Another Player in the Transmission Line Debate

The Coalition for Reliable Energy, an offshoot of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, has entered the debate over Dominion’s proposed high-voltage transmission line through Virginia’s northern piedmont. Citing a 2006 Department of Energy study, the Coalition backs Dominion’s contention that Northern Virginia’s electricity infrastructure faces “severe overloads” as early as 2011.

The Coalition supports construction of the transmission line, as well as energy conservation and “longer term planning to meet our energy needs.”

It will be interesting to see how the coalition is perceived. It’s not exactly a corporate Who’s Who of Fairfax County. (See a list of the members here.) Besides the Chamber, the most prominent member is… Dominion Virginia Power. Among the region’s Fortune 500 companies and major IT players, the only name I recognize is EDS.

While the group purports to make energy conservation one of its top priorities, its page of “conservation tips” is, to be generous, on the meager side. The two concrete recommendations: Install compact fluorescent light bulbs and buy Energy Star appliances. My advice, guys: Add some more meat or people will laugh at you.

Now, back to the issue we raised yesterday in “Virginia As New Jersey’s Extension Cord“… Jim Norvelle with Dominion responds that Virginia Commitment’s main claim, that Dominion’s ulterior motive for building the transmission line is to wheel power to states north of Virginia, “is not a new one.” Three different studies — Dominion’s, one from PJM Interconnection and one from the international firm KEMA (available on the Coalition for Reliable Energy website)– all project power shortages by 2011.

Says Norvelle: “The Virginia economy continues to grow. People continue to move into our state for jobs, for schools, and for our state’s quality of life. Dominion – and only Dominion – has the legal obligation to keep the lights on in Northern Virginia. We will meet this obligation.”

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5 responses to “Another Player in the Transmission Line Debate”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    At least they are not recommending dimmer switches as a major energy saver.

    Yep, Dominion has a legal obligation to keep the lights on. They also have an obligation to pay fairly and fully for the property they need to do so. Unfortunately, that obligation is not fully backed up by force of law.


  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ..”only Dominion – has the legal obligation to keep the lights on in Northern Virginia.”

    Translation: “Dominon has a state-granted monopoly on providing power to NoVa and it is not in our interest for NoVa to reduce their consumption of power”

    There you have it.

    Dominion is telling consumers to go find something else to busy themselves with.

    and you know what.. I think they’re mostly right…

  3. David Jeffers Avatar
    David Jeffers

    We’ve often heard this “We’re-just-responding-to-to-the-demand” defense from Dominion.

    The company seems to be perfectly happy to be like the dealers on the street corner, with no responsibility to the community, other than their job to satisfy “market demand”.

    It’s such a passive position for a company which claims it wishes to be a leader in energy efficiency and conservation.

    But then again, it’s no surprise. Dominion resides in the basement in terms of utility firms thinking about the future (if you don’t count expensive PR campaigns around florescent light bulbs).

    A March 2006 study called “Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection”, published by Ceres, is a report on climate risk preparedness of various companies across several industries, including an examination of 19 power companies.

    The report was made for big investors. It’s business-oriented, focusing on the sagacity – or rather lack thereof – of investing in companies that aren’t seriously preparing for climate change as it will affect their businesses.

    Of the 19 power companies, Dominion ranked 18th.

    It’s a scathing indictment of the company. But as Dominion’s designated blogger might say, it “is not a new one.”

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    and our GA guys .. priorities are?

    of course.. whacking the immigrants

    nary a one…especially the ones claiming to be fiscal conservatives and “conservationists” agitating for Dominion to get religion on conservation

    why not?

    one reason: half a million sprinkled to GA folks..

    217 donations totaling $555,898

    Dominion Leadership Trust PAC (R-TPAC) $30,000
    Democratic Party of Virginia (D-PAC) $26,000
    Building a Better Virginia (R-TPAC) $25,000
    Commonwealth Victory Fund (D-PAC) $25,000
    Moving Virginia Forward (D-TPAC) $25,000
    One Virginia PAC (D-TPAC) $25,000
    Republican Party of Virginia (R-PAC) $25,000
    A Strong Majority (D-TPAC) $20,000
    Armstrong, Ward L (D-H010) $20,000
    House Republican Campaign Committee (R-PAC) $20,000
    Va Legislative Black Caucus (D-PAC) $20,000
    Majority Whip PAC (R-TPAC) $15,000

    Notice that these are all PACs who then distribute to individuals and notice further than the folks who control these PACs .. are also in control the GA…

    Our system stinks.

    Where is the half million in donations from the folks in Va who want to conserve?

    I quess it speaks for itself. pay your electric bill… and part of it.. goes to Richmond to speak for you… via Dominion.

  5. Given that it’s the Sunday before Election Day, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at Jim Norvelle’s response in Bacon’s Rebellion to Virginia’s Commitment position that Dominion Power’s proposed line is not designed primarily for Virginia. Less than 48 hours before the polls open, it’s a good lesson in corporate spokesmanship.

    Let’s break down Mr. Norvelle’s response. It’s an elegant example of how spin actually works.

    The “no news here” response. When faced with the assertion that most of the electric power traversing over Dominion’s proposed line will go to places far distant from Virginia, Mr. Norvelle replies that the assertion “is not a new one”. This old technique by press secretaries, was originally employed to shame the more gullible reporters away from a story. Now you usually see it when the practitioner can’t deny the assertion to which he is responding, so he simply has to say something … anything … but still stay out of legal trouble later.

    The use of “studies”. Granted, studies have their place in political discourse. We agree that all sides get to produce studies that prove their point of view. But we’re talking about something different here in Mr. Norvelle’s case. The mere use of the word “studies” seems to buy him a little time, hoping the listener will forget the original assertion he was suppose to be responding to. That little pause sets up the next technique …

    The non sequitur. Ah, the Holy Grail of politicians, debate coaches and busted four-year-olds. Here it works like this … Mr. Norvelle says that multiple studies demonstrate that overall power demands in the mid-Atlantic will increase over the next few years … and he says it in response to the assertion that Dominion Power is largely building a transmission line to sell energy to New York, New Jersey and other places north of Virginia. That doesn’t follow. But it does dovetail nicely with Dominion Power’s most cherished rhetorical tool (see below).

    “The Big, ahem, Untruth”. We all know the rule here: If said often enough, it takes on the characteristics of something true. You have to give it to Mr. Norvelle and his Dominion colleagues on this one. It has worked pretty darn well for them in this fight. Just keep repeating, “The lights will go out in Northern Virginia, the lights will go out in Northern Virginia.” (For further reference, see the Dominion-funded coalition website: Pretty soon everyone will assume it’s true. Plus you get to drown out the real debate. Which brings us back to …

    If built, Dominion Power’s proposed 81-mile transmission line through Virginia would carry more than six times the power that Dominion Power itself says is needed to satisfy Northern Virginia’s growth.

    The proposed line has the capability to carry 3,250 megawatts. Dominion Power has quantified the size of Northern Virginia’s overloading problem at 514 megawatts, if the line is not constructed by 2011.

    So would someone please ask again: Where is the other 84 percent of the power going, Mr. Norvelle?

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