When It's All Been Said...
By Richard G. Johnstone, Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

Life’s pageant is ancient, each of our parts fleeting. In a gradually widening circle, family, friends, and community define our lives. Whether — sometimes how — we’ve helped to undergird and improve these most important life elements ultimately determines how — sometimes whether — we’re remembered.

At a graveside service for my father-in-law in early April, on a cold, wind-blown knoll overlooking the James River in the East End of Richmond, a Baptist minister shared with the small gathering of mourners a plain, simple truth shared with him by his grandfather, a backwoods East Tennesseean: “Boy, when it’s all been said and done, you’ll find it’s mostly just been said.”  

There’s been a lot said about Energy Choice in the last couple of years, in these pages, in TV and radio ads, in newspaper coverage, and on billboards. In fact, in this issue of Cooperative Living, we begin a regular series on Energy Choice with a feature article asking and answering many of the questions that cooperative member-owners like you have posed to us since the Virginia General Assembly adopted a law in 1999 giving Virginians the right to choose their energy supplier.

Remember, the “choice” in Energy Choice relates ONLY to the electric energy itself, NOT to the delivery of that energy over transmission lines, and local distribution wires. Your electric cooperative will continue to deliver your electric energy to your home or business, whether or not you decide to choose another energy supplier. Some residents of Northern Virginia already have the right to choose another electric supplier. Ultimately, residents in all parts of the Commonwealth will have that right, by no later than January 1, 2004, according to the Energy Choice legislation passed in ’99.

As a practical matter, what does all this mean to you, the member-owner of an electric cooperative? Well, for starters, if any competitive supplier ever comes into your area and markets its energy to you, you are entitled to buy your electric energy from that supplier, if you like. As we mentioned, your cooperative will continue to deliver the energy to you.

But you should also be aware that cooperatives are different from the large power companies, because our customers are our member-owners. Because you own us, the law passed by the General Assembly in ’99 allows cooperative members to continue to receive their electricity from the cooperative if they make no choice. So, if you would like to continue receiving your electric energy from your cooperative, you don’t need to do a thing. If you take no action, you’ll continue to receive your electricity from your cooperative, at cost, just like always.

You should also be aware that there’s a chance — some believe a good chance — that it’ll be a good while before competitive suppliers begin marketing electricity in rural areas, small towns and emerging suburbs. If the situation in Pennsylvania is any indication, that will be the case, because Pennsylvania has had Energy Choice for several years, yet there are still no competitive suppliers interested in selling electricity in electric cooperative service areas in the Keystone State.

Why? Likely for the very reason cooperatives were formed in the first place in the 1930s and ’40s, to serve areas that would be unprofitable for any other type of utility. Since we’re not-for-profit, we’re able to offer electricity at cost to our members, keeping cooperative rates competitive with those of larger utilities that serve areas in more densely populated suburbs and cities. And since we’re locally owned by you and your neighbors, we’re more responsive to your wants and needs.

So, does Energy Choice mean change? Only if choices are available, and you want change. Otherwise, the biggest change you’ll likely see will be in your monthly bill, which will be more detailed than ever before as part of the changes needed to make Energy Choice possible.

So, when it’s all been said and done, the measure of how well we’ve done will be what you say about us.


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