Author Archives: Steve Haner

Consequences of the Zero Carbon Fantasy

By Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Virginians may finally be waking up to the consequences of the headlong rush to adopt utopian energy policies under our previous governor. The issues are getting more attention than ever before, and now people need to realize that all the issues are really just one issue.

  • A California regulatory board’s decision to ban new gasoline vehicle sales by 2035 is finally being widely reported as binding on Virginia. This has angered many but was actually old news. Under a 2021 Virginia law, our Air Pollution Control Board had already imposed the future sales restrictions, and it was some new amendments that sparked the news coverage. Various political leaders have now promised to stop it but a bill to reverse it died in the 2022 General Assembly when Democrats rallied to save the mandate.
  • Our dominant electric utility has finally acknowledged that its planned $10 billion offshore wind facility is a gigantic financial risk and is now refusing to build it unless the State Corporation Commission (SCC) places 100 percent of the construction and performance risk on its customers. Dominion Energy Virginia knows many things about this proposal it has not told us.
  • Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) is trying to remove Virginia from an interstate compact that mandates a carbon tax on electricity, imposed under former Governor Ralph Northam (D). Advocates for the tax are pushing back and will fight, delay and likely sue to preserve the tax, which costs Virginians $300 million per year at current levels and will continue to rise. Without explanation, the Governor did not keep his initial promise to promulgate an emergency regulation that could remove it quickly, so the tax lingers.
  • Governor Youngkin has opened the process for developing a revised statewide energy plan document, a political process to produce what in the past has been merely a political document. The public comment portal has already become an ideological fistfight. Northam’s 2018 plan had no engineering or economic detail.  It simply praised the legislative efforts to erase fossil fuels which had been adopted to that point and outlined the next steps his administration would take (couched as recommendations.)

Continue reading

When Politicians Run Power Companies

Elements of Dominion Energy Virginia’s residential cost, effective July 1 and pending increases. Source: SCC Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Residential customers of Dominion Energy Virginia will soon be paying 55% more for electricity than they were when the Virginia General Assembly took over micromanaging utility regulation in 2007. The Western Virginia customers of Appalachian Power will have seen their electric bills rise by 92%.  Underlying inflation for the period has been about 43%.

If that customer uses a steady 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, buying that from Dominion costs $600 more per year than it did in 2007 and buying it from Appalachian costs $736 more. Continue reading

Secret Wind Case Documents Are Key to Appeal

Snippet from UVA video showing how winds can destroy a large wind turbine.

by Steve Haner

Now comes applicant Dominion Energy Virginia, petitioning the Virginia State Corporation Commission to reverse its recent decision to impose actual financial risk on the company and its stockholders. If a hurricane blows down its planned offshore wind farm in a few years, the related costs should be imposed 100% on its captive ratepayers, Dominion demands.

Imagine that: expecting a monopoly with a guaranteed right to earn in excess of 10% profit on a $10 billion project forced to face actual risk. What is the world coming to? Continue reading

Wall Street Journal: Wind Approved “Under Duress”

by Steve Haner

With an editorial published yesterday, The Wall Street Journal has now given its readers more insight into the risks inherent in Dominion Energy Virginia’s coming wind project than any Virginia newspaper or broadcast outlet has. It is not the kind of national spotlight Virginia should crave. Continue reading

What Surplus? Virginia Doesn’t Allow Surpluses!

Secretary of Finance Stephen Cumming’s slide showing most of the final surge of unexpected revenue before June 30 came from payments from business owners and investors. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Does last week’s glowing report on Virginia’s state tax collections presage additional tax relief for struggling families? The first question is, was the news really glowing? Continue reading

Wind: SCC Rejects Deal Signed By Its Staff

Click for larger view. Source: Dominion

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Rejecting an agreement that its own staff reached with Dominion Energy Virginia, the State Corporation Commission has imposed at least some level of financial risk on the utility’s shareholders should its $10 billion offshore wind project fail to match the company’s promised performance.

Lest you think that means the ratepayers can relax, the long final order issued August 5 once again highlights all the things that could go wrong with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, scheduled to be fully operational by 2027. The regulators also wash their hands of any responsibility and record for posterity that the Virginia General Assembly made them approve this. Continue reading

Delayed Fuel Costs May Include Interest Now

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia wants its customers, not its shareholders, to pay an interest penalty for the privilege of taking three years to pay off the recent explosion in its fuel costs. The company is paying  about $1 billion more for fuel than it planned when the fuel portion of bills was set a year ago. Continue reading

Salvation for the Mountain Valley Pipeline?

