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Va. lawmakers unveil bill to ensure competition for renewable suppliers

Two Virginia lawmakers unveiled legislation that seeks to ensure competitive suppliers can continue to provide retail customers with a 100% renewable purchase option.

Virginia Sen. Jeremy McPike and Del. Michael Mullin unveiled the Clean Energy Choice Act on Jan. 7.

"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," McPike said in a news release issued by competitive service provider Direct Energy. "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 Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order in September 2019 calling for 30% of the state's electricity to be generated from renewable resources by 2030 and 100% of Virginia's electricity to be produced by carbon-free resources by 2050.

Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary Dominion Energy Virginia has previously challenged the ability of Direct Energy unit Direct Energy Business LLC and Calpine Corp. unit Calpine Energy Solutions LLC to deliver 100% renewable electricity. The Virginia State Corporation Commission ruled in August 2019 that Dominion Energy Virginia, known legally as Virginia Electric and Power Co., must resume granting customers' requests for renewable energy from both retail suppliers.

Dominion Energy Virginia also has a pending application before state regulators that would allow the utility to establish a 100% renewable energy product, "which could shut down sales by competitive suppliers to new customers," Direct Energy said in the news release.

Under Virginia law, individual customers can purchase power from competitive service providers since Dominion Energy Virginia does not yet offer an approved renewable energy tariff.

The Clean Energy Choice Act is expected to allow competitive suppliers and Dominion to offer renewable energy options to all customers while empowering the SCC to "review and remove licenses of unscrupulous market participants" as it provides tools to help customers choose their service provider.

"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," Mullin said.