Category Archives: Energy

Enjoy the Blackouts — They’re Coming!

by James A. Bacon

The graph above shows the key trend driving the major revisions in Dominion’s 2023 Integrated Resource Plan, which Steve Haner describes in the previous post. The projections of peak summer electricity demand, based on PJM Interconnection forecasts, has been consistently revised upward, taking a dramatic jump higher in the 2023 iteration. The massive shift largely reflects changes in methodology but it also incorporates data showing that demand is increasing more rapidly than previously projected.

The demand projections underpinning the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which showed electricity demand decreasing somewhat, are a fantasy. It is impossible to reach zero net-carbon in the Dominion service territory by 2045 without putting Virginia’s electric grid at risk of catastrophic failure. Continue reading

Dominion’s New Plan Abandons Carbon Free Goal

Rendering of a GE combined-cycle natural gas-burning plant.  Despite demands from some for carbon free electricity, Dominion wants to add more gas generation in Virginia.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia has long been warning, albeit somewhat quietly, that the dream of running Virginia’s economy on nothing but solar, wind and battery power was not based on reality.  With the filing of its most recent integrated resource plan (IRP) on May 1, proposing how to meet customer needs out 25 years, it has made those warnings concrete.

The alternative plan that the company points to as preferred includes adding natural gas generation as early as 2028, an idea not even hinted at in the previous plan just a year ago. It wants to add 2,900 megawatts of new gas plants in all.  That proposal will prove anathema to the climate alarmism movement that imposed the Virginia Clean Economy Act just three years ago, demanding carbon-emissions-free electricity by 2045. Continue reading

More Nuclear Power in Virginia?

VOYGR™ SMR plants powered by NuScale Power Module™, the only small modular reactor (SMR) to receive design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Courtesy NuScale.

by James C. Sherlock

Where is Virginia going with nuclear power, the non-carbon energy source that works 24/7/365 to maintain grid stability for all those sources that do not?

Where we are. Virginia has four nuclear reactors producing electric power — two at Surry station in Surrey County (produces 14% of Virginia’s electricity) and two at North Anna in Louisa County (17% of Virginia’s electricity).

Surry has two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors that went on-line in 1972 and 1973 respectively. Surry’s licenses from the NRC have been renewed to 2052 and 2053 respectively. North Anna has two similar Westinghouse reactors which went on-line in 1978 and 1980, respectively. Dominion expects those licenses to be extended until 2058 and 2060.

In 2017, Dominion was issued a permit by the NRC to build a third, much more powerful and newer technology reactor at North Anna. The permit is good until 2037. It is not in Dominion’s current plans.

Under the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), Virginia is legally required to retire all baseload generation, except for incumbent nuclear power plants, in favor of renewable generation by 2050.

In 2022, Governor Youngkin released an all-of-the-above energy plan which announced that Virginia would build a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) in southwest Virginia.

The goal is to have the SMR in operation by 2032.

For an explanation of SMR, see Dominion’s short essay starting on page 9 of its Integrated Resource Plan. Dominion has included SMRs as an available resource in all of its plan options beginning in 2032.

That initiative is welcome, but is fuzzy with regard to actual deployment plans, which are not yet formulated.

And fuzzy with regards to compliance with the VCEA, at least to me. If they are not compliant, then the law should be changed to accommodate them. Continue reading

Residents Ask VA Beach to Reject Wind Easement

Source: John Locke Foundation. Click to expand.

By Steve Haner

Opposition to offshore wind is stirring in Virginia Beach, but the focus is on a North Carolina proposal that would bring its power ashore at Sandbridge Beach, not the Dominion Energy Virginia project which is closer to the state’s largest city.

