What’s in Store for Virginia’s Energy Future

Guest Editorial

By Commissioners Clinton Miller, 
Theodorve V. Morrison Jr. and Hullihen Williams Moore

Clinton Miller
Clinton Miller

Yogi Berra once said that “the future ain’t what it used to be.” While the storied baseball player made a second career with quips and quotes about life in general, he could just as easily have been talking about the Commonwealth’s energy market because the future is certainly going to be different from the past.

After changes in Virginia law, the Commonwealth is moving toward a competitive energy-supply market. As this market emerges over time, consumers may have the ability to select from among competing suppliers and make decisions based on price, customer service or other product characteristics.

To make sure that Virginians are ready for the new energy landscape, the State Corporation Commission has kicked off “Virginia Energy Choice,” a multi-year consumer education program. It will equip Virginians with the information they need to make informed decisions about energy services.

Thoedore V. Morrison Jr.
Thoedore V. Morrison Jr.

As we move to this new marketplace, it is important to first understand what will and will not change. Currently, one company provides all energy services — supply, transmission and distribution. In the future, more than one company may compete to supply your electricity or natural gas, thus allowing you to shop for the most attractive offer.

What will remain the same is your local utility company, which will deliver natural gas or electricity to homes and businesses. The State Corporation Commission will continue to regulate energy delivery, ensuring that the safe, reliable service you have counted upon in the past is there for you in the future.

Energy choice will phase in throughout the Commonwealth, with portions of Virginia beginning in January 2002 and all areas by no later than Jan. 1, 2004. Yet, even before this transition began, Virginia had been working to foster development of a competitive and efficient-energy market.

As part of those efforts, Virginia conducted pilot retail-choice programs to test systems and procedures necessary for competition. These programs, similar to controlled experiments, have proven very beneficial. For example, the utilities and competitive service providers learned more about how best to serve consumers.

At the State Corporation Commission, we learned more about making the playing field level as competition develops. And those consumers who participated had the opportunity to learn about making energy-supply choices.

Hullihen Williams Moore
Hullihen Williams Moore

Virginia is working in other ways to pave the way for a competitive energy-market. We continue to observe other states that are further along in their energy-restructuring efforts. We want to avoid their mistakes and build upon their successes.

It is also very important that Virginia legislators are monitoring the energy- supply market. Legislators may amend the energy restructuring legislation, approved by the General Assembly in 1999, if problems arise or if needed to advance competition.

In addition, new power plants could enhance the Commonwealth’s energy-generation capacity. Numerous new plants have been proposed throughout Virginia. The companies building them will sell the electricity from these plants into the new competitive market. The State Corporation Commission is examining plans for these plants to ensure that environmental and safety concerns are properly addressed.

Finally, a competitive energy-supply market works best when consumers have the right tools to make informed decisions about competing offers. The one-stop source for factual and unbiased information on energy restructuring is Virginia Energy Choice. Virginians may call a toll-free hotline (877-YES-2004) or visit the Web site (www.yesvachoice.com) to learn what energy choice means for them or to request a complete consumer guide. 

When it comes to Virginia’s energy-supply market, it is certainly true that “the future ain’t what it used to be.” Fortunately, as the competitive market gradually develops over time, Virginians may take advantage of Virginia Energy Choice to help them make the decision that is best for them when the opportunity to choose arrives.

Clinton Miller, Theodore V. Morrison Jr. and Hullihen Williams Moore are commissioners of the Virginia State Corporation Commission.


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