like Clean Virginia, will pulls their punches on Democrats because they are…also Democrats. The environmental activists are more likely to shoot at both sides, but low rates is not their top priority. The large customers who could afford to join in this battle are off with their own rent-seeking missions at the General Assembly.
Perhaps this SCC decision will wake up some of those companies? That could be its significance, if it does. But it likely will not help Mr. Average Ratepayer. Not many of us out there are thinking about you, not many at all. You are not at this table. And if you are not at the table, you remain on the menu.