Category Archives: Energy

Support Governor Youngkin’s RGGI Repeal 

by Colin M. Kelly

I can only laugh at the headlines and statements being made by the media and climate alarmists about Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s efforts to pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The headline “Returning Millions to Virginia” really grates: The state takes money out of the consumer’s pocket with the RGGI tax, divides it up among cronies and supporters by issuing contracts for various studies, and then somehow claims a victory for the consumer! I guess the politicians assume you and I don’t need the money.

In the two years since former Gov. Ralph Northam implemented this tax, the state has collected over $500 million from consumers via this back-door tax embedded in our electric bills. Can you imagine the outrage if Dominion Energy had over-collected that much!

Further, the claims of reducing health costs and helping to weatherize homes are simply ridiculous. “Come on man,” I’ve been hearing these claims since the oil embargoes of the 1970’s. I would bet my dog that if you added up all the deaths supposedly avoided thanks to proposed government regulations over the last 50 years, the average John/Jane Doe’s lifespan would be 110. But sadly we are the only Western country with a declining life expectancy.

If our elected officials believe the projects to be funded by the RGGI tax have merit, then they should be funded through the state’s General Fund. However, the 5% overhead charge by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to manage RGGI is clearly outrageous. Continue reading

“Strong Words” In Bills Give SCC Power On Rates

From Energy Burden Coalition flyer mailed to legislators.

By Steve Haner

One sentence, if it is the right sentence, can upset the machinations of the powerful. Two bills pending in the 2023 Virginia General Assembly contain such a sentence, and it could upset the plans of Dominion Energy Virginia.

Here is the sentence at the heart of both bills:

…if the (State Corporation) Commission determines in its sole discretion that the utility’s existing base rates will, on a going-forward basis, produce unreasonable revenues in excess of the utility’s authorized rate of return, then, notwithstanding any provisions of subsection A 8 of § 56-585.1, the Commission may order any reductions to such base rates that it deems appropriate to ensure the resulting base rates (i) are just and reasonable and (ii) provide the utility an opportunity to recover its costs and earn a fair rate of return.

The House version of the bill, House Bill 1604, has bipartisan sponsorship. The Senate version, Senate Bill 1321 has three Democrats listed as sponsors. It is the Senate version which at least has been aired in an open Senate subcommittee meeting, and the leading Dominion lobbyist in the room was not coy about his concerns. So far, the House version slumbers and has not been heard.

During the Senate discussion, William Murray, the firm’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, noted the presence in the bill of “strong words,” which he said included “notwithstanding” and “any.” He warned the legislators in the meeting that “our concern would be if you just mooted everything you did in Senator Saslaw’s bill.” The Richard Saslaw-sponsored bill he referred to is Dominion’s main effort to recast its regulatory environment, which had just been discussed in the same meeting on January 18. It was first reported here. Continue reading

Wojick On Whales IV: Deaths Spiked with Surveys

A Humpback carcass that washed up in New Jersey recently. Photo: Marine Mammal Stranding Center

By David Wojick

The recent deaths of seven whales off New Jersey, mostly humpbacks, drew national media attention. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Directorate is responsible for whales. An outrageous statement by their spokesperson got me to do some research on humpback whale deaths.

The results are appalling. The evidence seems clear that offshore wind development is killing whales by the hundreds.

Here is the statement as reported in the press:

“NOAA said it has been studying what it calls ‘unusual mortality events’ involving 174 humpback whales along the East Coast since January 2016. Agency spokesperson Lauren Gaches said that period pre-dates offshore wind preparation activities in the region.” Gaches is NOAA Fisheries press chief.

The “unusual mortality” data are astounding. Basically, the humpback death rate roughly tripled starting in 2016 and continued high thereafter. You can see it here.  That data is just for humpback whales, with a dramatic acceleration in particular between 2016 and 2020. Continue reading

Is Unnamed Partner on Wind Project Driving This New Dominion Regulation Rewrite?

The late Lt. Gov. Henry Howell (D) and Virginia’s most famous campaign slogan.

By Steve Haner

Without fanfare and without awakening the drowsy Capitol press corps, Dominion Energy Virginia dropped in legislation last week to set up a partnership on its most massive capital investment, the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.

Just who that partner might be, what if any benefits that provides to Dominion’s 2.6 million Virginia customers, or whether it instead adds cost and risk for them, remains unexplained. The bill does describe the equity investor as “non-controlling,” leaving the utility in charge.

