Large electric users continue push for more clean energy options beyond utilities

A letter signed by a dozen large electric users — from hospital systems and colleges to major companies — calls for more clean energy options in Virginia, where attempts to loosen policies governing competition have been mightily opposed by the state’s dominant electric utilities.

“A key ingredient for increasing renewable energy deployment in the commonwealth is to increase access and choice for large energy users such as businesses, hospitals and universities to procure cost-competitive renewable energy,” says the letter, which was sent last to week to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy as a comment on Virginia’s 2018 Energy Plan, intended to provide a vision for energy policy over the next 10 years.

The letter, which also calls for implementing mandatory renewable energy portfolio standards, more energy efficiency programs and other policy goals, was signed by Adobe Systems Incorporated, Bon Secours Richmond Health System, Emory & Henry College, JLL, Mars Incorporated, Nestlé USA, Salesforce.com, Inc., Sweet Briar College, Unilever, Virginia Wesleyan University, Washington and Lee University and Worthen Industries.

Large businesses have pushed for both utility and non-utility programs for meeting their renewable energy goals and increasingly fighting to aggregate load across their operations in utility service territories, as Walmart is battling to do now before the State Corporation Commission.

“Virginia should encourage utilities to offer flexible, cost-competitive renewable energy options such as green tariff programs, but should also allow customers to access non-utility power purchase agreements in order to keep Virginia’s renewable energy market competitive and satisfy different customer preferences,” the letter says. “Large energy users in Virginia should also be able to aggregate their load across the commonwealth and procure less than 100 percent renewable energy if they so wish.”

Earlier this year, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a decision by the SCC that held that large electricity users seeking all-renewable power can shop for it without adhering to a requirement that they give five years’ notice if they want to return to utility service.

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Robert Zullo
Robert has been winning and losing awards as a reporter and editor for 13 years at weekly and daily newspapers, beginning at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., where he was a staff writer and managing editor. He spent five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He grew up in Miami, Fla., and central New Jersey. A former waiter, armored car guard and appliance deliveryman, he is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact him at [email protected]