Category Archives: Energy

The Energy Free Market that Isn’t

by Jane Twitmyer

The South, including Virginia, has been slow to build clean, transformed utility systems. Last year,  major corporations including Costco, Cox, Kroger, Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart petitioned Virginia regulators to allow them to meet their renewable energy goals by purchasing their electricity from third parties. Dominion Energy’s response was to commission a poll, according to PV magazine, asking which of two arguments was the most compelling: (1) the claim that ratepayer bills will go up $100 per month if corporations are allowed to procure their own renewables, or (2) that in the states where deregulation was introduced, that customer rates rose 39%.

The arguments are deeply questionable now that renewable technologies are cost competitive, but the “high cost” argument ignores the ongoing federal support for fossil fuel industries. A Forbes article in January warned all investors that “power sector decarbonization” is now an “imperative.” In almost all jurisdictions, utility-scale wind and solar are now the cheapest source of new electricity without subsidies. … New unsubsidized wind costs $28-54/megawatt-hour (MWh), and solar costs $32-44/MWh, while new combined cycle natural gas costs $44-68/MWh.

Comparing the real costs of generation resources is complicated.  Subsidies, both direct and indirect, as well as “offloaded” costs, need to be included. Forbes said their cost comparisons were “without subsidies,” meaning without “direct subsidies” — or specific government funding meant to reduce the retail price of building or fueling a generation resource. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) describes these subsidies as “pre-tax subsidies”, which in 2017,  globally amounted to roughly $500 billion a year. Continue reading

Photo Project Spotlights Pipeline Impact


By Peter Galuszka

Veteran photographer Karen Kasmauski, who grew up in Norfolk, has a brilliant online project that shows the human and environmental impacts of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

She is a senior fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, a non-profit group that funded her project that centers mostly in rural Nelson and Buckingham Counties that would be dissected by the natural gas pipeline.

She combines spectacular aerial photos with deep close ups of people.

One of her subjects is Ella Rose, a retiree who lives in a small house in Union Hill. She was living a quiet happy life in her natural setting until she got a letter from Dominion Energy stating that they would be routing the ACP about 150-feet from her house.

Union Hill is a touchpoint for pipeline controversy since it is largely African-American community that ACP officials have selected for a compressor station. It is one of similar localities that seem to be targeted with other loud and disruptive equipment along the pipeline route. Continue reading

Is It the Death Knell For Dominion’s Pipeline?

By Peter Galuszka

For more than a decade, hydraulic fracturing drilling for natural gas and oil has transformed the American energy picture, leading to big revivals in such energy fields such as Marcellus in West Virginia and Pennsylvania and the Bakken field in the Dakotas.

It has prompted Dominion Energy and its utility partners to push forward with an $8 billion or so Atlantic Coast Pipeline that will take Marcellus gas through Virginia all the way to South Carolina. The project, tied up in court fights, has been enormously divisive as property owners have protested the utilities’ strong arm methods of securing rights of way.

But now there’s clear evidence that the fracking boom is over, and that has huge implications for the ACL project. The reason? Oil and gas prices have dropped thanks to a perfect storm of issues. There’s the coronavirus pandemic tanking the U.S. economy, bitter energy wars between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and the fact that fracking gas and oil rigs are enormously expensive and wells can produce for only a short period.

The Hill reported last week: “Oil sank to $23 (a barrel) from a high of $53 in mid-February, far below the break even point that producers need to drill new wells to maintain supply, and with volumes rapidly diminishing at existing wells.”

The newspaper points out that a fracking well can cost more than $10 million while a traditional well is only $2 million. As price pressure mounts, the number of wells nationally has plummeted from 790 to 772 in one week.  At the Bakken field, reports The Washington Post, producers are cutting costs.

The situation has clear implications for the ACL project which was conceived at the height of the Marcellus boom. Dominion claimed that the gas would be badly needed in coming years while others claimed there isn’t enough demand. Continue reading

This is the Green New Deal Economy. Enjoy.

Source: Energy Information Agency.  Click for larger view. LCOE, LACE and Value-Cost Ratio explained below.

By Steve Haner

If all else fails in achieving your green energy dreams, you can always hope for a depression.