MVP route map. Click for larger view. Source: MVP

by Steve Haner

And now, from our “I’ll believe it when I see it” department, comes the expectation that passage of President Joe Biden’s new corporate tax hike and green energy incentives package will be followed by a smooth path to completion for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for natural gas.

The topic is everywhere today because Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., included it as a deal point on a summary of what he sees as agreed outcomes from his decision to support the package. But the massive bill does not (and could not) include blanket approval of the pipeline among its provisions. Continue reading

Wojick on Whales III: The Noisy Driving of Piles

Tethys, wife of Oceanus and mother of the river gods.

by David Wojick

The Virginia wind-versus-whales story has taken a turn for the worse. Worse for the severely endangered Right Whales that is. My research has found what may be some really bad news.

Meet Tethys. Not the real Tethys, the mythical Greek Titan of the sea, but the U.S. Department of Energy’s center for reporting research on the environmental impact of energy technology on sea life, including whales. This is the science side of DOE (where I used to work), not the Ocean Energy development side. Continue reading

Solar Development Continues to Erode VA Farmland

by Barbara Hollingsworth

First published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Virginia lost about 2,000 acres of productive farmland per week in 2021, according to data released in February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are many reasons why farmers sell off their land, including development pressures, lack of interest by younger members of farming families, and the difficulties of turning a profit in the face of ever-changing market and weather conditions.

But there is now a new threat to Virginia’s agricultural base, which has a $70 billion economic impact on the commonwealth annually, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau. Continue reading

Bill to Bury Fauquier Powerline Comes to You

Various proposed power line routes from Warrenton’s Blackwell Road substation. Dominion illustration. Click to expand.

by Steve Haner

One of the key skills in politics is to make your constituents happy with money provided from those far, far away. It is happening again as Fauquier County’s leaders want the General Assembly to force all Dominion Energy Virginia’s ratepayers to pay to bury a 230-kv power line out of sight from their voters.  Continue reading

Wojick on Whales II: Missing BOEM Report?

by David Wojick

In my previous article I raised this question: what is the potential adverse impact of Virginia’s massive offshore wind project on the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales? Answering this basic question should be a central feature of the upcoming Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) required for the wind project by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

The 70-ton North Atlantic Right Whales migrate through Virginia’s offshore waters twice a year, making the impact of these proposed huge offshore wind projects a serious question. I have been doing some digging, and the results are puzzling. We may have some secret science going on.

To begin with, while there has been a lot of research on these whales, it has almost all been done in their northern and southern habitat zones. There is almost nothing on migration, even though migration is especially dangerous for any critters that do it, whales included.

So, it is not clear that we even have a clear picture of how they migrate through the waters where these massive wind projects are proposed. A lot of the risk depends on how they migrate, and we seem not to know much about that.

I say we “seem not to know” because someone in the federal government may actually know more than they are prepared to divulge. This is where it gets puzzling, as follows. Continue reading

How’s Your Climate Emergency Going? Hanging In?

by Steve Haner

How is your climate emergency going so far? We seem to be hanging in well at my house.

The media hype around this fairly typical July hot spell has been off the charts, but my favorite headline of the season appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (home of at least one climate jeremiad per day) weeks ago: “Extreme weather hits every U.S. region and won’t let up.” Such an honest example of the game being played demands recognition. Continue reading

Five Reasons to Reject Offshore Wind

Snippet from UVA video showing how winds can destroy a large wind turbine.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Researchers at the University of Virginia are part of an ongoing effort to redesign wind turbines to be both more efficient and better protected from storm-scale winds, as described in this video you can find on a university website.

What is the problem to be addressed? Says one of the engineers:

As you get these larger wind turbines, your blades end up becoming more flexible and if you’re upwind then when the wind comes in and hits those blades, they can curve backwards and then it can hit that tower and destroy the entire turbine.

 You can see an example of that happening on the video. It is not just theory. Continue reading

Wind Farm Threat to Whales is Next Big Argument

Source: NOAA

by David Wojick

The massive offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy may pose a serious threat to the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale population. A comprehensive environmental impact assessment is required to determine the extent of this threat and the mitigation it might require. The same is true for the other proposed Mid-Atlantic OSW projects.

The North Atlantic Right Whale is reported to be the world’s most endangered large whale, with an estimated population of just a few hundred critters. They winter off of Florida and Georgia, but summer off New England.  They migrate through the coastal waters off of Virginia twice a year, including that year’s baby whales. They can grow to over 50 feet in length and weigh more than 70 tons. Protecting them is a major challenge.  Continue reading