Category Archives: Energy

PG&E Efficiency Program’s Contrary Results

From Opinion Dynamics report on PG&E’s Home Energy Report program, showing most in the program did not change their consumption of energy.

Okay, for the wonks among you: At my request, the State Corporation Commission staff directed me to the full report on Pacific Gas and Electric’s Home Energy Report (HER) Program, which found that more people in the program increased their consumption of electricity and gas than decreased it.

The SCC staff had reproduced two pages of the report in its comments on Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed demand management programs. I cited their citation at the beginning of a Bacon’s Rebellion report a few days ago. With the original report, I could extract the chart used above, which was used by the SCC staff but with a copy too blurry to reproduce.

Along with the static data for 2016, which is bad enough, the report by Opinion Dynamics also tracked various waves of participants over time and found the trends held: “For electric participants, the percent of negative savers appears to increase annually for all waves. For electric participants, the percent of negative savers increases with duration of treatment.”

 The report never discusses people who increased consumption of electricity or natural gas. These customers are referred to as “negative savers.”   Continue reading

Three Lessons From Dominion’s Income Tax Case

If you thought the tax conformity debate took too long at the General Assembly, check out the fight at the State Corporation Commission over Dominion Energy Virginia’s corporate income tax bill.  The SCC still hasn’t decided how much to cut Dominion’s base rates to reflect its lower income tax payments, but a decision is close.

There are three reasons why this case is worth exploring.

First, a battle over how to account for a small amount, $67 million, is a wonderful demonstration of how obscure phrases buried in legislation written by the utility come back to bite its customers in their wallets.   Continue reading

Fresh RAC Tracker Doesn’t Reflect What’s Coming

Bill impact table included in SCC staff testimony on demand management programs case, showing impact of all pending Dominion requests. Click for larger view.

The State Corporation Commission staff has provided an updated version of a table tracking the possible rate impact of various Dominion Energy Virginia cases pending before the commission, most creating or adjusting rate adjustment clauses (RACs).  It starts with a baseline of $117.64 for the February monthly cost to that famous 1000-kilowatt hour typical customer, who of course does not exist.

The largest cost increases visible on the horizon are not included.

Some of the cases which are tracked have been decided and some are pending.  The table was included in the staff testimony about the proposed demand management programs paid for with Riders C1A and C2A and includes the $0.61 per month increase in them Dominion is requesting.   Continue reading

But The Idea Is To Cut Power Use, Isn’t It?

California’s giant Pacific Gas and Electric has a major program providing energy audits for its customers, and recently retained an outside firm to study the results.  While quite a few customers did reduce their energy usage after the audits, it turned out a larger number increased demand.

The report, dated December 2018, noted 19 percent of PG&E electricity customers reduced usage but 27 percent of them increased it following the audit.  On the natural gas side, 25 percent reduced usage and 31 percent increased.   Continue reading

Data Centers Spur Electricity Demand in Virginia, Says Greenpeace

Continued expansion of data centers in Virginia is driving demand for electricity, which gives Dominion Energy the justification for expanding its gas-fired generating fleet and building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, according to a new report by Greenpeace, “Clicking Clean Virginia: The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley.”

While several major providers of cloud services — Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft most prominently — have committed to deriving their electricity from renewable energy sources, the boom in data centers has outpaced the ability of the data center industry, Amazon in particular, to line up renewable energy contracts.

“While electricity demand for utilities is flat or declining, electricity demand from data centers in Virginia has grown sharply, between 9 and 11 percent year year, offsetting declines elsewhere, with data center demand regularly touted by Dominion to its investors as a sign of continued growth,” states Greenpeace.

Ironically, although the Greenpeace opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, information in the report undercuts an argument the environmental group’s Virginia allies use against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: that Dominion forecasts have consistently overstated future electric load. While electricity load has plateaued or even declined in many states, demand from data centers continues to push demand incrementally higher in Virginia. Continue reading

GA Bills You For Industrial Electricity Discount

The people who make the real decisions about what we pay for electricity in Virginia, which would be the members of the General Assembly, have just cut electricity costs for large Dominion Energy Virginia customers by up to $10 million and shifted those costs over to other customer classes, including residential.

