Category Archives: Energy

Dominion and Despicable Voter Suppression

So it was Dominion Energy paying for campaign ads opposing gun regulation! Here is why.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s knowing participation in an effort to suppress the November 2 vote, aimed mainly at Western Virginia Republicans, is a truly despicable act. It should enrage all Virginians, without regard to party. This is a state-created and regulated monopoly and the $200,000 it spent on this underhanded activity was provided by captive customers.

I further assert that in previous election cycles, as heavily as Dominion funded various candidates, this type of expense would not have been approved by the management, including the late Thomas Farrell. But Farrell is dead and the political deciders at the top now are both long-time partisan Democrats who fully understood they were paying for voter suppression.

I would be expressing no anger whatsoever if Dominion had merely donated $200,000 directly and openly to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. It would have been a logical move to support a former governor who strongly backed its failed natural gas pipeline project, and now has pledged to deeply enrich the company by accelerating the transition to unreliable renewable generation instead.

McAuliffe is nothing if not flexible. I used another word to describe his subservience to Dominion on Twitter yesterday and got blocked for 12 hours. Continue reading

More Proof Virginia Disclosure Laws are Crap

Former Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan

by Steve Haner

In 2020, according to documents filed with the State Corporation Commission, Dominion Energy Virginia paid former state Senator John Watkins $92,297 for lobbying services. At the end of the reporting period, it officially claimed spending only $1,641 for him to influence the legislative process.

In a similar manner, former Fairfax Delegate John Rust was retained over four years for a combined $265,000. But for his services in 2020, the year of the massive Virginia Clean Economy Act, Dominion’s lobbying expense disclosure listed his fee at $7,679.

The full payments to both former Republican legislators, all perfectly legal, are the subject of an online article on the Richmond Times Dispatch website, probably awaiting print publication. It also focuses on large payments made to a Hampton Roads journalist and former Democratic gubernatorial aide, which Dominion never had to disclose on any state report since buying friendly editorials isn’t covered by disclosure laws.

Add up the reported payments to all the other outside law and lobbying firms Dominion hired, compare them to the official disclosures, and a similar pattern of under reporting will be evident. The reporter missed the best part of this story — that information gap.

What do we learn here?  Anything we didn’t know? Continue reading

The Imperative for Reflection

Virginia’s “Lewis and Clark” energy future calls for an adaptable energy policy responsive to new information as it is gathered.

by Bill O’Keefe

Politicians are not known for engaging in reflection or looking back on legislation, but they should. The experience that Europe is having with its version of the Virginia Clean Economy Act is the reason why. Presently, Europe is experiencing energy shortages and surging prices. Some of this turmoil is due to global forces but some is due to energy decisions that European nations have made, in particular the decision to move rapidly to renewables and eliminate coal, nuclear and natural gas as major sources of electricity.

Green ideology blinded Germany and other European countries to the fact that wind and solar don’t provide around-the-clock reliable sources of energy. This summer there have been extended periods of low or no wind. Last winter, European nations experienced colder-than-normal temperatures which had the effect of reducing both solar and wind power and leading to steep price increases. Without reliable and commercially viable electric storage systems, renewables are vulnerable to cloud and snow cover and periods of low wind.

The General Assembly and Dominion Energy would do well to take a close look at Europe’s experience and determine how Virginia can avoid a similar fate. One important lesson is that major transitions are complex and beset with many uncertainties. Another is that government has at best a mixed record when it comes to industrial policy. Continue reading

Cost, Reliability and the Zero-Carbon Grid

Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility.

by James A. Bacon

Kevin Hennessy, Dominion Energy’s senior director of state affairs, expresses confidence that the electric power company can meet the Northam administration’s goal of creating a zero-carbon electric grid in its service territory by 2045. It does take a leap of faith that electric batteries or some other energy storage system will make great strides in efficiency, he admits. Also, he caveats, it’s essential to continue generating nuclear power. Further, he acknowledges, costs and rates will go up. But the job can be done.

