Dominion Overestimates Electricity Demand on Peninsula, Say Transmission Line Foes

power_lineA quick hit here for lack of time... A new study by Princeton Energy Resources International contends that Dominion Virginia Power has overestimated future energy demand on the Virginia Peninsula in its justification of the Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line project.

Annual demand projections of 1.9% yearly were almost twice as high as actual growth from 2002 to 2011, and peak demand has dropped in each of the past four years, according to the report, which was sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The economy has grown slower than forecast, large military installations in the region have reduced energy demand by 10 percent over the past four years, and the military bases either will continue cutting or will switch to renewable energy.

“The foundation of Dominion’s proposal is built on flawed information,” said Joy Oakes, senior director in the mid-Atlantic region for the NPCA. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the story here.

Conservationists oppose the proposed the 500 kV transmission line on the grounds that it would cross a historic stretch of the James River near Jamestown, marring near-pristine views. They say a smaller, less intrusive line would supply enough electricity, if coupled with renewable-energy or energy-conservation measures on the Peninsula.

Dominion, which says the failure to build the transmission line in a timely manner could result in frequent blackouts, responded that electricity demand projections are an academic exercise. “The existing load of the Peninsula already exceeds the capability of the transmission system without Yorktown Units 1 and 2,” said spokeswoman Daisy Pridgen. “The Skiffes Creek line is vital in order to continue providing the flow of electricity needed to serve the Peninsula area once those units

“The Virginia State Corporation Commission) and its independent expert consultants verified the power flow studies and modeling algorithms used to develop them,” Pridgen said.

— JAB

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16 responses to “Dominion Overestimates Electricity Demand on Peninsula, Say Transmission Line Foes

  1. As far as I know, we still lack clear justification for the rate freeze. Gov McAuliffe only said he signed the bill last year because Dominion management would have been devastated to not get the favorable treatment. There was some attempt by Dominion to blame the need on EPA’s Clean Power Plan, but that claim was not backed-up with any clear logic about why the CPP necessitated such a rate freeze. The common man was left confused and bewildered about the need for the legislative measure.

  2. TBill you are correct. There was no need for last year’s legislation. The costs of the Clean Power Plan will be recouped through riders not base rates, and they will probably mostly come after the time period specified. Dominion is now in the habit of asking for something every year. They steadily hammered the SCC for years and have now realized that it’s a lot easier to keep money when the General Assembly makes decisions based on sound bites and trust in what Dominion says than to do it through rate cases, so they have been getting the General Assembly to tell the SCC what it’s decision is in advance. And the SCC judges and staff have been compelled to never tell the General Assembly what it thinks/knows to be true, even if asked. Balance among Virginia’s ruling bodies is no longer present. It’s time for the decisions to be made – again – outside the political environment and based on real, hard, data.

  3. to be honest, I no more trust the SCC to deliver objective analysis than would a hired gun for those on the other side especially since the SCC’s disreputable behavior with the CPP proposal.

    I’m staunchly opposed to conspiracy theories about govt that is in vogue these days but at the same time – anyone who is expecting trustworthy analysis from the SCC or the lobby-laden GA is just plain gullible – but that also seems to be par for the course these days.

    the proposal to cross the James as the downstream alternative to closing Yorktown was never a legitimate apples to apples proposition in the first place.

    the more legitimate approach would have been to ask:

    1. – what kind of plants would replace the Yorktown plants
    2. – where would those plants be located geographically – and why?
    3. – how would we fuel those plants ?

    so the most obvious alternative of putting replacement plants on Hampton and fueling them with gas was never traded off against building replacement plants south of the James – fueling them – and then moving that power to Hampton.

    is it cheaper to build power lines across the James than it is to string powerlines from a new gas plant east of Richmond down I-64 to Hampton?

    or for that matter to expand the current existing natural gas line to Hampton already on an existing right of way rather than build powerlines over the James?

    When did the SCC ask Dominion to include these options in the analysis?

    I strongly suspect expanding the existing gas line to Hampton and building a new gas plant in Hampton would be more cost effective and more reliable than trying to move power from plants south of the James over high power lines to Hampton.

    the problem here is that we did not get an honest study that truly did consider other viable alternatives – and everyone that should have insisted that those other alternatives be included in the analysis were standing off to the side picking their collective noses.

  4. VaC: It’s time for the decisions to be made – again – outside the political environment and based on real, hard, data.”

    By whom?

  5. I found it rather telling that the Times-Dispatch front page had the story on this demand projection, paid for by people with an ax to grind, side by side with a story about how the electric grid is vulnerable to cyber attacks. A major justification for this proposed line (and the main argument against it) is that it’s redundant, it is needed for backup to connect the Peninsula to Surry if there is a challenge to reliability. On perfect days it won’t be needed, but there is reason to expect fewer and fewer perfect operating days. Without even bringing up the problem of a deliberate attack that causes an outage.

    Larry, as a ratepayer, I am quite confident that the capital cost of building a line is way lower than the capital cost of building a totally new plant. I far prefer the lower cost option. There are no valid arguments against it – just people who don’t want their view impaired.

