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New Virginia Legislation Also Introduced To Maintain, Expand Retail Choice For Renewable Energy

January 7, 2020

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Copyright 2010-19 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • ring@energychoicematters.com

The following story is brought free of charge to readers by EC Infosystems, the exclusive EDI provider of EnergyChoiceMatters.com

While a separate bill, the Virginia Energy Reform Act, is to be unveiled today broadly calling for an end to monopoly control of electricity in Virginia and to expand "consumer choice" (see preview of the legislation in our prior story here, more details expected later today), a separate Virginia bill has been announced to more narrowly address the ability of customers to purchase clean energy from competitive suppliers and maintain and expand the current exemption

Direct Energy said in a news release that Virginia State Senator Jeremy McPike and Delegate Mike Mullin have introduced the Clean Energy Choice Act so that competitive suppliers may continue to deliver renewable power to Virginia customers with strict oversight by the State Corporation Commission.

Since September 18th, customers representing all sectors of the business community have committed to an astounding 200 MWs of 100% clean power from Direct Energy Business under the existing exemption.

Although legislative text was not immediately available, based on Direct's news release, the bill would apparently allow retail suppliers to offer a 100% renewable option regardless of whether the utility has such an offering. Under current statute, retail suppliers are only able to offer renewable energy supply to customers if the utility does not have a qualifying renewable energy tariff

"This 100% renewable purchase option is currently being threatened by Dominion's pending application for an 100% renewable energy product which could shut down sales by competitive suppliers to new customers under Section 56-577 A 5 ('Section A 5') of the Virginia code. Direct Energy supports The Clean Energy Choice Act which will allow both competitive suppliers and Dominion to offer renewable products to all customers and will allow customers to more easily combine the usage of multiple locations for renewable energy, giving businesses more options for a holistic energy solution. Lastly, the SCC will be empowered to review and remove licenses of unscrupulous market participants and to provide tools to customers to help them select a licensed Competitive Service Provider," Direct Energy said

"The Clean Energy Choice Act will protect choice and encourage renewable energy development for the benefit of the millions of customers and ratepayers across Virginia," said Senator Jeremy McPike (SD29 - Woodbridge). "If we're serious about achieving 100% clean energy in Virginia by 2050, we've got to take steps like this that enable customers to switch to clean energy."

"Virginia's energy policies should promote choice and clean energy development; but the reality is choice is limited and affordable clean energy development has not been a priority of our utilities," said Delegate Mike Mullin (HD93 - Newport News). "It's no surprise that Virginia customers of all sizes are asking the General Assembly for the ability to shop for clean energy. We should be promoting more ways to purchase clean energy, not fewer."

"Clean energy is our future, and it's time to lift the restrictions that stand in the way of seeing that future realized. The Clean Energy Choice Act will expand options for individuals and large customers to shop competitively for clean energy, level the playing field between large and small providers, and create an incentive for companies to develop true carbon-free, renewable energy. In turn, Virginia will grow its clean energy economy, while reducing carbon pollution and safeguarding clean air," said Danielle Simms, Interim Political Director, Virginia League of Conservation Voters.

"The Clean Energy Choice Act will help grow Virginia's clean energy market to meet the Commonwealth's goal of 100% clean energy by 2050 by giving Virginians more options when it comes to shopping for renewable energy," said Ronald Cerniglia, Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs for Direct Energy. "Since September 18th, customers representing all sectors of the business community have committed to an astounding 200 MWs of 100% clean power from Direct Energy Business, demonstrating that customers want an alternative to the existing and pending products offered by the utility. We have been working alongside the Virginia legislature, regulators, and other key stakeholders for several years to create an energy market that gives customers more renewable energy choices, and the Clean Energy Choice Act is an important step towards giving Virginians a robust energy market."

Direct Energy said that, "In May of 2019, Dominion filed its Rider TRG proposal seeking expedited approval as a Section A 5 tariff that would eliminate renewable sales by competitive suppliers like Direct Energy to new customers, even though Dominion is proposing to charge a premium for a product that includes biomass co-fired from a coal plant and hydro power that is over [60] years old. After the SCC chose not to expedite its consideration of Rider TRG, Dominion then unilaterally halted sales of renewable supply by Direct Energy and asked the SCC to issue a declaratory judgment sanctioning its behavior based on a standard that had never been established by the SCC. In September of 2019, the SCC expeditiously rejected Dominion's declaratory judgment petition and ordered Dominion to stop blocking customer purchases of competitive renewable supply. Today, customers representing over 200 MWs of power have chosen to purchase 100% renewable power from Direct Energy Business. However, absent passage of this legislation, future sales to new customers may be eliminated if the SCC issues a final order approving the Rider TRG proposal in 2020."

"Costco Wholesale applauds the leadership of Senator McPike and Delegate Mullin on retail choice and clean energy," said Shay Reed, Buyer: Energy, Utilities & Environmental Reporting, Costco Wholesale. "With 17 warehouses and a regional office in Virginia, energy costs remain a major economic driver for Costco. The Clean Energy Choice Act provides clarity and certainty for companies like ours who are seeking to purchase reliable, clean, and affordable energy in Virginia."

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