Suddenly, many elements of the company’s other significant bill for 2023 make more sense. The most recent iteration is a pending substitute. In this other, wind-only bill, sponsored by Senator Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac, the State Corporation Commission is instructed to disregard the capital structure of the partner, its debt to equity ratio, when determining the price to consumers.

That ratio is usually a key element when the regulators are deciding how much a utility can charge for a project, because only equity is allowed to earn profit.  In the longer bill, which has been previously discussed, Dominion is also asking the legislature to mandate how the SCC accounts for the debt and equity in its rate calculation.

The unnamed partner, perhaps already known to Dominion, may also have an interest in the debate over how a future SCC calculates the utility’s allowed return on that equity. It is equity this partner will be contributing, after all.  Virginia is the only state that sets utility return on equity by making comparisons to so-called “peer” utilities. The more complex bill changes the rules on that, too, and further limits SCC discretion. Continue reading

After Federal Threat to Gas Stoves, Virginia Republicans Try Again on Right to Gas

Status by state of legislative efforts to preserve the natural gas option. The bill is again pending here in the 2023 General Assembly.  Click for better view.

by Steve Haner

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

Legislation to enshrine the right to use natural gas and propane in Virginia law, a repeat of a failed effort from 2022, cleared a House of Delegates committee Tuesday. The ultimate showdown will come not in the Republican-controlled House but in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where the effort hit a wall last year. Continue reading

Consumers Be Wary When Energy Elephants Dance

By Steve Haner

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

The Virginia House of Delegates is expected to vote this week to exempt certain Virginia manufacturers, which ones to be determined later, from the coming wave of energy costs created by Virginia’s rapid transition to unreliable forms of power generation. Continue reading

McKinsey & Company Has You Covered

Whatever this is supposed to mean. Courtesy, McKinsey & Company

by James C.  Sherlock

Ever feel not only disconnected from, but ignored by central planners?

Do you run a shoe store in Sterling or work for a hospital in Richmond? Use natural gas in your home or work?  Teach in a public school in Wise County? Drive a gas-or diesel-powered vehicle?

In other words, do you do what people do to make the economy run and feed their families? Live your life using carbon-based energy, as does the entire economy?

Central planners have chosen your future. Nothing big, just the entire United states economy.

They acknowledge “headwinds” in that future. Challenges they call “weather fronts.” What McKinsey, the guru of net zero, calls a “devilish duality” that it claims has put “executives” on the spot.

They offer strategies to deal with them:

As net zero has become an organizing principle for business, executives are on the spot to lay out credibly how they will deliver a transition to net zero while building and reinforcing resilience against the certain volatility of ongoing economic and political shocks.

Dominion Energy is all in.  But questions arise: Continue reading

Dominion Wants To Rewrite Its Own Rules Again

by Steve Haner

First published today by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

The headlines in the coming General Assembly may be captured by fights over abortion and taxes, but the deepest reach into your pockets will involve your energy bills. The state’s dominant electric utility appears to once again be seeking to amend Virginia’s regulatory and ratemaking process to its benefit. Continue reading

You’ll Have to Pry My Steering Wheel from My Cold, Dead Fingers

The latest from the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy….

I don’t have any philosophical objections to electric vehicles. If they offer better performance for the price than combustion-powered cars, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one. I do have public-policy reservations about government subsidies for EVs and EV infrastructure, and I do have concerns about the impact of a 100% electric fleet on the reliability of the electric grid. But none of that would dissuade me from buying an EV.

Here’s what would dissuade me: government mandates taking away my freedom of choice.

As the TJI clip highlights, current Virginia law essentially requires California EV mandates to apply to Virginia. That law anticipates banning the sale of new combustion vehicles within ten years. If you want to buy a new car, it’ll have to be an electric vehicle.

My reaction: Go Californicate yourself.

I’ll drive my Rogue Sport as long as it lasts, as long as spare parts can be scavenged from junk yards, and as long as there are still gas stations to sell me fuel.

— JAB

The Big Christmas Chill Was a Wakeup Call

by Bill O’Keefe

As temperatures dropped dramatically over the Christmas weekend, Dominion Energy’s advice to its customers — those who still had power — was to turn down their thermostats. Virginia was not alone. PJM, the regional grid management organization covering 13 states and the District of Columbia, made the same request because its gas plants couldn’t get enough fuel to meet the demand for home heating.

