Category Archives: Energy

Another One Bites the Dust

Utility-scale solar projects are getting shot down like Hamas rockets.

by James A. Bacon

From today’s news dump courtesy of VA News:

The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected an application by Dynamic Energy LLC to build a five-megawatt solar facility on 40 acres of farmland near Bealeton, reports Fauquier Now. “When I looked at this,” said Supervisor Rick Gerhardt, “I didn’t want to take solid farmland out of production. Those are good soils on that property. For me, I do not want to see that removed from farming.” The county planning commission had rejected it previously by a 3 to 2 vote.

Meanwhile, Round Hill Solar LLC has withdrawn a plan to develop 560 acres of solar panels from the Augusta County Board of Supervisor. The planning commission had already determined that the plan conflicted with the county’s comprehensive plan that took location, character, and extent of the project into consideration, reports the News Leader. Continue reading

Gas Shortages: Deja Vu All Over Again

Photo credit: New York Post

by Kerry Dougherty

It’s like old times. 1979 to be exact.

Just 3 1/2 months into the Biden administration and we’ve gone from energy independence to gas lines.

What’s next, 18% percent mortgages? Or will Joe borrow Jimmy Carter’s old cardigan and urge us all to turn down the thermostats?

Yep, everywhere I went yesterday it looked a lot like it did 32 years ago. Long lines of cars snaking around gas stations. Exasperated drivers pounding their steering wheels.

I remember 1979 well because I was living in Northern Virginia and the odd/even gas rationing was chaotic. I became so desperate for fuel for my diesel VW Rabbit that I actually siphoned gallons out of the heating oil tank at my house one day.

I can still taste it.

Yes, I know that’s illegal. I believe the statute has run on that crime. Continue reading

Bacon Bits Does Electric Grid

Source: “Electricity Sales Forecast for Virginia: 2020-2050”

Boom times ahead for electricity. Electricity demand in Virginia will grow 30%, give or take, over the next 15 years as more energy-consuming data centers are built and more Virginians drive electric vehicles, writes Bill Shobe, a University of Virginia professor who supports the transition to a net-zero-carbon electric grid, in a new report. Electricity use could grow by more than 78% by 2050, the state’s deadline for achieving net zero. The increase will occur despite gains in energy efficiency that have flattened electricity demand growth in recent years.

Where will all that power come from?

Relicensing the nukes. Dominion Energy’s four nuclear units at the Surry and North Anna power stations produce about one-third of the utility’s electricity. The units, originally designed to last 40 years, are licensed to operate another 20 years. Dominion is seeking regulatory approval to extend the licenses yet another 20 years. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has recommended granting that approval for the two Surry units. But some environmentalists are opposed. Continue reading

TCI Model Rule Ready for Study, Comment

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  (Happy birthday, Mr. President.)

Read the governing document for the Transportation and Climate Initiative and it becomes clear there is more going on than just an effort to reduce motor fuel use with a combination of taxes and shrinking caps. That may really be a secondary goal. Continue reading

Virginia Electric Rates: Low/Moderate Now But Heading Higher

Average electricity rates in rates in Virginia were 20th lowest in the nation in 2019, according to a survey based on U.S. Energy Information Administration data by the American Legislative Exchange Council. The average price per kilowatt hour was 9.52 cents.

But Virginians could lose their moderate electricity rates in the future as it joins the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative  (RGGI) and moves towards the goal of a 100% renewable electric grid by 2050, emulating policies of the Northeastern states with among the highest electric rates in the country. Continue reading

The Transmission Bottleneck for Renewable Energy

by James A. Bacon

You want more renewable energy? You’re going to need more high-voltage transmission lines to move intermittent wind and solar power around the country to balance fluctuating supply and demand. And you’d better get started. Transmission planning and construction involves long lead times, typically between seven and ten years.

“The window may be closing to develop the needed transmission expansion to enable the optimization of clean energy, meet state clean energy objectives, and other ‘voluntary’ demand for low-cost renewable energy,” summarizes a new study, “How Transmission Planning & Cost Allocation Processes Are Inhibiting Wind & Solar Development in SPP, MISO, & PJM.” Continue reading

Podcast: How the General Assembly Has Changed

By Peter Galuszka

I haven’t contributed much to BR lately since I am slammed with non-Virginia work. I did manage to help out on a Podcast about how the General Assembly has changed the state over the last two years as Democrats have gained power.

This Podcast is produced by WTJU, the University of Virginia radio station. I do a weekly talk show on state politics and economics and, on occasion, work on Podcasts.

Joining me is Sally Hudson, a delegate from the Charlottesville area. She is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics. Sally studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford and is one of the youngest members of the General Assembly.

I hope you enjoy it.

