Your Views: We need energy competition

Your Views: We need energy competition
Courtesy photo

To the editor:

Most Americans take the reliability of the power grid for granted. Like the song says, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” The recent power failure that occurred on the cusp of Del Ray’s Art on the Avenue is a reminder of that.

It wasn’t that the power went out. These things happen. It was that Dominion Energy couldn’t find a way to get it back on in time to avoid adversely affecting the festivities. It was an epic fail that sends a clear signal we Virginians need to be thinking creatively about meeting our future power needs.

It would be nice were Dominion part of that conversation, but it’s unlikely they’ll be at the table. Nonetheless, end users should play a bigger role in the process of deciding how and from where they get their power.

That’s not happening. For almost a year a group calling itself Power for Tomorrow has been engaged in a sophisticated lobbying and advertising campaign designed to convince consumers that power market competition is a bad thing.

In Connecticut, its executive director, Gary Meltz, wrote that “deregulation policy has failed” and that the “General Assembly should end competitive supply once and for all.” In Massachusetts, he suggested “it is time to admit deregulation was a mistake and end the competitive electric supply industry in the Bay State.”

Hiding behind the pretense that it’s protecting consumers, PFT has been a mouthpiece for power industry interests and a protector of its billions in sunk costs. Its pro-big power bias is obvious.

When winter storms in February 2021 left millions of Texans without electricity, PFT used them as an excuse to tarnish the reputation of competitive power markets. It also launched a direct mail campaign, part of an overall campaign that cost $1,526,918 according to reports filed with state authorities.

Dominion admits it funded that campaign and lobbying, advertising and market research at a cost of nearly $19 million. That money, which came from its customers, wasn’t spent on improving the climate for consumers.

That shows what you can do with a captive audience or, in this case, a captive market like Dominion has. This is an issue for regulators and legislators with oversight authority but, to set the record straight, I know from my time working at the U.S. Department of Energy that competitive electricity markets provide cheaper energy prices, more reliable electricity and greater emission reductions compared to states where power generation is in the hands of a monopoly.

The Pacific Research Institute found that 14 U.S. jurisdictions with retail electricity competition have experienced smaller price increases compared to monopoly states. Dominion and other monopoly power providers don’t like those facts, which is why they’re spending ratepayer money to raise unfounded fears about deregulation.

Dominion and its ratepayers are on opposite sides. The utility wants state lawmakers to lessen the burden of its regulatory oversight while running off potential competitors under the pretense of protecting consumers. That’s Power for Tomorrow’s message too.

What they really want, however, is for the monopoly power arrangement that continues to fail the people of Virginia to continue. You don’t need the lights on to see that.

-Bill Greene, Alexandria