Private energy developer Avangrid Renewables LLC still needs a key easement from Virginia Beach City Council to proceed with its plans.  That vote was delayed earlier this year and the company was asked to increase its local outreach and engagement.  A public meeting which is part of that effort will take place Thursday, May 4 at Municipal Center Building 1. Continue reading

One Case, Five Virginia Energy Reg Failures

Dominion solar farm. Photo credit: Dominion.

by Steve Haner

How badly broken is Virginia’s energy regulatory system?  One recent State Corporation Commission decision on Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed next wave of solar projects illustrates several of the problems.  The projects are unimportant, routine.  What matters are the policy failures revealed.

Only the rich can look at the future and yawn. Continue reading

Note to Hybrid and EV Owners and Those in Collisions with Them – Don’t Try to Extinguish a Battery Fire

by James C. Sherlock

CNBC reported today as breaking news a concern about hybrid and electric vehicle fires that professional firefighters have known about for some time.

Vehicles with lithium-ion batteries can be especially dangerous when they catch fire.

CNBC offers a video showing smoke billowing from three electric pickups parked tightly together.

Moments later, flames shoot several feet above the vehicles, which were unoccupied.

Fires involving EV batteries can burn hotter and longer and require new techniques to extinguish, posing a growing challenge to first responders.

Hybrid electrics, which have both a high voltage battery and an internal combustion engine, have a 3.4% likelihood of vehicle fires according to a study, far higher than either internal combustion or electric alone.

Spontaneous combustion of an EV battery is unlikely, but collisions are a concern. Continue reading

Strategic Insanity Off the Coast of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

As I warned in three columns in late December, the Pentagon has now objected to Department of the Interior plans to develop offshore wind farms along the central U.S. coast.

It has warned that almost all of the areas planned for development of the huge turbines conflict with current military operations.

That is the public pronouncement.

DOD also knows that, because the wind farms are designed to provide a high percentage of the electric power on the East Coast grid, it will be charged to defend them against attack.

And it knows that defending those sitting ducks clustered together in fixed positions in international waters against modern weapons is not just a problem, but as a practical matter impossible.

But DOD apparently won’t admit that publicly. Yet. It is not clear that the Department of Homeland Security, with oversight of the Coast Guard, has even thought about it.

But if the turbines are built, DOD and the Coast Guard will be tasked to try to protect them. Their defense can’t even be attempted without a cost to the defense budget that will dwarf both in acquisition and ongoing operating costs the cost of building and operating the fields themselves.

The Navy and Coast Guard will need far more ships and the Navy more submarines, and the personnel to operate them, than they currently have.

The additional resources will need to be used for defense of the wind farms, not to meet our under-resourced national defense obligations overseas.

And the attempt will still fail against modern weapons. Continue reading

SCC Agrees Dominion Must Own Most Wind, Solar

Dominion wins one for the shareholders.

By Steve Haner

The State Corporation Commission has rejected arguments that the Virginia Clean Economy Act would allow Virginia’s dominant electric utility to get more than 35% of its new wind, solar and battery power from third party suppliers. Dominion Energy Virginia is guaranteed by law (actually, required is the better word) to own 65% of those assets directly.

The ruling was issued today in the Commission’s final order on Dominion’s most recent application for additional solar and battery assets, most of which were approved.  The question has lingered through several recent cases since the General Assembly passed VCEA in 2020, with various stakeholders arguing that the third-party assets are usually cheaper for consumers and impose less risk from failure.

The lower cost of those alternative approaches was highlighted in this case and discussed earlier on Bacon’s Rebellion. Dominion had rejected several cheaper third-party choices in compiling its plan. That earlier story also touched on the dispute over whether the 35% referenced in the statute was a ceiling or a floor.  The SCC looked at the plain wording of the law in effect and declared it really is a target that cannot be ignored or exceeded. To wit:

This particular law is written as follows: “… and 35 percent of such generating capacity procured shall be from [third party-owned resources], with the remainder, in the aggregate, being from construction or acquisition by (Dominion.) As written, the above says “35%” – neither something more nor something less – “shall” be from third party-owned resources.