This is yet another small but significant gift to you from the 2018 Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act, which really had little to do with transforming Virginia’s electricity distribution grid.  Dominion’s plans for the grid remain stalled, but this little add-on provision from the same legislation just got approved by the State Corporation Commission on February 8.

Cost allocation and rate design are major points of contention at the Commission sometimes, involving economists, accountants and reams of data.  Now you can just slip a paragraph into complicated bill and bypass all that.

This was ordered by an enactment clause (number 11 of 24) at the tail end of last year’s bill and may be the first example of the General Assembly dictating the fine points of cost allocation among rate categories.   The Assembly is deciding what plants to build, which transmission lines should be buried and when federal environmental regulations are inadequate.  Why not move into rate design? Continue reading

Dominion Rolls Out Methane-Reduction Plan

Mapping gas pipeline leaks.

Dominion Energy has announced a plan to reduce methane emissions from its natural gas infrastructure by 50% from 2010 levels over the next decade. The voluntary initiative will prevent more than 430,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 2.3 million cars off the road or planting nearly 180 million new trees.

“We recognize we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to further combat climate change,” said Diane Leopold, President and CEO of Dominion Energy’s Gas Infrastructure Group. “We’ve made significant progress, but we’re determined to go much further..” Continue reading

You May Pay A North Carolinian’s Coal Ash Costs

An illustration of the coal ash de-watering and treatment process at Bremo Bluff power station, which is now out of favor. Source: DEQ website.

The cost to Dominion Energy Virginia customers for recycling coal ash or moving it into more secure landfills is growing, because the proposed bill now recognizes that Dominion’s North Carolina electricity customers cannot be forced to pay by the Virginia General Assembly or the State Corporation Commission.

This phrase has been added to the current substitutes for House Bill 2786 and Senate Bill 1355: (v) any such costs that are allocated to the utility’s system customers outside of the Commonwealth that are not actually recovered from such customers shall be included for cost recovery from jurisdictional customers in the Commonwealth through the rate adjustment clause.  

Dominion Energy North Carolina’s customers in the northeastern part of that state depend on Virginia-based generation, including those coal plants, but the General Assembly so far seems fine with billing us for their share of these costs.  Why?  Absent that the company’s shareholders might have to pay it.   Continue reading

RGGI Debate Continues With New Comment Period

The clock is ticking toward a March 6 deadline if you are burning with a desire to comment on the latest version of Virginia’s proposed Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative regulation. Perusing the hundreds of comments from the 2018 round of comments, there may not be much to add.

If you liked the first version, you’ll love this revision. If you hated the first version, you will see this one as worse. It is very much the same, only more so – starting with the new beginning target for carbon dioxide emission from power plants of 28 million tons per year, down from the first proposal’s target of 33 million tons per year.   Continue reading

ACP Cost Bill Passes House With Bipartisan Vote

Five House Democrats joined 35 House Republicans in voting against the legislation reinforcing the State Corporation Commission’s authority to decide just how much captive electricity customers must pay once the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is supplying Dominion Energy Virginia generators.

Delegate Lee Ware’s House Bill 1718 passed Tuesday with 57 positive votes, 42 from Democrats and 15 from Republicans, including Ware. The bill now moves to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, which has proven a challenging environment for bills Dominion does not want.  Continue reading

Updates: ACP Customer Charge, M&T, Competition

The following updates three pieces of legislation previous featured on Bacon’s Rebellion. Each headline links to the previous posts for background.

SCC Review of Customer Pipeline Costs

Two legislators flipped their votes from subcommittee and voted no in the full House Commerce and Labor Committee, but legislation to reinforce State Corporation Commission authority to review the costs of natural gas pipelines survived on an 11-8 vote.