    • Steve – I think what is impaired is ignoring the fact that we could put a new gas plant in Hampton to replace the Yorktown plants and then could fuel it from existing VNG gas lines on existing right of ways.

      why do we presume that the replacement power has to be sourced from south of the James instead of in Hampton via existing fuel sources?

      where did we compare the cost of expanding the gas line on existing right of way – to the James power line crossing?

      I suspect that because the existing gas line is VNG that that’s the reason why Dominion wants something else just as they do with the Atlantic Coast pipeline – when existing pipelines already do exist for much of the route.

      I think we’re confusing what are the needs of the ratepayers in Virginia for the needs of the investors of DVP.

      And I suspect as this plays out that if the opponents have deep enough pockets that this is going to come out as more as what suits DVP than the pubic.

  6. FYI my initial comments above pertain to a different article…
    as far as the James River power line Project, all I can say is that I’ve been there so I can see visually the coal plant off in the distance and the river it sits on. I do not immediately see much merit in the Princeton study. Dominion needs to close down the coal plant, and find a way to replace the power to that area.

  7. The Princeton (PERI) economic study is, first, not associated in any way that I can discern with Princeton University. Second, the planning to replace the power that will be lost on the peninsula when all the power plants currently there cease generating started at least 7 or 8 years ago; the PERI study was commenced in October. Third, all the alternatives posited by Larry above were, in fact, studied at great length and subject to open court proceedings at the Commission. Where was the National Park service and this study back then? Sandbagging so as not to be subject to discovery and rebuttal in open court, I’ll bet.

    TBill, all those plants will be closing either next April or the one after that. All the Chesapeake units that were active on the peninsula have already retired. As Steve Haner notes, it IS in fact quite less expensive to build transmission than to site, build, fuel and operate a new generation plant.

  8. “Annual demand projections of 1.9% yearly were almost twice as high as actual growth from 2002 to 2011, and peak demand has dropped in each of the past four years.”

    I don’t know of any utility that projected general load growth for the years 2007-2011 accurately. That’s precisely when the recession hit! As for load growth in a specific, fairly small geographic area, such as the lower Peninsula, local factors can outweigh general trends. This is Hampton and Newport News and Williamsburg/York County we’re talking about, three fast-growing components of the greater Hampton Roads region. Newport News in particular responds to the industrial and economic activity at the Shipyard; Williamsburg is more a booming retirement and cultural area with some military activity thrown in. I daresay projections of Peninsula electric load growth in 2002 probably did look rosier for the next ten years than they have actually played out, given the cutbacks at the Shipyard and military bases, but even the original forecast of 1.9% growth/year is still relatively low.

    Who would rely on another forecast derived from trends during the period in which we entered a deep national recession and experienced historically lower shipyard activity, to project Peninsula electric demands during the coming years of expected slow but steady economic recovery? I’m no expert, but common sense says to be better prepared than that! I don’t know who NCPA or PERI are, but it sounds like yet another attempt to throw mud indiscriminately at the situation and see if any sticks long enough to delay things.

    The real problem here is not the load forecasts but the unsightly transmission line crossing over the River. I still think Dominion should have bought peace by proposing an underwater power line, or offering to build it that way as a higher-cost alternative.

    • Why not calculate the surcharges necessary for an underwater transmission line (assuming this would not cause more substantial environmental and safety problems). If people are willing to accept the higher rates, then scratch the lines over the river. If the public won’t buy this, then the towers may well be needed. Anyone who has worked in any utility business can appreciate the value of redundancy, especially at a macro level.

      I was watching a show about environmentalists who want many dams removed. One group in Maine bought three older dams from the power company and removed them. So long as their removal doesn’t jeopardize electricity supply or reliability, this seems like the best route. They put their money where their mouth was.

  9. I suspect the load forecasts also – on both sides – and there’s enough slop in them that planning to the low side is risky …

    why is DVP presuming – and others here – agreeing that the issue is the need for a powerline crossing because the replacement power plant will be on the south side of the James and there was no way to have it in Hampton – and fueled by existing VNG gas pipelines?

    if those lines are not big enough – then the alternative analysis should compare the cost of expanding the pipeline capacity versus new powerlines – right?

    we’re presuming that the replacement plants – must be on the South side of the James – it’s impossible to have them in Hampton – why?

    the decision to move replacements plants away from Hampton and across the James – introduced the power line issue.

    why is this not a new powerline across the James versus upgraded gas pipeline proposition?

    My suspects are that DMV does not want other company pipelines feeding their gas plants… as that seems to be their premise behind their Atlantic Coast pipeline also.

    • There is inadequate gas supply to construct–assuming a site could be found–a natural gas plant on the Peninsula. This alternative was exhaustively studied during the regulatory proceedings. Re-powering the existing Yorktown and/or Chesapeake units on gas was thoroughly studied, as well. The gas supply simply is not there.

      Anyone following the attempted development of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will recognize the time needed to permit and construct a new facility–it can’t be done in time to meet the environmental requirements driving the closing of those plants.