In Italy, the COVID-19 depression has already dropped electricity demand by about 18-21%, as reported recently by Utility Dive. The regional transmission organizations around the United States are seeing declines, as well, and I’ve been told (no data, but a reliable source) that PJM’s load is approaching a 10% drop.  Past recessions have included electricity usage declines.  Continue reading

Dems Win Big on Renewable Energy, But Issues Remain

by Jane Twitmyer

In the 2019 election, Virginia voters finally figured out the one weird trick that allows any jurisdiction to pass good climate and clean-energy legislation, according to Dave Roberts at VOX. “They put Democrats in charge.”

Virginia is the first southern state in the U.S. to set a goal of sourcing 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2050. The recently passed “Clean Economy Act” mandates major change. All coal, oil burning and wood pellet plants must be retired, and all in-state power plant carbon emissions eliminated by 2050. Going forward, renewable resources such as energy efficiency, battery storage and expanded solar are now required. Net-metered solar will expand from 1% to 6%. The state’s commitment for offshore wind is the third largest in the country.

These new CEA requirements are being celebrated by the newly elected Democratic majority and the climate activists who all worked vigorously to pass them. During the Session, 53 House bills and 29 Senate bills were introduced relating to creating clean energy. So, although Virginia’s utilities and the South’s two other major utilities have lagged the rest of the country in developing their energy efficiency and renewable strategies, Virginia is now on the way to building a system resourced with clean energy. Continue reading

Electric Yellow School Buses? Pure Green Grease

By Steve Haner

Having voted to give Dominion Energy Virginia a blank check to spend billions of your money on offshore wind turbines, the Virginia House of Delegates will vote today to provide hundreds of millions more from your pockets for electric school buses.

Last week the House defeated a similar bill, twice. It received only 35 votes the first time and 44 votes the second. The response from the utility and the Senate patron was to introduce a new bill “Thursday,” after she received unanimous consent from her fellow senators.  Continue reading

Energy Updates: Signs of Resistance After All

The Main Clean Energy Bill. Both General Assembly chambers have now approved a single substitute version of the omnibus clean energy bill, on largely (but not totally) party line votes. In a further compromise on their plan to save the world, proponents decided not to force closure of a Southwest Virginia coal-burning plant and were rewarded with the votes of one Southwest Virginia Republican: Del. Terry Kilgore. (Correction: The initial post incorrectly reported Sen. Ben Chafin as having voted aye. It was Republican Sen. Jill Vogel.)

Kilgore’s vote mattered as the House had only 51 aye’s. The House roll calls are not posted yet, just the vote totals.  Senate Bill 851  is now on its way to Governor Ralph Northam. Odds are further changes will be coming and another vote will be taken at the Reconvened Session on April 22. The House version was heading for a conference committee which is now not needed.  Continue reading

Dominion’s Base Rates Like Cable You Can’t Cancel

By Steve Haner

The 2020 effort to bring Dominion Energy Virginia back under full State Corporation Commission regulation failed because too many of the loudest advocates are two-faced hypocrites. If they truly cared about ratepayers and the proper balance in utility regulation, they wouldn’t be pushing that other bill, the one that further guts the SCC and adds substantial customer costs in the name of green virtue.

During the hearing Monday night State Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford, was quite open in chastising the various environmental advocates for talking out of both sides of their mouths, worrying about the ratepayer in one discussion but not the other. He was right. If you want Virginia energy regulation done correctly, it needs to be done correctly in all instances.  Continue reading

Finally Catching Up With Bacon’s Rebellion

It has taken a while, but the Washington Post has finally begin to catch on to what Steve Haner and others have been saying about the omnibus energy bill making its way through the General Assembly:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/va-democrats-push-environmental-change–but-still-in-concert-with-dominion/2020/03/01/ed0c634e-5a40-11ea-9b35-def5a027d470_story.html

The Ohio Energy Bill Subsidy Virginia Would Copy

Three of the six electric utilities charging customers to provide others with Ohio PIPP subsidies. Per 1,000 kWh the surcharge to customers is $3.19 for Toledo Edison, $3.34 for Ohio Edison and $2.37 for The Illuminating Company.

by Steve Haner

Both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate have voted to increase the price of electricity to most Virginians in order to subsidize the bills of low-income utility customers. How much? They have no idea. But the program in Ohio being copied adds from $1 to $3.66 to the price of 1,000 kilowatt hours for those not subsidized.

The Virginia version is even borrowing the name and acronym from Ohio, the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP). The charge in both is called a “universal service fee.” In 2020, the Ohio program will cost ratepayers $301 million to subsidize the power bills of about 275,000 low-income households. The Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) sets the amount charged in each utility’s service territory and the Ohio Development Services Area transfers the necessary funds to the various electricity providers.

