The Washington Post’s coverage on Sunday of our good client Shenandoah Growers of Harrisonburg affirms their rise from a small, family-owned herb farm to a national leader in flavor-forward produce selling in 23,000 stores, including 16 of the country’s top 20 food retailers. Take a look at this profile in the Washington Post Business section last Friday. The company’s process innovations and tight focus made them a great subject for the Post and an ideal client for our OPENgc legal expertise. Relentless innovation and a profound understanding of the market are the main reasons they have been successful — and among the many reasons we have been glad to serve as their general counsel for several years
On October 24, 2018, Dominion Energy Virginia (Dominion) announced and issued an RFP seeking 500 MW of solar and on-shore wind generation. Projects must be at least 5 MW. Interested bidders can propose to either sell Dominion the project development assets or sell energy to Dominion under a Power Purchase Agreement. Projects must be located in the Commonwealth of Virginia to be eligible.
The RFP schedule is as follows:
|Intent to Bid forms due:||This Friday, November 2, 2018|
|Proposals to sell development assets due:||December 13, 2018|
|Proposals to sell energy (PPA) due:||March 14, 2019|
|RFP concludes:||Second Quarter 2019|
Dominion has pledged to have 3,000 megawatts of new solar and/or wind energy under development or in operation by early 2022. Dominion also announced that it will issue formal RFPs on an annual basis until the 3,000 MW target is met.
We were pleased to be involved in the Sierra Club’s presentation organized for local governments in the Northern Virginia area last month, as we detailed here. Afterward, the Sierra Club said:
“This briefing was sponsored by the Great Falls Group and held at the Fairfax County Government Center to educate the participants on the budget-neutral tools of solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) and Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPC). Presentation and handout information is available on the GFG website and the video recording is here.
Debra Jacobson had a lot of positive feedback from this event. There will be an article on this event for the next GFG Cascade.”
Here are a few pictures of the audience at the Government Center and Eric Hurlocker opening the panel.
If you want to know more about this meeting, Power Purchase Agreements, Energy Savings Performance contracts, or other issues in the renewable energy field, contact any of our energy lawyers.
We are very proud to be among the great sponsors of Solar Focus 2017 here in Washington DC! We are looking forward to another great conference and supporting the continued growth of solar generation in the Mid Atlantic!
If you are here, please join us for coffee this morning.
6:40 PM CST — I love Wrigley Field. I’ve never actually seen a game here (until now) but it is such a fantastic stadium. I was here 1994 and it rained after batting practice. My three friends and I stayed in the left-field bleachers for two hours in the rain and then the game was called. Harry Caray announced he was singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for “the 4 guys in left field,” which to this day is one of the highlights of my life. But I digress ….
First pitch is in 20 minutes, and they are taking off the tarp, and it’s a beautiful night for baseball. And I just enjoyed my first Chicago Dog, thank you very much.
So we (a few dads) are comparing Wrigley versus Fenway. Some prefer Wrigley. I’m not so sure. Curious what the readers of this blog think.
I love the picture with Brian Quigley; “Juicy Fruit Gum Is Now Longer Lasting.” Words to live by!
5:00 PM CT — Pictures from my iPhone will not do this justice:
More from the game in a bit….
It’s a beautiful day in Chicago! We landed around 11 AM, checked into the hotel and made it over to Gino’s for deep dish pizza. Herding 23 kids is heady stuff but not difficult, so far. The red shirts are a great idea.
Now we’re in the bus to the Hancock Building, then to Navy Pier. I don’t know Chicago but I’m told the view from the Hancock Tower is to die for. I’ll take some pics there and post them.
Here are some pictures from this morning. Not too exciting but the kids are getttig along great and laughing and, of course, playing on their phones.
Cubbies tonught. Looking forward to it!
Breaking news February 2, 2017! The Maryland Senate, minutes ago, voted to override the Governor’s veto of SB 921 and HB 1106, the Clean Energy Jobs Act. The bill page has likely not been updated yet, but you can see the vote count here (32-13). The Clean Energy Jobs Act becomes effective 30 days after the override.
(first published in LinkedIn.com)
Maryland retail energy suppliers should be aware of a recent Maryland Public Service Commission decision on consumer protection and regulatory compliance issues in the Blue Pilot case. In 2014, the Polar Vortex caused energy prices and customers’ usage to spike dramatically. These spikes led to increases in variable prices (and monthly bills) for customers on monthly variable price energy contracts. When prices went up, there was an increase in customer complaints filed with the Commission. In response, the Commission initiated show cause proceedings against several retail electricity and natural gas suppliers, including Blue Pilot. In early December 2016, the Commission entered its Final Order and subsequent clarifying Order in the Blue Pilot case.
