Category Archives: Energy

Will Virginia Be Ruled from Sacramento?

by Kerry Dougherty

Turns out former Gov. Ralph Northam is the gift that keeps on giving.

Not only do Virginia’s school children continue to suffer academically because of Northam’s hasty, hysterical and prolonged school closures, but most of us were shocked this week to learn that California’s boneheaded new rules regarding a draconian move to electric vehicles will apply to the Old Dominion as well, thanks to a bill Northam signed into law in 2021, linking Virginia to California’s clean air standards, the strictest in the world.

Lucky us.

Before the California measure was finalized last week, Steve Haner wrote for the Suffolk News-Herald that thanks to Northam and his Democratic cronies in the General Assembly, we are now serfs to California’s wacky politics.

Virginia’s auto industry overlords in California have a new set of proposed mandates for both electric and internal combustion vehicles that, once adopted, will automatically apply here in the commonwealth. Continue reading

Sudden Impact

The Toyota Prius jump-started the EV era, but the Prius Prime PHEV version no longer qualifies for Federal tax credits because final assembly is not in America.

by Bill Tracy

President Biden’s new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) might be better called the American Auto Industry Rescue and Restructure bill. The U.S. auto industry wants to phase out gasoline vehicles, and it also urgently needs Congress to endorse and support that goal.

Apparently, the IRA’s eventual passage was no surprise: the handwriting was on the wall. Many southern states — including Virginia’s key competitors of North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas — have been busy constructing new electric vehicle (EV) and lithium battery assembly plants. In hindsight, the construction activity was probably anticipated to comply with Congress’s new made-in-America rules.

Those Southern states (sans Virginia) are now dubbed the  “EV Battery Belt.” Why has Virginia not grabbed a bigger slice of this economic pie? Have we been asleep at the wheel? Or did we just let the “Tesla autopilot” take over?

But for now, I would like to focus on the practical aspects of buying a new electric car in Virginia. Many consumers in today’s new car market were blindsided by the sudden impact of the new rules. Continue reading

Secret Wind Case Documents Are Key to Appeal

Snippet from UVA video showing how winds can destroy a large wind turbine.

by Steve Haner

Now comes applicant Dominion Energy Virginia, petitioning the Virginia State Corporation Commission to reverse its recent decision to impose actual financial risk on the company and its stockholders. If a hurricane blows down its planned offshore wind farm in a few years, the related costs should be imposed 100% on its captive ratepayers, Dominion demands.

Imagine that: expecting a monopoly with a guaranteed right to earn in excess of 10% profit on a $10 billion project forced to face actual risk. What is the world coming to? Continue reading

The New NIMBY

The Gazette-Virginian reports that the town of Halifax is considering its first solar project. The proposed facility would occupy 46 acres on an 85.8-acre parcel. Town Councilman Jack Dunavant made his position clear: “Personally, I don’t think we should allow solar farms within the town limits of Halifax. I like solar energy, but I don’t want it somewhere in my front yard or my back yard. It ought to be out in the country.”

Wall Street Journal: Wind Approved “Under Duress”

by Steve Haner

With an editorial published yesterday, The Wall Street Journal has now given its readers more insight into the risks inherent in Dominion Energy Virginia’s coming wind project than any Virginia newspaper or broadcast outlet has. It is not the kind of national spotlight Virginia should crave. Continue reading

Wind: SCC Rejects Deal Signed By Its Staff

Click for larger view. Source: Dominion

by Steve Haner

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

Rejecting an agreement that its own staff reached with Dominion Energy Virginia, the State Corporation Commission has imposed at least some level of financial risk on the utility’s shareholders should its $10 billion offshore wind project fail to match the company’s promised performance.

Lest you think that means the ratepayers can relax, the long final order issued August 5 once again highlights all the things that could go wrong with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, scheduled to be fully operational by 2027. The regulators also wash their hands of any responsibility and record for posterity that the Virginia General Assembly made them approve this. Continue reading

Delayed Fuel Costs May Include Interest Now

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia wants its customers, not its shareholders, to pay an interest penalty for the privilege of taking three years to pay off the recent explosion in its fuel costs. The company is paying  about $1 billion more for fuel than it planned when the fuel portion of bills was set a year ago. Continue reading

Salvation for the Mountain Valley Pipeline?

MVP route map. Click for larger view. Source: MVP

by Steve Haner

And now, from our “I’ll believe it when I see it” department, comes the expectation that passage of President Joe Biden’s new corporate tax hike and green energy incentives package will be followed by a smooth path to completion for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) for natural gas.

The topic is everywhere today because Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., included it as a deal point on a summary of what he sees as agreed outcomes from his decision to support the package. But the massive bill does not (and could not) include blanket approval of the pipeline among its provisions. Continue reading

Electric Vehicles in a Hurricane?

by Kerry Dougherty

While hurricane season technically began two months ago, it isn’t until August — or even September — that most of us pay attention to those pesky tropical depressions off the coast of Africa.

My favorite parlor game is the annual will-we-evacuate-if-a-hurricane-is-headed-our-way debate. My family’s answer, so far, has always been no.

There’s a reason many of us just smile weakly when emergency management types talk cheerfully about “orderly evacuations” of Tidewater.

We’ve seen tunnel traffic on summer weekends. We’ve spent hours stewing in it. We also know that the only thing worse than being stuck in a flimsy house for a Category 4 ‘cane would be to be spend it in a colossal traffic jam on the bridge by Willoughby Spit.

