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Court rules large customers can shop for renewable energy without penalty

The Supreme Court of Virginia upheld a ruling by state regulators that electricity customers can purchase 100% renewable energy from a competitive supplier, and said that large customers can do so without being subject to a five-year minimum stay provision.

In a March 29 order, the court affirmed the State Corporation Commission's March 2017 ruling that under state law customers, regardless of class, can purchase electricity generated by 100% renewable energy from a competitive service provider "if the incumbent utility does not offer a tariff for 100% renewable energy." The commission also found that large customers with a demand of 5 MW or more do not have to give five years' notice to their electric utility prior to returning to service.

Direct Energy Services LLC filed a petition for declaratory judgment with the SCC in August 2016 as part of its plan to sell 100% renewable energy to customers in Dominion Energy Virginia's service territory. The company sought permission to sell the electricity generated by wind and solar facilities to the Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary's customers even if Dominion pursues its own 100% renewable energy tariff. (SCC docket PUE-2016-00094)

Dominion Energy Virginia, known legally as Virginia Electric and Power Co., appealed the SCC's ruling to the state Supreme Court, mainly on the grounds that large customers that shop for electricity are subject to the five-year notice requirement.

Virginia halted the transition to competition in its retail electricity market in 2007, but retained the rights of large industrial users to seek competitive proposals. The law includes a provision allowing customers seeking a 100% renewable product to take a competitive offer if the product is not offered by the incumbent utility.

The SCC has not ruled on a 100% renewable energy tariff proposed by Dominion and in September 2017 rejected a petition filed by American Electric Power Co. Inc. subsidiary Appalachian Power Co. Appalachian Power has a new request pending before the commission.