According to The Wall Street Journal, rolling blackouts were averted because PJM ordered some businesses to curtail power while switching some generators to oil. The large regions served by both the Tennessee Valley Authority and Duke Energy experienced rolling blackouts. And for the second year in a row, Texas faced a grid problem as wind power plunged and demand doubled.

The Wall Street Journal also noted that, “While there wasn’t a single cause for the power shortages, government policies to boost renewable energy snowballed and created problems that cascaded through the grid. There have been warnings about grid vulnerability for years but this Christmas proves that these warnings have not been taken seriously. The climate lobby blames climate change and greedy energy companies for this year’s problems but there have been colder Christmases — 1980 and 1983 for example. And, there have been colder Decembers that were survived without a grid breakdown or near breakdown.

The problems faced by utilities should be a warning and a reason for reassessment. Will Dominion heed that warning or will it continue on its present course? How will it prevent more serious problems as the demand for electrical power continues to increase and electric heat pumps are promoted and subsidized as responsible replacements for gas- and oil-fired furnaces?

That Dominion had to urge its customers to turn down their thermostats indicates that it did not have sufficient surge capacity to meet the demand caused by low temperatures. We need to know why. It could be the result of the 2019 decision to shutter all of its coal-fired capacity as part of its Net-Zero 2050 commitment and the General Assembly mandate to do so by 2024.
Continue reading

Offshore Wind Turbines in International Waters Raise Big Defense Issues

By James C. Sherlock

Courtesy U.S. Navy

The Department of the Interior (DOI) is unlikely to be expert in the diplomatic issues and defense vulnerabilities inherent in building wind turbine farms in international waters.

The DOI is, however, greatly concerned with “viewscape” – whether the turbine blades can be seen from shore.  By the wealthy who live there and those who visit.

DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which will issue or deny in March a construction permit to Dominion Energy to build its Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project in international waters, may understand the fact that the United States is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They may or may not be aware that the U.S. has done more to enforce UNCLOS than any other nation on earth.

They may or may not fully understand that UNCLOS will severely constrain U.S. rights surrounding wind turbine projects in international waters in ways that will bedevil us constantly, drive up national defense costs and threaten the long-term viability of the projects.

If they do understand the implications, they may consider that the business of the Departments of Defense and State.

So do I.  Those two departments have dropped the ball.

DOI may not understand that all of those issues are greatly mitigated if the turbine farms are within 12 miles from the coast.  But DoD and State should.

And Congress should.

The House Armed Services Committee should hold hearings before the CVOW permit is approved.

Continue reading

After Arctic Blast, Do We Still Want to Californicate Our Grid?

by Scott Dreyer

An old saying goes, “You don’t miss the water till the well runs dry.”

In modern days that might be, “You don’t miss the electricity till you lose the lights. And heat. And hot water. And wifi. And TV. And microwave. And phone charger. And electric blanket, and The Roanoke Star….”

Around here, blackouts were common over Christmas weekend. Some lost power for a day or two, but one friend today told me her Roanoke Valley suburb lost juice Thursday night and didn’t get it back till Monday evening. Those extended power outages, combined with the brutal temperatures, high winds, and the fact that it was Christmas weekend, caused misery for many. The death toll nationwide from the storm is already 60, and might climb higher as more bodies are found.

One Roanoke insurance agent told me her office has been flooded (pardon the pun) with calls from policy holders reporting frozen pipes and now water damage.

At my home office, it was 6 degrees Saturday morning. Ironically, friends of ours were in upstate New York for Christmas, where it hit a low of 7, so it was colder here than there. A friend in southwest Roanoke County recorded 2 degrees. At Paint Bank, on the western edge of Craig County near the West Virginia line, it was -5.

Another feature of the storm was its magnitude. Last Friday, some 240 million people were under a weather warning or advisory; that was more than two-thirds of the entire U.S. population of 330 million. The map of wintry hazards “depicts one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever,” the National Weather Service said.  It was freezing in Atlanta and flurrying in Miami.

I would be remiss not to point out the incredible irony. Granted, one weather event–no matter how extreme–does not prove a trend. However, it’s remarkable how, after years of being warned the world is getting hotter and hotter, we just endured a storm that broke record lows in some places. In March 2000, the British newspaper Independent warned that, due to Global Warming, it was likely that in the near future English children would never see real snow.