The Commission’s December 1, 2016, Final Order affirmed a Public Utility Law Judge’s findings in a prior Proposed Order. This is an important case for retail energy suppliers using telemarketing to enroll Maryland retail customers. In particular, the analysis in this case offers new detail about compliance with the Maryland Telephone Solicitations Act (“MTSA”) and the Commission’s consumer protection regulations regarding telemarketing. The case also addressed required disclosures for variable price energy supply products and provides guidance on how to avoid unfair or misleading messaging when marketing variable price products.
Maryland Telephone Solicitations Act
The MTSA generally requires telemarketers to obtain a “wet signature” from consumers to validate a telephone contract. This requirement can be burdensome on both suppliers and customers trying to enroll over the phone because it requires a second step: after the call, the supplier must send a copy of the contract to the customer, which the customer must sign (in hard copy or electronically) and return to the supplier. The MTSA provides a few limited exceptions to the wet signature requirement. However, as we learned from Blue Pilot’s experience, suppliers must to prove that their telephone contracts are exempt from the MTSA, and there are critical steps that must be carefully followed and documented when relying on an exemption. Even if suppliers can successfully prove that the sale is exempt from the MTSA, they must follow the Commission’s regulations governing MTSA-exempt telemarketing sales and ensure that their agents are properly trained to comply.
Retail suppliers stand to learn from Blue Pilot’s telemarketing mistakes by understanding the Commission’s interpretation of these requirements in the Blue Pilot orders. Any supplier actively telemarketing in Maryland or looking to utilize this marketing channel in the future should be sure to understand the MTSA and its interplay with the Commission’s requirements for telemarketing sales, paying careful attention to the Blue Pilot decision.
In addition to the MTSA issue, Blue Pilot was penalized $80,000 for marketing its variable price energy products to consumers with promises of savings as compared to local utility prices, when customers were actually charged “substantially more” than the utility’s price. One of the problems with Blue Pilot’s “variable” price structure was that when market prices went up from one month to the next, Blue Pilot would increase the variable price. However, when market prices went down, Blue Pilot generally would not adjust its variable price down unless the customer contacted Blue Pilot to request a “better rate.” The PULJ determined that this practice was an unfair or misleading trade practice violating the Commission’s regulations.
No Contract Required?
One last lesson from Blue Pilot is that retail suppliers cannot advertise that there is “no contract” for their retail energy supply products. The Proposed Order in this case reiterates the Commission’s previous findings that when a retail energy suppliers enrolls a Maryland customer, a contract is required. Even if there is no early termination fee and no long term obligation, there is a still a contract under the Maryland rules. While advertisements of “no contract” plans for other products and services may be common today, these types of advertisements for retail energy supply do not fly with the Maryland Commission.
GreeneHurlocker’s attorneys welcome any questions about the Commission’s findings in the Blue Pilot case. The lawyers of GreeneHurlocker practice regularly before public service commissions in Maryland and other mid-Atlantic jurisdictions and are experienced with consumer protection and regulatory compliance issues pertaining to competitive retail energy suppliers. Notably, some of the analysis from the Blue Pilot case discussed above would be different if the same case arose today because of recent changes to the Commission’s consumer protection rules, though the general principles and conclusions remain valid.
If you found the information in this post helpful, you should also check out our recent postings on retail energy compliance issues: (1) For Retail Energy Suppliers – Compliance Matters and For Retail Energy Suppliers – Compliance Matters Part 2. If you have questions about the Maryland Public Utility Commission or utility regulation in the mid-Atlantic, contact any of our utility regulation lawyers.
Charlottesville Tomorrow has a nice piece on Riverbend Development’s plans to install a sizable solar panel array on one of its properties in the town. This follows on an installation earlier this year by the company on Starr Hill Brewery, nearby in Crozet, Virginia.
As we noted here, when we attended a ceremony in Charlottesville for the opening of a solar energy project within the Albemarle Public Schools, this area of the state is seeing a big interest in solar. Governor McAuliffe was on hand then and sent a very positive message to the whole Commonwealth that solar projects and the jobs they bring are good for Virginia.
If you want to know more about Power Purchase Agreements like those used in Albemarle County or about other opportunities for renewable and solar energy projects in Virginia, contact any of our Virginia energy lawyers.