Delegate Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, and Margaret Ransone, R-Northern Neck, had supported House Bill 1718 but reversed themselves in the full committee vote Thursday afternoon.  Ransone complained that she was now confused about the impact of the bill.  Even more curious, new House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield, abstained, which normally indicates a financial conflict of interest.   Continue reading

SCC: RGGI To Cost Dominion Customers Billions

Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which would require the state’s utilities to pay a carbon tax on their fossil fuel power plants and to reduce operation of those plants, might cost the ratepayers of Dominion Energy Virginia $3.3 to $5.9 billion over the first decade, according to a State Corporation Commission staff estimate.

During a House of Delegates subcommittee hearing a week ago, a member of the SCC staff told legislators that joining RGGI would add $7 to $12 to the monthly bill of residential customers. He provided no details that day and a request to the SCC’s communications staff didn’t produce clarity.   Continue reading

Where Goes PG&E, then Goes Dominion?

PG&E Corp., California’s largest electric utility, has filed for bankruptcy protection after incurring billions of dollars in liabilities and potential liabilities in wildfire damages. The California legislature, totally controlled by Democrats, is giving the utility no succor, reports the Wall Street Journal. Writes the Journal:

A company that was once one of the most influential in Sacramento and regularly got its way on legislation and regulation now has few defenders left. The reason, Sacramento veterans say, is that years of bad news related to deadly fires and other disasters have made the company unpopular among the public.

That sentiment now outweighs the goodwill PG&E had amassed from years of lobbying, donations and other close ties to key leaders, they say.

What brought about this turnabout? Decades of strict zoning in metropolitan areas pushed up housing prices to stratospheric levels, impelling hundreds of thousands (millions?) of Californians to seek housing in cheap land and housing in the boonies. PG&E was required as part of its mandate to serve the public to extend electric power lines to these scattered developments. Meanwhile, state policy overturned the previous practice of clear cutting and controlled burns in woodlands, resulting in the accumulation of a massive amount of fuel. Then nature intervened in the form of an extended drought. When power lines failed, as they periodically do, they sparked massive wildfires. Continue reading

The Polar Vortex: Big Test for Virginia’s Energy Infrastructure

Temperature difference from normal simulated by European model about one mile high into the atmosphere on Wednesday, in degrees Celsius. (Image credit: Washington Post)

Another Polar Vortex is descending upon the United States, and it’s expected to bring record cold to the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. The news media will be full of human-interest stories about new temperature records, homeless people freezing, and disruptions to daily life and business. But the real action will be how the energy industry — electric utilities, natural gas pipelines, home oil deliveries — hold up under the strain. If the system holds together, the harm to human health will be limited. If pieces of the system fail, hundreds or thousands of people could die from the cold.

Judging from the map above, based on the forecast of a European weather model that’s now a few days old, Virginia will be on the edge of the vortex. But we’re part of the PJM Interconnection system, whose territory will be smack dab in the middle of the weather system. Also, bitter cold will strain the capacity of natural gas pipelines to deliver gas used for home heating.

As legislators ponder Virginia’s energy future, debating the proper mix of solar, wind, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electric transmission capacity, this is exactly the kind of extreme-weather event we need to prepare for. We can build an electric grid and gas-pipeline system that can perform beautifully 360 days of the year, but if it isn’t robust enough to handle a polar vortex, hurricane or other infrequent but recurring stressor, the result could be catastrophic. Continue reading

A Rack Of Increases Coming To Your Electric Bill

More rate adjustment clauses (RACs) on your power bill than points on this buck? Soon.

Here they go again, using your electric bill to pay for government spending programs and blurring the distinction between utility costs and taxes.

Everybody heard Thursday about that new coal ash management program adding to the pantheon of rate adjustment clauses (RACs) driving up electricity bills.  Later in the day, with far less notice, a House of Delegates subcommittee approved yet another RAC and allowed potentially major new costs to inflate an existing one.

Continue reading