  10. re: the gas supply is not there – ..

    any more or less than the powerlines over the James are “not there”?

    how can the lack of the gas supply be used to dismiss that as an alternative when the lack of power lines over the James are viewed as something that can be built?

    why can’t the lack of gas also be fixed?

    if the gas situation was “extensively” studied – was it studied as an alternative to the powerlines?

    I don”t know the answer – I’m asking.

    was all of that done prior to the proposal for the powerlines and if so why was it studied prior and dismissed rather than being studied as a competitive alternative to the power lines proposal?

    was VNG approached and asked for an estimate of how much it would cost to expand supply? how much was the estimate?

    thanks.

  11. The power line that DVP wants to build will run about 7 miles connecting to a substation outside a nuclear power plant. Electrons will freely flow over it into the substation on the peninsula where the power will be stepped down and distributed.
    If the line is OK’d by the Corps of Engineers, it will take less than 2 years to build.

    By contrast, VNG does not have any gas of its own that it extracts from anywhere in Virginia. The natural gas comes from hundreds of miles away either from the Gulf of Mexico or the Marcellus shale areas of western Pennsylvania through interstate natural gas pipelines delivering gas to VNG’s “city gates.” But, and Larry this is the important point, there is NOT SUFFICIENT SPARE capacity on the lines that deliver tbis gas to VNG to run a power plant on the peninsula. ( A gas-fired power plant uses as much gas as a small city.) That’s why Dominion Resources and others are trying to build new pipeline capacity through Virginia and being fought every foot of the way. Getting another pipeline into Hampton Roads will not happen by 2017.

    Yes, these ideas were studied as alternatives to building a line that every preservationist in the Western Hemisphere would oppose.

  12. @rowinguy

    should it matter who owns the gas or how it is transported?

    I must not be clear here. I’m suggesting there is an existing pipeline right of way from the Richmond area to Hampton and I’m asking if that line could be expanded to serve a future gas plant in Hampton/Yorktown?

    has the cost of expanding that line been considered as an alternative?

    finally – you say power from a nuke south of the James

    I presume that that Nuke has not been sitting idle until now.

    so you’re basically re-routing that power.

    what is replacing it to serve the areas that that nuke is currently serving?

    are they not building a new gas plant south of the James to serve the areas the Nuke is currently serving?

    In other words -you’re not “replacing” the Yorktown plants with a powerline … that powerline has to be hooked to a replacement source for Yorktown.

    you still have to build a replacement plant to serve Hampton – and they’ve essentially chosen to build that plant south of the James – and then swap it with the Nuke to serve Hampton. Right?

    can you point me to the place in the the alternatives study that considered the expanded gas pipeline down the Peninsula?

    that’s what I’m asking. Not that at some time in the past it was looked at – but was it compared as an alternative in the same study and then rejected ?

    VDOT has often,in the past, been accused of dismissing alternatives from comparisons by saying “we looked at that before and decided it was no good” – as justification for not putting it in the same alternative study. What they actually put in their “alternative” study was their preferred option along with some others that were truly and obviously not viable… while not putting in the study – the ones that were.

    is that what happened here?

  13. looking through the alternatives analysis is a bit of a joke and typical of the way the VDOT has done them and I have become convinced that the study was not very honest and objective – instead preordained in it’s conclusion – DVP wants that crossing.

    The least environmentally damaging alternative was not identified at all. The Chickahominy path is dismissed out of hand because it crosses land that is not acceptable and the excuse is given that it would take too long to develop alternative ROW – as if the length of time it will take to get the ROW for the James Crossing is not an issue.

    that’s just plain dishonest.

    and certainly an expanded gas pipeline down the Peninsula on existing ROW would qualify as a least environmentally damaging alternative – that should have been included also for time and money.

    I think the way that DVP has gone about this is not a legitimate process that genuinely considered other alternatives – they basically rule out each one mentioned before it actually gets to a real comparison on criteria like cost, environmental consequences, time-frame.

    and the basic process of pretending there is no other viable source of generation other than Surry – as if Surry is not already serving other areas … is disingenuous because replacement generation has to be built – and DVP chose to do that in front of and outside of an alternatives analysis.

    It appears they sited a gas plant – intended it to replace the Surry output – all along. what other reason would they build a plant in that area?

    basically what was done was the potential viable alternatives were dismissed before the alternatives analysis leaving only the ones that DVP preferred and ones they knew would be too expensive.

    what this will boil down to is how much money the opponents have to force DVP to go back and do a legitimate study.

    and the delay – you can blame on DVP because they purposely chose to not do a legitimate alternatives analysis. You have to identify the least environmentally damaging alternative -you cannot say there were none. I would expect the Army Corp to make that point.

    I’m not opposed to DVP doing what they think they need to do to meet their mission and I have no great sympathy for folks who are defending their waterfront views with what boils down to NIMBY claims of historic views.

    At the same time – I think it is incumbent on DVP to perform a legitimate alternatives analysis that will clearly demonstrate it was objective and honest – and looking at it – it’s not.

    That’s bad public policy – and no different and no better than similar skullduggery done by VDOT in trying to get their preferred road approved.

    Hampton ultimately needs gas generation on the Peninsula – no matter what happens with the James Crossing – it’s just a shame that such a sham was done on the study.

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