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Screwed By NOVEC, A Chance To Fire Back

By Greg L | 20 September 2011 | Prince William County | 12 Comments

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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  1. Anonymous said on 20 Sep 2011 at 8:30 pm:
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    I like how they constsntly lavish the Chamber with $10,000 sponsorships for everything under the sun with the money we pay them. Having NOVEC run a huge public relations campaign when we don’t have any choice over our electricity provider is like having the US Postal Service sponsor the Olympics.

    Gee, did I just compare them to the USPS? Funny how natural that was.

  2. Anonymous said on 20 Sep 2011 at 8:48 pm:
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    I think the masses have no idea that they are being overcharged. This is where those in the know need to get the message out in time for people to show up at one of these meetings.

  3. Loudoun Insider said on 21 Sep 2011 at 6:30 am:
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    WTF??? Wood burning power plant??? Amazingly ridiculous.

  4. Anonymous said on 21 Sep 2011 at 2:07 pm:
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    Trees eat Co2. Burning adds Co2.

    Has anyone called AttackWatch?

  5. Citizen12 said on 21 Sep 2011 at 7:18 pm:
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    While they say Biomass wood fuel power can be cheaper and cleaner than coal, and this project qualifies for recovery and reinvestment dollars, I have no doubt that electric rates will continue to skyrocket under co-op and EPA directives without the assistance of cap and trade.

    Is this new plant in the pipeline to replace ones like the high-risk- built- on- a- fault line Lake Anna plant?

    I guess water in Prince William County is a lot like electricity.

    “In 2010, the Virginia-American Water Company charged its customers in Prince William County 160% higher rates than Fairfax Water charged its customers in southern Fairfax County - though the two utilities were selling exactly the same water.”




  6. Anonymous said on 21 Sep 2011 at 9:40 pm:
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  7. Anonymous said on 22 Sep 2011 at 4:37 pm:
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    At least they could have done was go to pellets instead of logs.

  8. Anonymous said on 22 Sep 2011 at 4:41 pm:
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    Citizen12 said on 21 Sep 2011 at 7:18 pm

    “In 2010, the Virginia-American Water Company charged its customers in Prince William County 160% higher rates than Fairfax Water charged its customers in southern Fairfax County - though the two utilities were selling exactly the same water.”

    Isn’t that the “American way?” As long as you have people willing to pay the higher price why charge less?

  9. Citizen12 said on 22 Sep 2011 at 7:52 pm:
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    Anonymous said on 22 Sep 2011 at 4:41 pm:


    Exactly right.

    Every year I call and ask why they charge me every month what I would pay every quarter in Fairfax.

    Their reply: Because we can.

  10. Anonymous said on 24 Sep 2011 at 10:18 pm:
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    maybe we can get pepco to take it over and then we will have cheaper rates and reliable service!!!

    Ha ha ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah !!!!!

  11. Harry said on 6 Oct 2011 at 8:06 pm:
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    If you think what they do to residential customers is bad, try business customers. There is an ice cream store in woodbridge, a franchise that uses NOVEC, the same owner has a store in Arlington, identical footprint, electricity usage within 3%, the NOVEC stores average monthly bill is 86% higher than the Dominion bill. The sad thing about this is directly across the street from the NOVEC store is a competitor whose supplier is Dominion, guess who is being driven out of business.

    All of these “cooperatives” buy thier electricity from the “Old Dominion Electric Cooperative” which is a buying service for all of the cooperatives in the state, guess who they buy the elctricity from at inflated rates and under a 30 year contract, yep it’s Dominion. There is no need for VA to have a single electric cooperative, they are poorly run and serve the boards not the rate payers.

  12. Prince William said on 12 Oct 2011 at 11:52 am:
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    I am truly trying to figure out how “they [the electric co-ops] serve the boards not the rate payers.” I don’t necessarily dispute this, I just don’t understand. As a non-profit co-op, how on earth do board members gain through the co-op’s money hoarding and hefty price structures? Do they receive bonuses just like for-profit boards?? I’m really mystified at how/why the board allows this treatment of the customers/rate-payers/co-op members to continue.

    (For the record, we run a small business. Our business rates are more than double what our personal rates are for our home. I called and asked, and the customer service rep–politely and kindly, mind you–stated that she does not have an answer other than “because they can”… much like what another commenter stated about the water utilitity. This is ludicrous. Add to this the fact that our real estate taxes are also higher than surrounding counties, and it really is astounding how much Prince William County is getting punched in the mouth from both the government and the supposedly-regulated utilities. This just goes to show that we need some heavy-hitter supervisors who can bring in big-business to subsidize our tax base–which is exactly why Fairfax county is able to provide more services for less personal taxes.)

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