Surprise! State Underestimated Carbon Tax Cost

by Steve Haner

Virginia has collected its first wave of carbon taxes from the state’s electricity generators, costs which will eventually show up on future bills. The $43.6 million take just about doubles the revenue estimates used when participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was being approved by the Virginia General Assembly last year. Surprise!   Continue reading

In the Face of Local Resistance, Can Virginia Meet Its Solar Goals?

by James A. Bacon

Virginia needs to build dozens of square miles of solar panels if there is any hope of reaching the goal of a zero-carbon electric grid by 2045 in Dominion Energy territory and 2050 across the state. The General Assembly can compel the state’s electric utilities to purchase the solar power but it can’t compel anyone to develop the solar farms, especially if local governments are opposed.

Numerous solar projects have been approved — including, most recently, $400 million in a 280-megawatt in Pulaski County, so there’s no question that solar will be a big part of Virginia’s energy future. But are enough projects getting approved?

The odds are looking slim for a $200 million, 149-megawatt proposal by North Carolina-based Strata Solar in Culpeper County. County staff had expressed concerns about the proposed 1,700-acre Maroon Solar power plant, and yesterday the planning commission unanimously recommended denial of the plan, reports the Culpeper Star-Exponent. Continue reading

Hey, Mount Trashmore, Top This!

by Bill Tracy

According to WJLA-TV7, The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved the next phase in the evolution of the former Lorton landfill off of Interstate 95: It will become a 1,700-foot ski slope. That’s right, a ski resort. In Northern Virginia. Only 10 minutes from my home.

The project, Fairfax Peak, will be a 450,000-square-foot indoor snow sports facility with a 100-room luxury hotel, sky bar, restaurants, and a bunny slope. The first of its kind in the United States, it will have not have only the longest indoor ski slope in North America but one of the longest in the world.  

The project will be super-green too. Aside from the obligatory solar panels, the planned facilities will use waste heat from the adjacent county Waste-To-Energy plant. In other words, the incinerator will serve as bona fide co-gen plant.

Interestingly, per a Google search, Landfills-to-Ski Slopes is a global trend.  The picture above is an artist rendering of a Denmark power plant that will incinerate trash while using the energy produced to power the city and the ski slope. Continue reading

Centuries of Energy Already Sitting in Cans

“Slightly Used” Nuclear Fuel Storage Casks.

by Steve Haner

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

If you are serious about making electricity without carbon emissions and also serious about making enough electricity to run a real economy 24-7-365, the discussion keeps coming back to nuclear energy. It is the obvious choice if you believe we must eliminate natural gas soon.  Continue reading

Politicians Get the Gold Mine, the Middle Class Gets the Shaft

by James A. Bacon

Thousands have Virginians have fallen behind on their electric bill payments as they struggle through the COVID-19 epidemic. The General Assembly wants to help. So, in the budget compromise reached by the House of Delegates and the state Senate, Dominion Energy will be directed to forgive customers’ unpaid balances that were more than 30 days in arrears as of Dec. 31, 2020.

Who will pay for this? Not the Commonwealth of Virginia. The state may be awash in $2.4 billion in federal COVID relief funds plus $410 million in tax revenue over forecasts this year, but, no, legislators want to spend every dime.

And not Dominion Energy. The budget bill reaffirms the utility’s right to use the bill-forgiveness costs to offset earnings from 2017 to 2020 in the State Corporation Commission’s next review of its profits, reports The Virginia Mercury.

You, dear ratepayer, will pay the cost (unless you’re one of those who have fallen behind in your payments). With apologies to Jerry Reed, the politicians get the gold mine, and Virginia’s middle class gets the shaft. Continue reading

Dominion EV School Bus Crash #3 Ends Session

Photo Credit: The Washington Post

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s effort to force its ratepayers to finance a fleet of electric school buses has finally crashed, defeated by the House of Delegates for a third time in the final roll call of the 2021 General Assembly Saturday night.  Continue reading

The Virginia War On Fossil Fuels

by Steve Haner

First published in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star Feb. 26 then distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  

The lesson of the Texas grid collapse is not just about electricity. Imagine the week Texans would have had if once the power went out and stayed out, they had no gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas to fall back on. How much worse would their plight have been without natural gas heating homes and businesses, propane space heaters and grills, and gasoline or diesel-powered cars and trucks to get where they needed to go?  Continue reading

First They Come for the Gas Pipelines, Then the Nukes, and Then… Your Gas Grill?

by James A. Bacon

As Virginia hurtles towards its brave new future of a net zero-carbon economy, the political class needs more data so it can figure out who else to regulate and what else to shut down. Our overlords have a good handle on CO2 emissions in the electric grid and the transportation sector, but Virginia’s economy is so big and sprawling that many carbon “polluters” have not been identified.

A bill submitted by Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, would correct that data deficiency. The bill would allow the state Department of Environmental Quality to conduct an inventory of “all greenhouse gas emissions” and to update it every four years. DEQ would publish the date on its website and show how emissions compared to the baseline. The bill has passed both the House and the Senate.

“Good policy requires good data and this legislation gives us the ability to get the data we need to craft good policy going forward,” The Virginia Mercury quotes DEQ Deputy Director Chris Bast as saying. Continue reading