One of the first decisions the State Corporation Commission may need to make in Monday’s hearing on the Dominion Energy Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is whether to allow and consider testimony about the cost of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Dominion filed a September 7 motion asking that testimony from a witness brought by Appalachian Voices “be stricken as irrelevant and improper,” which the environmental group answered with its own brief filed Friday. Dominion argues the cost of the pipeline is not part of the IRP and is not properly before the commission in this case. It will seek to recover the pipeline capital costs when gas from the pipeline is subject to a future fuel cost review.
Gregory Lander of energy consulting firm Skipping Stone states in his disputed testimony that the costs are already built in. “The Company’s 2018 IRP embeds the costs of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline into each of the generation scenarios it presents…. (but) has not properly costed-out the all-in cost of increasing, beyond its current pipeline capacity portfolio, the costs associated with the level of pipeline capacity it intends to obtain on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”
He claims that acceptance of the IRP by the Commission in effect accepts that up to $3 billion of the cost of building and operating it will be passed on to ratepayers over 20 years. Those are in addition to the cost of the gas. Opponents of the pipeline argue it is not necessary to bring natural gas via the ACP to Dominion’s generators, and if it does so it will be supplanting lower-cost alternatives.
“In reality, the Company’s goal is not to avoid scrutiny of the ACP costs in this proceeding, the Company’s goal is to avoid scrutiny of the ACP costs in every proceeding,” states the brief in support of retaining Lander’s testimony. It noted a similar effort to keep the data out was made successfully in 2017’s IRP case and during the certificate of need case for the new natural gas generation plant in Greensville County.
This is just one of the disputes expected when the SCC takes live testimony for two days on the plan, which outlines several scenarios for meeting future demand in Dominion’s territory while meeting current and future environmental rules. The amount of demand growth over the period is itself the main point of contention, with opponents claiming the utility has inflated its needs to justify excessive new plant construction.
In rebuttal testimony Dominion pushed back on claims by the SCC staff and others that it won’t need additional generation. It says the others ignored recent winter peak demands and claimed that an economic slow period responsible for flat demand is coming to an end. “The lack of economic growth in Virginia has been a key driver to the forecast being higher than what has actually occurred” wrote Dominion’s director of energy market analysis Robert Thomas.
One of the reasons cited for expected growth is the explosion of data centers in Virginia, but representatives of that industry filed their own written comments disputing they will cause higher demand. The letter was signed by eBay and Adobe among others.