Category Archives: Energy

Dominion is Keeping Whale Data Secret, Too

Click for expanded view. Source: NOAA

by David Wojick

Secrecy abounds around the monster offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy. In this case the hidden data is about the threat to the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.

I earlier reported on the big hidden whale study done by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is doing the Environment Impact Assessment for this huge project.

Digging into Dominion’s filing with BOEM I found something even worse. Dominion has done an actual threat assessment, but it is 100% secret! This is outrageous.

Here is a bit of background so folks can dig for themselves. There is a lot to look at. BOEM has a separate website on this monster OSW project, which would be one of the world’s largest. The project is titled Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind or CVOW. Dominion has submitted a large set of documents in what is called the Construction and Operations Plan or simply the COP. The COP is here.

There is a long main report plus 32 technical appendices. My endangered whale interest was immediately drawn to “Appendix R: Threatened and Endangered Species Review.” It is here, and the title indicates it reports on any and all species on those lists for protection. Continue reading

Sinking the Newest Sea Level Rise Exaggerations

NOAA chart of relative sea level rise at Sewell’s Point in Norfolk, showing a rate of 1.56 feet in rise per century, far lower than alarmist modelers project.

by Steve Haner

So, let me get this straight.  If we willingly keep paying the carbon tax on our electric bills, then thousands of parcels of prime Virginia waterfront won’t slip beneath the waves? Was that the point of these parallel prophecies of doom in the September 12 Richmond Times-Dispatch and Virginia Mercury?

Another day, another dire climate catastrophe story meant to scare readers into dumping fossil fuels. This claim was that sea level rise by 2050 will raise the low tide lines along Virginia’s thousands of miles of tidal waterways, including the creeks and rivers, and cover tens of thousands more acres. The RTD translated that into 160 square miles inundated.

Is there relative sea level rise underway? Yes. There has been since before Jamestown was settled, actually since the end of the Ice Age. Is it rising as fast as they claim? No. But exaggeration makes for more scary copy.

In fairness, it was only Sean Sublette with the Times-Dispatch who went on to link this coming financial calamity (Virginia only taxes land to the low tide line, you see) to the fight over the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and its resulting tax revenue. But the digital-only Virginia Mercury is also working overtime to prevent Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) from removing the state from that taxing compact. More on RGGI later. This column is to dispel the nonsense about the sea swallowing Virginia so rapidly. Continue reading

SCC Can Set CVOW Wind Performance Standard

by Steve Haner

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

Despite Dominion Energy Virginia’s complaints that the Virginia State Corporation Commission has exceeded its authority, a legal analysis provided by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy finds that the SCC’s proposed performance standard for an offshore wind project is proper.

The analysis was provided by Institute Senior Fellow Dr. David W. Schnare, an attorney and scientist with long regulatory and litigation experience.

The SCC has approved Dominion’s application for permission to build the $10 billion, 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, but added a condition the utility is opposing. It would protect the utility’s customers from paying any additional costs that result from the project failing to meet its promised power output. The target would be an average capacity factor of 42% over three year periods.

Dominion has asked the SCC to reconsider the performance standard and potential financial penalty, and the SCC is accepting additional legal briefs from the parties to the case. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) and several environmental organizations proposed the performance standard which the Commission adopted, which was more stringent than its own staff had proposed.

Miyares through his staff also asked for a reconsideration, on the question of when the performance standard would go into effect. The Attorney General is proposing the date Dominion set as its target for full operations, February 4, 2027, as the start of the first performance period. That sets up the utility for additional costs due to construction delays or permitting delays due to litigation, costs it might not be able to send along to ratepayers. Continue reading

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

Will Virginia Be Ruled from Sacramento?

by Kerry Dougherty

Turns out former Gov. Ralph Northam is the gift that keeps on giving.

Not only do Virginia’s school children continue to suffer academically because of Northam’s hasty, hysterical and prolonged school closures, but most of us were shocked this week to learn that California’s boneheaded new rules regarding a draconian move to electric vehicles will apply to the Old Dominion as well, thanks to a bill Northam signed into law in 2021, linking Virginia to California’s clean air standards, the strictest in the world.

Lucky us.

Before the California measure was finalized last week, Steve Haner wrote for the Suffolk News-Herald that thanks to Northam and his Democratic cronies in the General Assembly, we are now serfs to California’s wacky politics.

