Change? Yes - Choice? Maybe
by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor


Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

September speaks of changes, in the sun, the season, the school year. Soon, you may see advertising that talks about Virginia Energy Choice, which begins in some parts of the state on January 1, í02. The choice in question relates to the fact that electricity supply was deregulated in legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1999, ultimately giving all Virginians the right to choose their supplier of electricity. (The choice will only involve the supplier of the actual electricity; the local utility, which in your case is an electric cooperative, will continue to deliver the electricity to your home or business.)

By January 1, 2004, all electric utility service areas will be opened up to choice. And if there are competitive service providers interested in selling electricity to you, you will have the right to choose one if you wish. As mentioned, your cooperative will continue to deliver the electricity to you.

Cooperative member-consumers have been contacting Cooperative Living magazine and their local cooperative a lot of late, asking what will happen if they donít make a choice, and also asking if they will be allowed to select their local electric cooperative as their supplier of electricity. Members of the General Assembly have recognized the unique nature of electric cooperatives, in which the customers are also the owners of the utility. Because of this, cooperatives have been treated differently in several key areas under the deregulation law that was passed in 1999, and under further fine-tuning legislation passed in both the 2000 and í01 sessions.

The answer to both questions is simple: If cooperative members do not make a choice, they will continue to receive their electric energy supply from their electric cooperative. And if they wish to actually affirmatively select their electric cooperative as their electricity supplier, they may do that also.

But will cooperative members actually have other electricity suppliers interested in marketing and selling electricity to them? Based on whatís going on in other states that have deregulated electricity supply, that is not a safe assumption. At this point, there are no competitive electricity suppliers anywhere in the country that are selling electricity to cooperative members.

Why? In all likelihood, for the very reason that cooperatives were formed in the first place. Overwhelmingly, cooperatives serve residential and small business members in rural areas, small towns and suburbs. These types of accounts do not offer much, if anything, in the way of profit. Which is exactly why not-for-profit cooperatives were formed three generations ago in your community to provide reasonably priced, reliable electric service.

Even if no other electricity suppliers are interested in serving you, your cooperative always has been, and always will be. And if you would like to find out more about the Virginia Energy Choice program, please call their toll-free phone number, 1-877-YES2004; go to their Web site, www.yesvachoice.com; or write to Virginia Energy Choice, c/o State Corporation Commission, P.O. Box 1197, Richmond, VA 23218.

Your electric cooperative has been your utility of need in the past. We very much hope to become your utility of choice in the future.


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