The Good Fight
by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

Whenever I recount a story or anecdote from my childhood in the 1950s and ‘60s, my son and daughter without fail will laughingly ask, “Is that how it was back in the day?” Well, yes, “back in the day” we had a lot of fun, actually (and believe it or not), before video games and portable CD players and personal computers and hundreds of cable or satellite TV channels. (Heck, I can remember being excited at receiving good reception of three channels [!] on our new 19-inch color [!] television. All the neighbors flocked to our house on that fall day in 1964 when the TV arrived.)

One of our favorite outdoor games was tag, especially nighttime tag. It was fun in part because it was exhilarating to be outside past dark, and a bit scary as well to be pursuing friends blindly through woods and across creeks, and up and down terrain that seemed, well, different at night. Some of us (such as yours truly) learned from painful experience to go more slowly when visibility was not as good, and especially if you were in unfamiliar territory. Slowing down may have delayed the thrill of victory, but it also avoided the agony of ER visits.

Virginia’s electric cooperatives are asking the Virginia General Assembly to slow down as we approach the unfamiliar terrain of retail choice of electric suppliers. Given the huge problems that California experienced with retail choice a couple of years ago, the scandals at national energy giant Enron, and the financial problems of other electric utilities in this region and elsewhere, your electric cooperative leaders believe that further study would help avoid problems, and protect consumers.

And thankfully, we’ve found that many, many legislators agree. In fact, a bill has been introduced by Delegate Harry Parrish (R-Manassas) that would make sure that the State Corporation Commission has the authority it needs to investigate fully the impact on consumers that would occur if control of a Virginia utility’s transmission system were turned over to a regional transmission group that controls the electric grid for several states. Delegate Parrish’s bill would make sure that consumers are protected before any such transfer of control could take place.

We’re supporting this bill because we have always tried hard to protect our member-consumers, most of whom are homeowners or small-business owners. After all, Virginia’s 13 electric cooperatives are owned and controlled by these 350,000 member-consumers. Because we’re member-owned, we’re responsive. And because we’re not-for-profit businesses, we’re in business to provide our members with reliable electric service at the lowest possible cost. Sometimes that involves speaking out to legislators and regulators on issues that affect you and our other members.

You may not think about your electric cooperative in terms of involvement down in Richmond at the General Assembly. But before state leaders in Richmond and Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., too, Virginia’s electric cooperatives are fighting the good fight in looking out for you and your family. In next month’s issue, we’ll let you know how our efforts in this year’s General Assembly session turn out. In the meantime, please know that our bottom line doesn’t involve a dollar sign. It only involves a thumbs-up sign, from serving you as efficiently and effectively as possible.


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