The largest electricity provider in that state of 11.7 million people, Ohio Power, has the highest “adder” on its rates, $3.66 per 1,000 kilowatt hours used. That works out to $44 per year for a residential customer using exactly that amount monthly. A large industrial or commercial user would pay the same rate until monthly consumption hit 833,000 kilowatt hours, when a reduced rate kicks in on additional consumption. The first 833,000 kilowatt hours of usage in Ohio Power’s territory is hit with a $3,050 monthly surcharge.  Continue reading

SCC Raises Estimate of Clean Energy Bill Costs

By Steve Haner

The State Corporation Commission staff popped up in a House of Delegates Committee Tuesday to provide another unwelcome lecture, with revised estimates on the likely cost to Dominion Energy Virginia customers of the pending omnibus clean energy legislation.

The numbers it provided to the House Labor and Commerce Committee Tuesday afternoon were higher than the estimate it provided in a Senate Committee two weeks before. That first document provided a range of from $23 to $31 per month more on 1,000 kilowatt hours of residential use. Now the SCC is saying the range is $28 to $36 per month, or $334 to $432 per year. Here’s the sheet, which looks much like the prior one. The big addition is an estimate of $4-6 per month for future energy storage.  Continue reading

Getting to a Greener World with a Win-Win Agenda

by James A. Bacon

Climate Change Alarmism is out of control. We’re being told that we have ten years to re-engineer the global energy economy or the world will reach a tipping point after which it will inevitably descend into an apocalyptic climate meltdown. A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post published an article observing that “Kids are terrified, anxious, and depressed about climate change.” Climate Alarm is feeding the anxieties of an entire generation of Greta Thunbergs, who think they have no future worth living.

There’s just no escaping it. Today we read in the Washington Post an op-ed by Parris N. Glendening, a former Maryland governor and now president of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, arguing that states (including Virginia) in the Northeast should joint the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. His rhetoric isn’t alarmist, but he advances a sweeping agenda. Not only does Glendening want more bike lanes, more walkable communities, more mass transit, and more charging stations for Electric Vehicles, he wants Americans to pay more to get them sooner than we otherwise might. Continue reading

With Friends Like These, Ratepayers in Big Trouble

By Steve Haner

If your main concern is that people pay a fair price for electricity, the best outcome of Monday’s Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting would be approval of the bill changing the rules on Dominion Energy Virginia’s 2021 rate review, followed by defeat or delay of the highly touted Virginia Clean Energy Act. That is also the outcome which preserves the independent authority of the State Corporation Commission.

Looks like it will be the other way around.  Continue reading

Moderation? Senate Holds Back House On Issues

By Steve Haner

With two weeks remaining in the 2020 General Assembly session, the tendency to procrastinate (and perhaps some buyer’s remorse) has several key issues still pending. Here is an update on some  previously discussed on Bacon’s Rebellion.

The moderating impact of the narrow 21-19 split in the Virginia Senate, with several of those Democrats needing to be sensitive to more rural constituencies, is on full display. The defeat of the assault weapons ban is not the only example, just the most reported example.  Continue reading

Net-Zero vs. Zero Carbon

by James A. Bacon

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an organization advocating market-based solutions to environmental issues, has taken a close look at Dominion Energy’s pledge to become a “net-zero” company by 2050. The Institute sees the company’s commitment as a positive step forward, but concludes there is less than meets the eye.

Dominion’s net-zero pledge is to significantly curtail CO2 and methane emissions from its gas-pipeline and electricity-generating operations, and to offset what remains through outside initiatives, such as capturing methane from hog and dairy farms. (For background see, “Has Dominion Gone Full Climate Change Warrior?”)

On the positive side, RMI describes Dominion’s plan as “a novel development” that extends beyond CO2, which gets most of the attention as a greenhouse gas, by addressing leaks of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas, from its roughly 100,000 miles of gas pipelines. Also worthy is the promise to invest hundreds of millions of dollars capturing methane from farm production, a source that has received little attention to date.

However, concludes the think tank, “It is important to not let Dominion’s work on methane leaks cloud larger issues. The utility’s plan to reach net zero is not the same as the zero-carbon pledges of electric utilities. … Even if Dominion plugs all the leaks in its transmission and distribution networks, its operations will still result in emissions at the point of combustion.” Continue reading