Wednesday evening NOVEC will hold their annual meeting at Stonewal Jackson Senior High School in Manassas. Usually these events are unremarkable and poorly attended, where the NOVEC board manages to get a few disinterested customer-members to back their favored board candidate and gives a little dog-and-pony show about how great NOVEC is. That’s got to change. These meetings should be stuffed with outraged customers screaming about how they’re being overcharged and put at risk, but when it’s a challenge to get more than 10% of the electorate to show up at a primary, it’s harder still to get more than a smattering of the hogs getting butchered by this utility to show up and defend themselves.
NOVEC charges their customers an eye-popping $131.88 per thousand killowatt hours while residents of the City of Manassas pays $91.60. Meanwhile, the average cost in Virginia is $76.57. We have the highest electricity rates in Virginia, and there’s not a peep out of the ratepayers. Perhaps that’s one explanation as to why the rates are so high. We’ve taken our eye off the ball.
Some might surmise that this could be a case of costs perhaps being somehow higher for NOVEC? Well, that’s not the case. Not at all. While NOVEC has been charging such high prices, it’s also managed to rack up enough non-cash investment reserves equal to $669.93 per installed meter according to their latest annual report. For a co-op utility that is supposed to be sending customers refunds of any operating revenue excesses, this hoarding is utterly unconscionable. NOVEC could send a check to every household and business it serves for over $600, as they’re supposed to do when they have money they don’t need.
I bet you could use that kind of a refund for your overpayment. I sure could.
What NOVEC has done instead of refunding your overpayments is to start building a new power plant in Halifax County, now that they’ve pulled out of a regional compact that generated electricity and have no power generation facilities of their own. This plant in the heart of coal country, atop one of the largest energy reserves in the world, generates power in a rather unique way. It burns wood.
Now don’t worry at all about the environment, because NOVEC swears up and down that this is “carbon neutral.” Not that I understand at all how burning trees doesn’t somehow add CO2 to the atmosphere, I really do have to wonder however how cost-effective a plant like this will be. Have you ever heard of a wood-burning power plant before? I thought not. The energy industry doesn’t do this because it’s a horribly inefficient process at this scale and expensive to operate. If burning trees was a smart way to generate electricity, we’d be mowing down forests everywhere in order to do it.
NOVEC was required to apply to the State Corporation Commission in order to get permission to embark on this adventure. Those hearings revealed that NOVEC hadn’t studied any alternatives before settling on this burning trees solution, one which posed “potentially significant negative economic impacts on NOVEC’s ratepayers” because of how expensive the project was to build and operate.
So you, dear ratepayer, are effectively paying out of your pocket over $600 to set fire to trees in Halifax County, Virginia instead of getting a refund of the overcharges on your electric bills. Aren’t you utterly overjoyed by this?
Members of the NOVEC board will be at Stonewall Jackson to hear about what you think, including District 4 representative Ann Wheeler who is hoping to leverage her experience on the NOVEC board into being a Supervisor in the Gainesville District. Since she’s so eager to get into politics, I really hope there’s a lot of angry people there holding her to account for the bad decisions she’s made with our money so she’ll get a taste of what being a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors would be like if somehow she managed to get elected to it.
If she keeps calling shots like this, such an experience will be a very useful preparation for what a four year term would be like.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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