Ask Hennessy about gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s plan to accelerate the shift to a zero-carbon grid by 2035 — a decade earlier — and you get a very different response. The Dominion exec professes not to know much about the proposal, which appears in McAuliffe’s plan for fighting climate change, and did not address it directly. But he does observe that Dominion’s internal projections show consumption of natural gas through 2035 — even as solar and wind generation surge. Continue reading

Why Virginia Job Growth Lags Region, Nation

Chesapeake Climate Action Network webpage boasting about the defeat of a gas pipeline expansion, a signal seen by location managers all around the U.S.

by Steve Haner

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation… Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months… I’m proud of our roaring economic growth…”

So claimed Governor Ralph Northam (D) in a September 17 news release.

It came just after Virginia’s economy showed especially anemic results in August employment data, capping a period of poor performance effectively described in a recent Bacon’s Rebellion post by Richmond economist A. Fletcher Mangum.  Virginia’s job growth this spring and summer has trailed the vast majority of other states, with the August data placing us at a shameful 47th out of 50. Simply achieving the national average growth rate that month would have meant 75,000 more jobs. Continue reading

McAuliffe Promise to Accelerate VCEA Schedule Will Accelerate VCEA Consumer Bill Increases

2020 SCC staff projection of monthly residential bill increases by 2030 for Dominion Energy Virginia customers, mainly tied to a rapid retreat from fossil fuels.

by Steve Haner

When a State Corporation Commission staff analysis warned last year of $808 annual increases in Dominion Energy Virginia residential bills by 2030, that 58% increase was based on the existing deadlines set for Dominion’s conversion away from using fossil fuels.

Change the deadlines, change the cost. Shorten the deadlines by half, as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is promising to do, and 2030 electricity costs will grow even higher.  Continue reading

More Ignored News: Bag Tax Coming to Richmond

From American Progressive Bag Alliance flyer opposing local bag taxes.

by Steve Haner

The plastic bag tax recently approved in Roanoke and several Northern Virginia localities, created by the General Assembly in 2020 as a local option, is also coming to the City of Richmond. It was promised in the same September 13 Richmond City Council “climate crisis” resolution that implied a future closure of the Richmond Gas WorksContinue reading

The Environmentalist Case Against Renewables

If you missed the Virginia Energy Consumer Conference last week, here’s your chance to catch up. The highlight is Steve Haner’s interview of Michael Shellenberger, author of “Apocalypse Never.” Addressing the energy debate from a national perspective, Shellenberger makes the case that renewable energy sources are no panacea for the environment. Subsequent presentations in the conference provide conservative perspectives on Virginia-specific issues. — JAB

Henrico, Chesterfield Users of Richmond Gas Unprotected by SCC, State Law

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

Sec. 13.10. No sale or lease of utilities except when approved by referendum. There shall be no sale or lease of the water, wastewater, gas or electric utilities unless the proposal for such sale or lease shall first be submitted to the qualified voters of the city at a general election and be approved by a majority of all votes cast at such election.

That provision is in the charter for the City of Richmond, part of the Code of Virginia. Note it does not require the city’s leaders to consult with the people before closing a city-owned utility, just before the sale or lease.  Continue reading

Dominion Dips Toe into Battery Storage

by James A. Bacon

Last week Dominion Energy announced a slew of new solar and energy-storage projects, which it describes as a “significant step” toward achieving the net-zero carbon goals for Virginia’s electric grid under the Virginia Clean Energy Act.

The proposed investments include 11 utility-scale projects, two small-scale distributed solar projects, one combined solar and energy-storage project, and one stand-alone energy storage project. Aside from receiving State Corporation Commission approval, the projects will require state environmental permits and local zoning approval.

Once in operation, the projects will be able to provide 1,000 megawatts of electricity, or roughly enough to power 250,000 homes at peak output. Dominion said the package of projects would add $1.13 to the typical residential customer’s monthly bill.

Dominion’s announcement raises questions. If utility-scale solar is the most economical form of electricity generation, how come rates will be going up? Continue reading

SCC Staff: Dominion Should Refund $312M, Cut Rates, Due to $1.14B Excess Profits

SCC Staff summary showing how $1.14 billion in Dominion Energy Virginia excess profits get whittled down to only a possible $312 million refund.  Step one, not shown, is the law allows the company to keep the first 70 basis points of excess profit no questions asked.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Customers of Dominion Energy Virginia are due a refund of $312 million and the company’s future base rates should be reduced by another $50 million annually, the utility accounting staff at the State Corporation Commission concluded in testimony filed September 17.