Continue reading

Youngkin Energy Reforms Killed Without Votes

By Steve Haner

Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to ensure that any future wave of wind turbines built off Virginia must follow a real competitive bid process ended up dead as a beached whale. The General Assembly didn’t just kill his proposed amendment during its reconvened session April 12, it refused to even take up the matter.

Both the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Democrat-controlled Senate voted to “pass by” the substitutes. The substitutes then died when the motion to adjourn was approved at the end of the day. Such a motion is often used to avoid a recorded vote loaded with political risk.

Rejection of the amendments, first discussed here, leaves Youngkin (R) free to veto the underlying bill (actually two identical bills, one in each chamber), but his argument was not with the underlying bills themselves. He was just trying to weaken Dominion Energy Virginia’s control over the wind development process, which has led to Virginia building the first and only $10 billion project with all the cost and risk on its ratepayers. At this point, any second phase will likely be the same.

The gubernatorial amendment on competitive bidding for offshore wind was injecting a new issue in the last stage of the 2023 session. Youngkin offered other amendments which constituted repeat efforts to pass things rejected during the regular part of the session. They met the same fate, some also by motions to pass by supported by his own party. Continue reading

No, Climate Change is Not Adding Home Runs

Rise and fall of home runs in major and minor leagues compared. No climate change in minor league parks! Source: Roger Pielke Jr.

by Steve Haner

Maybe if a claim is repeated more than once, it won’t sound so absurd?  Perhaps that is why the Richmond Times-Dispatch felt it necessary to print two stories today about the recent ludicrous claim that “climate change” is making it easier to hit a home run.

“Since 2010, more than 500 dingers can be linked to warmer than average conditions because of climate change, according to a new study,” is the summary in a photo cutline illustrating one of the stories, a Washington Post reprint on page C-2.   The paper’s full-time climate alarmism correspondent Sean Sublette also discusses the “study” in his column on his daily weather and climate crisis page.

Perhaps neither had seen that the Post’s original story quickly drew a response so strong as to constitute disproof, from another climate scientist, this one not a member of the climate crisis priesthood.  The Unbeliever dared to compare the Major League Baseball home run statistics at the heart of the “study” with similar home run statistics from AAA baseball, the NCAA’s Division 1 baseball teams, and even the Japanese professional leagues.

The home run patterns there are different.  It seems climate change is only happening in MLB stadiums.  What a relief!

The University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke, Jr. packaged his response on Twitter, and it was then shared by The Wall Street Journal.  Very much worth a read.  You won’t find any of the rebuttal data in that failed rag of a Richmond newspaper. Continue reading

Richmond Gas Works Back on Energy Death Row?

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

The Richmond City Council member seeking to kill Richmond Gas Works is finally asking her colleagues to put some money behind her dream, seeking a budget amendment to pay for a study on a path to ending the government-owned utility.

Thus reports Patrick Larsen of Virginia Public Media, who wrote (and presumably also broadcast) on March 31 about Councilwoman Katherine Jordan’s request for $200,000 to be added to the next Richmond budget. This is about 18 months after she sponsored a successful council resolution committing the city to an anti-fossil-fuel future that would include ending the provision of natural gas to its residents.

The city natural gas monopoly also has the exclusive right to serve all of Henrico County, much of Chesterfield County and even a part of Hanover County. Along with residential and commercial customers it also serves several major industries using natural gas in their manufacturing processes. Those outside city lines have had no vote in electing Richmond’s City Council.

No state law requires the city to maintain its natural gas service, but contractual and debt obligations could complicate an effort to shut down the utility without selling it to another provider. Selling the physical assets and territory to another provider, very much a viable option, would not advance the goal of eliminating the use of natural gas to heat homes, cook food or run factories. Continue reading

Alternative Energy Picking Up Steam

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

No matter how much some on this blog protest, the move to alternative energy sources is picking up momentum across the country.

