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I am tempted to "pile on" with immediate criticism of Mr. Smith. There may be another side to his story, but right now his essay does not make a good first impression on me.

When he says Dominion "was widely criticized for its handling of repairs and power restoration" he may be less-than-fully aware that griping and complaining about the local utility is ALWAYS there. I worked 15 years for our local electric utility and there was no end to the bad press from various sources. But over time it became apparent that this was like a little dog barking, it just was of no importance. Perhaps cynically I learned to think that the only customer of real importance in the big picture, was the state Public Utility Commission. So I think Mr. Smith may have misjudged the criticism of Dominion -- the utility could be a very good one and still be unloved, the constant target of widespread criticism.

In another place Mr. Smith said:
"Dominion may be hard-pressed to meet these targets, however, if its customers begin to leave the company for alternative energy suppliers under Virginia's new "Energy Choice" program. Energy Choice allows Dominion customers to switch to lower-cost suppliers, while still having Dominion serve as their energy distributor."

He seems to have no opinion as to the AMOUNT of customers who will choose an alternative retail electric supplier. But other utilities have gone throuugh this experience in other states, and the evidence is clear. The incumbent utility is the "safe" choice and people really will not vote with their wallets, not nearly as much as you might expect. In Texas, California and other states a surprisingly small minority of customers bother to change electric suppliers. I switched but can tell you more than 95% will not.

Dominion will probably lose only a handful of customers, and may very well gain an equal number of new customers from outside its traditional service area. Do not forget -- the other side of competition is being able to GAIN new customers, not just lose old ones. Actual experience in other states tells us this is pretty much a non-issue.

Mr. Smith also said:
"Friday's results must have felt like added injury to the insults the company suffered in Isabel's aftermath".

This is just plain silly. Any grownup should know that a utility does not have feelings, they cannot afford to. The company is necessarily highly professional and in my best opinion a utility operates with no emotions whatsoever. Their every action is subject to rational analysis and with the pressure to operate well and maximize profits, I think you could also say they lack even free will, much less emotionality. That's opinion of course, but I believe this view is much more accurate than Mr. Smith's prose.

Mr. Smith may be a wordsmith capable of pounding out a few hundred words on deadline, but I believe his analysis of Dominion is a big disappointment.

Best of luck -- C44
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