The extreme cold should have showed us (again) the need to have affordable, reliable energy. Continue reading

Dominion’s Planned Offshore Wind Farm Need Not – and Must Not – Be Built Where Planned

by James C. Sherlock

I am referring in the title, of course, to Dominion Power’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project to be located in the hatched area below.

It is planned for one of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) offshore wind farm lease areas. Lease areas that have been rendered obsolete by operational modern floating turbine technology.

The area for which CVOW construction is proposed is overlaid below on an operational graphic of Atlantic international maritime vessel density. Red indicates highest density.

There are only a half dozen expanses of water that reach that international vessel density on the entire U.S. Atlantic coast. They are, of course, the approaches to the East Coast’s major ports.

See the Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study Final Report Appendix III Fig. 18 below for an operational rendering of international shipping flow at the location proposed for CVOW.

 

See the coastal shipping traffic chart below.

The nearest point is 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach and the furthest 42 miles offshore. The lease area occupies 112,800 acres. One seventh the size of Rhode Island.

Undersea noise propagation characteristics will not be known unless and until it is built.

CVOW, if built, will threaten:

  • the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay;
  • the point at which international maritime traffic funnels to and from the ports of Norfolk and Baltimore;
  • the point at which coastal maritime traffic on the east coast is most dense; and
  • the point at which Navy warships and logistics vessels enter and depart the world’s largest naval base.

You might reasonably ask “Of the entire Atlantic Coast, why there?” Or you might put it somewhat less gently. Net of all the risks and rewards, there is no reasonable answer to that question. Never was.

But the facts have also changed. Continue reading

Offshore Wind Turbines and Submarine Warfare

Courtesy U.S. Navy

by James C. Sherlock

Upon investigation of open source literature, I find that offshore wind turbines are less noisy than I imagined. But they present obstacles nonetheless, both physically and acoustically.

United States submarine and anti-submarine efforts, operationally, in Navy labs, and in industry are led by some of our best and brightest.

That is true also, unfortunately, of most navies, including those of China and Russia.

The primary vulnerability of submarines is the noise they make, however minuscule. Submarine and antisubmarine technical and operational efforts are a constant cat-and-mouse game to minimize noise on the one hand and exploit it on the other.

The frequencies of the noise in the water from sea life, from shipping, from submarines and now from enormous turbine blades and the vibrations they cause in their supports are relatively discrete. That can help, or hinder, both submarine and anti-submarine warfare.

Weapons use against submarines presents other challenges. Attacks require targeting quality solutions, often from brief active-sonar transmissions. Again, noise.

Offshore wind turbines have complicated both offensive and defensive submarine operations.

Turbines are typically grouped about 500 meters apart in wind farms and generate noise in the water from individual turbines and group effects. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the turbine blades, the higher the noise generated. Bad weather exacerbates noise conditions.

The waters off of Norfolk and the nation’s other major commercial and military ports are of primary concern here. We expect and hope that the Navy is at the table in the design and location of each turbine field. Continue reading

Dominion’s Wind Gamble Could Cost Customers

by William O’Keefe

A study by the Kleiman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that reaching long-term offshore wind power targets presents serious challenges with “the most pressing being the need to build out the electric grid to reliably and economically deliver vast quantities of offshore wind power.” And that also involves building adequate storage capacity.

Although the SCC has approved Dominion’s plan for building a smart grid, it remains to be seen if its implementation will match the rhetoric and the operational needs of the offshore wind farm. Dominion has balked at being held to meeting a performance standard, which is telling.

An enhanced grid is essential because intermittent wind makes it necessary to compensate for periods of low or no wind while also matching demand and supply. Dominion is now in year three of its smart grid plan, so compatibility is based on analyses that are heavy on assumptions and light on empirical data.

The challenge facing Dominion may be best summarized by the observation that there’s a disconnect between the need for a stable grid that supplies electricity on demand 24 hours every day and the asserted moral obligation that we use non-dispatchable, intermittent, and generally unreliable renewable power in spite of the fact that intermittency is presently the enemy of a stable electric grid. California, which is far ahead of Virginia in moving to renewable energy, recognizes this. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) has said the “biggest challenge of managing a greener grid is maintaining a precise balance between supply and demand as the percentage of intermittent power from renewables increases.” Continue reading