I was in South Carolina last week visiting my brother. Pictured is a large array of solar panels adjacent to a huge Walmart distribution center. An electrical co-op also had solar panels outside one of its administration buildings. These were in rural, western South Carolina, near the Georgia border. No one can accuse those folks of being woke, progressive Democrats. Continue reading

Youngkin Seeks Bids on Future Offshore Wind

Dominion’s proposed offshore wind project. Phase two, similar in size, would build out to the east.

By Steve Haner

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed a stronger requirement in state law that any second wave of offshore wind serving Virginia be subjected to a competitive procurement process, rather than simply allowing Dominion Energy Virginia to build it with all the costs and risks imposed on its customers.

The planned 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project now under federal environmental review remains the only such project in the United States which is being developed directly by a monopoly utility. Other projects involve third-party developers raising the capital and taking on much of the financial risk for the multi-billion-dollar investments, then selling the power to utilities.

This is just one of several consumer-oriented amendments Youngkin proposed on a series of energy bills, to be voted on at the General Assembly’s reconvened session April 12. Should the Assembly reject his amendments, his option then is to either sign or veto the bill as it passed in February.

The financial and operational risk imposed on ratepayers by direct utility ownership of the wind farm was the focus of debate before the State Corporation Commission (SCC) finally authorized the project, now estimated to cost $10 billion. A method to shift some of the risk to the company’s shareholders if power output fell below projections was initially accepted but then abandoned by the regulators. Continue reading

APCO VCEA Plan Keeps Coal Until 2040 (In WVA)

Cover for the 2023 update of Appalachian Power Company’s plan to comply with the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) in coming decades.

by Steve Haner

Appalachian Power Company (APCO), serving Western Virginia, has now filed its annual update on Virginia Clean Economy Act compliance, including long term bill impact estimates. As the State Corporation Commission begins its review process, here are some highlights:

  • The projected increases in electric bills are little changed and perhaps a bit lower than those reported a year ago. The cost for 1,000 kilowatt hours to power a home for a month was $117.09 in 2020; using the compliance plan the company prefers, it is projected to be $172.12 in 2030 (up 55%) and $193.29 (up 65%) in 2035.
  • Despite all the political discussion about Virginia turning to the new, smaller nuclear reactor technology (so-called small modular reactors, or SMRs), they don’t turn up in APCO’s development plan as even an option for a long time, perhaps in 2040 when its major West Virginia coal plants will retire. Dominion Energy Virginia’s preferred VCEA compliance plan also didn’t turn to SMRs in the short term.
  • Energy demand projections within Appalachian’s territory are negative, going down. Over the next 15‐year period (2023‐2037), its service territory is expected to see population decline at 0.3% per year and non‐farm employment growth of ‐0.1% per year. It projects its customer count to decline by 0.1% over this period. Internal energy requirements and peak demand are expected to decline by 0.4% per year through 2037.

Continue reading

Lower Bills? Green Energy Keeps Them Climbing.

by Steve Haner

Customer cost projections for compliance with the Virginia Clean Economy Act have increased again from the first such estimates made in 2020.  The bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity from Dominion Energy Virginia to power a home for a month may rise almost $100, or 83%, by 2035.

Dominion residential customers were already paying $288 (21%) more per year for 1,000 kilowatt hours per month by December 2022, compared to May 2020, just before VCEA became law.  That will cost another $547 annually by 2030 and $878 more by 2035.  Cost projections are even higher for commercial and industrial customers.

After all the hyped discussion coming out of the 2023 General Assembly that regulatory changes it made will “lower electricity bills,” it is important to face reality.  Ignore claims from any incumbents who say they voted to “lower bills.”  VCEA compliance is still going to be very expensive, and nothing just passed changes any of that.

The most recent figures are very similar and slightly higher than those reported in 2020.  They were filed last year by the utility as part of the annual VCEA compliance plan, outlining its planned conversion from fossil fuel generation to massive amounts of wind and solar power over the next two decades. Continue reading