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VA SCC Proposes Permanent Retail Access Rules

VA SCC Proposes Permanent Retail Access Rules

As it moves closer to statewide deregulation, the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) is finalizing permanent rules that will govern retail access to competitive energy services for both the electric and natural gas industries. The SCC is calling for public comment on the proposed rules, which take effect Jan. 1, 2002.

The rules, which are expected to be finalized by July 1 following the comment period, will offer "certain protections to consumers while promoting a competitive environment in Virginia to attract energy supply markets," wrote the commission. A work group with representatives of the restructuring marketplace assisted SCC staff in developing the rules, which now include codes of conduct, licensure, customer information, enrollment and switching, marketing, billing and payment, and dispute resolution.

Virginia has been operating under interim rules since May 2000 and has held several pilot programs in select areas. The pilot projects also have served as a laboratory for energy choice and competition, with programs now in place by sponsors Dominion Virginia Power, AEP-Virginia and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. Their programs continue through Dec. 31, and based on the information gained in the pilot programs, the interim rules will be modified and expanded before statewide retail access begins.

Since July 1, 2000, Virginia law has allowed natural gas retail choice to expand in all areas of the state. Retail choice for electricity supply will roll out on Jan. 1, 2002, and all Virginians will have access to shop for electric power by Jan. 1, 2004.

Earlier this month, SCC granted Washington Gas Light the right to provide choice to all of its 377,000 Virginia customers beginning Jan. 1, 2002. WGL said that as of March 1, almost 37,000 of its customers were participating in its retail choice program.

SCC's approval allows WGL to use a "gas supply realignment adjustment" to recover short-term transition costs, or capacity and pipeline storage costs incurred by former customers who switched to a new supplier. SCC gave WGL the right to bill all of its customers for the adjustment.

To review a draft of the permanent statewide rules that will govern retail access, or to read an SCC staff report discussing the proposed rules, visit the web site at www.state.va.us/scc and check the category under Utility Industry Restructuring.

Written comments or requests for a hearing on the proposed permanent rules have to be submitted by April 6. Correspondence should be sent to the Clerk of the Commission, Document Control Center, P.O. Box 2118, Richmond, VA 23218. Refer to case number PUE010013.

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