Now imagine being stuck on the spit in an electric vehicle that’s run out of juice. Continue reading

Dominion Kicks off Battery-Storage Pilot Project

Utility-scale batteries adjacent to solar panels at Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

A utility-scale battery storage system has gone online at Dominion Energy’s Scott Solar Facility in Powhatan County, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. During the day when solar output is peaking, excess energy is rerouted to the batteries. When the sun goes down and output falls, batteries release electricity back into the grid. The 12-megawatt battery complex can power 3,000 homes for up to four hours.

The purpose of the Scott Solar project is to give Dominion real-world experience in understanding how batteries can integrate into the larger electric grid. Dominion officials contend that battery storage can be a more cost-effective way to meet high-demand periods than, in the RTD’s words, building “an entirely new generation facility.”

The “levelized cost” of electricity, which includes up-front capital costs, operating costs, and fuel costs (which are zero for solar) over the lifetime of the project, is lower for solar than any other energy source available on a large scale in Virginia. However, solar farms are part of a larger system that must meet the demand for electricity 24/7. Solar facilities, while highly cost-efficient on a stand-alone basis, are highly variable. Output cannot be dialed up and down as needed. Therefore, they require significant backup. Batteries are one means of providing that backup. And batteries have a cost. Continue reading

Wojick on Whales III: The Noisy Driving of Piles

Tethys, wife of Oceanus and mother of the river gods.

by David Wojick

The Virginia wind-versus-whales story has taken a turn for the worse. Worse for the severely endangered Right Whales that is. My research has found what may be some really bad news.

Meet Tethys. Not the real Tethys, the mythical Greek Titan of the sea, but the U.S. Department of Energy’s center for reporting research on the environmental impact of energy technology on sea life, including whales. This is the science side of DOE (where I used to work), not the Ocean Energy development side. Continue reading

The July Surprise from Congress – a Completely Revised Energy Economy by 2030

It’s simple. Let’s write a bill and put a date certain on it.  What could go wrong? Courtesy BP

by James C. Sherlock

Here at Bacon’s Rebellion we spend a lot of ink talking about Virginia energy demand and supply. We debate the ideas of both sides of the discussion. Turns out that we made the mistake of thinking these were state issues.

Democrats in Congress are about to intervene in every part of that discussion in a reconciliation bill to be passed with 50 votes in the Senate.

First, consider the inside joke of the title of an act to be buried in the reconciliation bill: “The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.”

  • Congressional Democrats propose to fight inflation by pouring another $369 billion into the economy in a period of extremely high inflation and by raising taxes in a recession.
  • Projection of the writers of the bill: “slash” the country’s carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030 — less than 8 years.
  • No risk is recognized in completely upending the nation’s energy economy — “slashing” it to use the term of art.
  • No controls offered to make sure that corruption doesn’t follow the money.
  • No controls offered to make sure the money accomplishes its goals.
  • No word on how the production of plastics, synthetic fabrics, fertilizer, concrete, asphalt, paraffin wax used by electric companies to insulate wires, steel, petrochemicals, and sulfur removed from petroleum used in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries might be impacted.
  • No tongues in cheeks when promising low-income Americans a $7,500 tax credit to buy a $65,000 electric vehicle.
  • No mention anywhere of how this bill merges seamlessly with the major climate “investments” in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
  • No word on how the new taxes, which will be popular with voters, will affect employment and capital investment. You know, capital investment, the money corporations use to bring innovation to market.  Or on the risk-reward calculations of investment decisions in early stage companies.
  • No indication of market effects when for-profit businesses pay the new taxes and their self-declared “not-for-profit” competitors in, say, the hospital industry do not.  No calculation of the effects on insurance rates.
  • Or, as Steve Haner points out, on the international competitiveness of American products with higher prices and less reliable energy.

The only thing that matters: Joe Manchin has agreed to it. Continue reading

Solar Development Continues to Erode VA Farmland

by Barbara Hollingsworth

First published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Virginia lost about 2,000 acres of productive farmland per week in 2021, according to data released in February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are many reasons why farmers sell off their land, including development pressures, lack of interest by younger members of farming families, and the difficulties of turning a profit in the face of ever-changing market and weather conditions.

But there is now a new threat to Virginia’s agricultural base, which has a $70 billion economic impact on the commonwealth annually, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau. Continue reading

Bill to Bury Fauquier Powerline Comes to You

Various proposed power line routes from Warrenton’s Blackwell Road substation. Dominion illustration. Click to expand.

by Steve Haner

One of the key skills in politics is to make your constituents happy with money provided from those far, far away. It is happening again as Fauquier County’s leaders want the General Assembly to force all Dominion Energy Virginia’s ratepayers to pay to bury a 230-kv power line out of sight from their voters.  Continue reading

Wojick on Whales II: Missing BOEM Report?

by David Wojick

In my previous article I raised this question: what is the potential adverse impact of Virginia’s massive offshore wind project on the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales? Answering this basic question should be a central feature of the upcoming Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) required for the wind project by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

The 70-ton North Atlantic Right Whales migrate through Virginia’s offshore waters twice a year, making the impact of these proposed huge offshore wind projects a serious question. I have been doing some digging, and the results are puzzling. We may have some secret science going on.

To begin with, while there has been a lot of research on these whales, it has almost all been done in their northern and southern habitat zones. There is almost nothing on migration, even though migration is especially dangerous for any critters that do it, whales included.

So, it is not clear that we even have a clear picture of how they migrate through the waters where these massive wind projects are proposed. A lot of the risk depends on how they migrate, and we seem not to know much about that.

I say we “seem not to know” because someone in the federal government may actually know more than they are prepared to divulge. This is where it gets puzzling, as follows. Continue reading