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Industry News

Retail Electricity Deregulated in Virginia

LCG, Jan. 2, 2002--Competition came yesterday to the Virginia retail electricity market, but no one paid much attention because they were watching college football bowl games on television.

Virginia lawmakers and regulators hope electricity customers of all classes take advantage of the new opportunity to compare the offerings and prices of several competing suppliers and choose their sources of electric power on the basis of needed services and budget.

"Another word for that is capitalism," State Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., the Republican who chairs the Legislative Transition Task Force, which is overseeing the state's move to deregulation, told the Hampton Roads Daily Press.

The way Virginia is doing it, only a few customers will get to choose right from the start. Virginia Electric & Power Co., a subsidiary of Dominion Resources Inc., will phase in choice throughout its territory during the next year, starting with residents in Northern Virginia and one-third of all its business customers. The company's residential customers in some areas, such as Hampton Roads, cannot shop for another supplier until January 2003.

How much competition there will be is an unanswered question. The Virginia State Corporation Commission has licensed 11 electricity companies that can compete for Virginia customers, but so far, only one has come forward to sell service, and that company actually charges more for its environmentally friendly power.

There is some likelihood that residential electricity prices could rise under deregulation. "The problem in Virginia is we've done such a good job with the old system that our prices are lower than the national average to begin with," said Irene Leech, president of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council and the Consumer Federation of America.

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