Virginia’s auto industry overlords in California have a new set of proposed mandates for both electric and internal combustion vehicles that, once adopted, will automatically apply here in the commonwealth. Continue reading

Sudden Impact

The Toyota Prius jump-started the EV era, but the Prius Prime PHEV version no longer qualifies for Federal tax credits because final assembly is not in America.

by Bill Tracy

President Biden’s new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) might be better called the American Auto Industry Rescue and Restructure bill. The U.S. auto industry wants to phase out gasoline vehicles, and it also urgently needs Congress to endorse and support that goal.

Apparently, the IRA’s eventual passage was no surprise: the handwriting was on the wall. Many southern states — including Virginia’s key competitors of North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas — have been busy constructing new electric vehicle (EV) and lithium battery assembly plants. In hindsight, the construction activity was probably anticipated to comply with Congress’s new made-in-America rules.

Those Southern states (sans Virginia) are now dubbed the  “EV Battery Belt.” Why has Virginia not grabbed a bigger slice of this economic pie? Have we been asleep at the wheel? Or did we just let the “Tesla autopilot” take over?

But for now, I would like to focus on the practical aspects of buying a new electric car in Virginia. Many consumers in today’s new car market were blindsided by the sudden impact of the new rules. 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

The New NIMBY

The Gazette-Virginian reports that the town of Halifax is considering its first solar project. The proposed facility would occupy 46 acres on an 85.8-acre parcel. Town Councilman Jack Dunavant made his position clear: “Personally, I don’t think we should allow solar farms within the town limits of Halifax. I like solar energy, but I don’t want it somewhere in my front yard or my back yard. It ought to be out in the country.”

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.

It noted that the recent approval of the project by the State Corporation Commission was “under obvious duress” and then went on to cite many of the dangers and potential cost consequences outlined  in the SCC’s own order. This is nothing new to readers here at Bacon’s Rebellion who read this about the decision already, or this earlier column on the reasons why the project should be rejected.

The WSJ does focus on one detail not available when those were written, comments by Dominion CEO Bob Blue on the firm’s most recent investor conference call. From the editorial:

Dominion could appeal. “We are extremely disappointed in the commission’s requirement of a performance guarantee,” CEO Robert Blue said on an earnings call. He griped that it would effectively require the company “to financially guarantee the weather, among other factors beyond its control, for the life of the project.” Exactly. Since no one can control mother nature, who should bear the risks? Dominion’s answer is not Dominion.

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

Electric Vehicles in a Hurricane?

by Kerry Dougherty

While hurricane season technically began two months ago, it isn’t until August — or even September — that most of us pay attention to those pesky tropical depressions off the coast of Africa.

My favorite parlor game is the annual will-we-evacuate-if-a-hurricane-is-headed-our-way debate. My family’s answer, so far, has always been no.

There’s a reason many of us just smile weakly when emergency management types talk cheerfully about “orderly evacuations” of Tidewater.

We’ve seen tunnel traffic on summer weekends. We’ve spent hours stewing in it. We also know that the only thing worse than being stuck in a flimsy house for a Category 4 ‘cane would be to be spend it in a colossal traffic jam on the bridge by Willoughby Spit.

Now imagine being stuck on the spit in an electric vehicle that’s run out of juice. Continue reading

Dominion Kicks off Battery-Storage Pilot Project

Utility-scale batteries adjacent to solar panels at Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

A utility-scale battery storage system has gone online at Dominion Energy’s Scott Solar Facility in Powhatan County, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During the day when solar output is peaking, excess energy is rerouted to the batteries. When the sun goes down and output falls, batteries release electricity back into the grid. The 12-megawatt battery complex can power 3,000 homes for up to four hours.

The purpose of the Scott Solar project is to give Dominion real-world experience in understanding how batteries can integrate into the larger electric grid. Dominion officials contend that battery storage can be a more cost-effective way to meet high-demand periods than, in the RTD’s words, building “an entirely new generation facility.”

The “levelized cost” of electricity, which includes up-front capital costs, operating costs, and fuel costs (which are zero for solar) over the lifetime of the project, is lower for solar than any other energy source available on a large scale in Virginia. However, solar farms are part of a larger system that must meet the demand for electricity 24/7. Solar facilities, while highly cost-efficient on a stand-alone basis, are highly variable. Output cannot be dialed up and down as needed. Therefore, they require significant backup. Batteries are one means of providing that backup. And batteries have a cost. Continue reading