Patrick W. Carr, deputy director of the division of utility accounting and finance, was joined in filing testimony by ten other members of that staff, but he provided the baseline result in his opening summary.

In the staff’s opinion, Dominion earned $1.143 billion of profit in excess of its allowed 9.2% return on equity during the four year period it reviewed, 2017 through 2020. The company will vigorously dispute those claims in rebuttal testimony, it is safe to predict.

The State Corporation Commission is entering the key phase of its so-called “triennial review,” which in Dominion’s case covers an extra year because that is what it asked of the Virginia General Assembly, and the Assembly seldom declines DEV’s requests. This is the first full audit of the company’s finances since 2015, which covered the two prior years of 2013 and 2014. Continue reading

Richmond Wants to Kill Its Gas Utility, Also Ending Service in Henrico, Chesterfield

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the (Richmond) Council hereby commits to working with the City’s Administration on an equitable plan to phase out reliance on gas and shift to accelerated investment in City-owned renewable energy and hereby recognizes that the continued operation of the City’s gas utility is an obstacle to the City’s goal of Net-Zero emissions in accordance Resolution No. 2020-R024, adopted June 8, 2020.

Translation:  The Richmond Gas Works, a municipal owned public service utility, is targeted for closure.   Council sees its continued operation as “an obstacle.”  The 117,600 customers (as of 2018) will need to run their lives and businesses without natural gas.  Those customers are not confined to the city itself but are also located in Henrico and Chesterfield counties.  Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Wind, Rain and Sun Edition

What happens when the wind doesn’t blow? The North Sea, locale of the world’s largest cluster of wind farms, normally delivers strong, consistent wind flows that keeps the turbines spinning. But every once in a while, weather happens and the winds diminish. That’s what’s occurring now. Blame it on global warming, if you will — that seems to be the explanation for every inconvenient fluctuation in rainfall, temperature and extreme weather.

Whatever the cause, according to the Wall Street Journal, the falloff in wind is wreaking havoc in the United Kingdom, where wind supplies 25% of the nation’s electric power. Due to the wind “shortage,” marginal electricity prices have shot up to the equivalent of $395 per megawatt/hour (or $0.395 per kilowatt hour). That compares to the statewide average of $0.11 per kilowatt hour in Virginia. To make up the deficit, UK utilities have been burning more… coal. Coal will provide a backstop until 2024, when all coal-fired plants will be shuttered. Is anyone in Virginia paying attention?

Speaking of coal… Southwest Virginians are still casting around for ideas of what to do when the coal plants close. There is no lack of creative thinking. I just don’t know how practical it is. Here is the latest: growing artisanal grains. Once upon a time, Virginia’s coal counties grew grain to supply alcohol feedstock for a booming coal-town bars and saloons. The economics shifted in favor of massive Midwest farms, which enjoyed economies of scale, and local grain farming nearly ceased. But, according to The Virginia Mercury, local economic-development groups want to play on the local-food movement to make Southwest Virginia a primary source of specialty grains for Virginia’s growing craft beverage industry. Virginia imports 400,000 bushels of grain into the state. Snagging  a piece of that action could support a lot of farms.

With climate change, who knows how that will work out. Let’s hope the rain keeps falling. Continue reading

Conference Explores VA Rush to Copy CA Energy

by Steve Haner

Californians were again this week under an electricity “flex alert,” a conservation order required because of its reliance on unreliable solar and wind energy. They often cannot keep up with demand on the hotter days. Is this Virginia’s future? The government is telling Californians:

  • Set your thermostat at 78° or higher
  • Avoid using major appliances
  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Use fans for cooling
  • Unplug unused items.

The return of this power shortfall comes just days before Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall vote, with this growing crisis being cited by some of his opponents. It is also a distant cloud on Virginia’s horizon as early voting begins here next week in the elections for statewide offices and the House of Delegates.

Virginia has rushed to copy California’s climate-fear and rent-seeking driven solar and wind energy scheme. Continue reading

Nantucket Wind Suit May Have Virginia Echoes

Source: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

by Steve Haner

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

A group of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts residents have filed suit challenging the pre-construction environmental review on a massive offshore wind complex planned off its shores. The issues raised may have a direct impact on the similar wind energy project planned off Virginia Beach, which is only now beginning its environmental impact process. Continue reading