If Virginia Were Serious, It Would Do What New York’s Doing Right...

If Virginia Were Serious, It Would Do What New York’s Doing Right Now — Totally Remake Its Energy System


by Lowell

Another day, another superb article by David Roberts of Vox, this one explaining “New York’s revolutionary plan to remake its power utilities.” As you read the following excerpt (bolding added by me for emphasis), imagine if you could replace “New York” with “Virginia” and “Governor Andrew Cuomo” with “Governor Terry McAuliffe?” Yeah, it would be really cool…

Under the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York is undertaking an astonishingly comprehensive and ambitious effort to remake its energy systems and reduce its carbon emissions. One part of that broader effort is a program known as Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), which charges the state’s public service commission (PSC) with developing a new vision for utilities and implementing it in the next few years. The goal is to realign the incentives facing utilities so that they can profit from, and benefit from accelerating, the spread of new clean, distributed energy technologies.


Kauffman and Zibelman came in with a clear understanding of the problems facing utilities. Their solution, in a nutshell, is to complete the work of restructuring. They want to create markets where third parties can compete to provide energy products and services on the retail side, things like energy storage, demand response, and distributed generation. They want the prices of those products and services to be set by the market, based on the real-time needs of the grid rather than by regulatory fiat.

And they want utilities — alongside their continuing core functions of resource planning, maintaining the grid, and providing reliable service — to help establish these markets and get them running smoothly.


To a remarkable extent, the process thus far has been free of the usual poisonous politics that surround utilities in other states. Cuomo’s entire energy plan falls under his executive powers, so there’s been no fractious fight with the legislature. Experienced wonks are running the relevant agencies. Utilities have seen which way the wind is blowing and are on board. A broad array of stakeholders has been involved from the very beginning… 


If it works, the effects could be seismic. As customers become more directly involved in energy, they will also become constituents for further reform. As New York utilities profit from grid-edge innovation, utilities in other states will see that the much-feared “death spiral” is not inevitable and that a prosperous future is possible. And as new markets, services, and jobs are created, other state lawmakers will see that reducing carbon emissions (and meeting EPA standards) can be an economic stimulus.

Again, just imagine that this type of cutting-edge policy innovation were happening in Virginia? Imagine a Virginia in which a huge, powerful, corrupt monopoly (I’m lookin’ at you, Dominion!) couldn’t just buy the regulators, buy the policymakers, and rule over the state like a feudal lord over his serfs? Even better, if less likely: imagine a Virginia where the governor could undertake the kind of reforms Andrew Cuomo’s undertaking in New York, and not worry so much (if at all) about Dominion’s hurt feelings  — or their threats to withhold $$$$ from said governor’s political party, candidates, etc. Finally, imagine a Virginia in which energy market innovation thrived; where homeowners and businesses were free to take advantage of the myriad of energy technologies coming on the market, saving (or even MAKING) money in the process; where Virginia ended up being far more attractive compared to other states when it comes to attracting and growing businesses; and where as a huge added bonus, we slashed health-and-environment-harming pollutants of all kinds?

Yeah, it was a nice dream while it lasted. Now, back to the reality of a Virginia wholly owned and operated by big corporations and theoretically state-regulated monopolies like Dominion Power. That is, unless we’ve got an Andrew Cuomo in this state, willing and able to shake things up for the benefit of the state as a whole?  Any takers?