Category Archives: Environment

VCEA Could Raise APCo Power Bills by Half

by Steve Haner

Compliance with the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act will result in a 49% increase in monthly costs by 2035 for residential customers of the Appalachian Power Company, according to a State Corporation Commission staff analysis. That’s a $57 increase on a typical 2020 residential bill of $117.

Rates on the largest industrial users are likely to climb 76% in the same period.  In later years additional costs adding to bills are probable, as the company works toward its 2050 mandatory goal of carbon-free electricity generation.

Appalachian serves about 500,000 customer accounts in western Virginia, with most of the generation it uses to serve them located outside Virginia. It is not proposing the same level of investment in new renewable generation as the larger Dominion Energy Virginia, which serves the bulk of Virginia, now focused on its $10 billion offshore wind proposal. Yet the long-term rate impact of VCEA for Appalachian customers is still substantial.

The SCC will hold hearings later this month on Appalachian’s proposed VCEA compliance plan, its second such annual review (the docket is here.) Continue reading

SCC Staff: Dominion May Exceed Wind Cost Cap

A schematic from the application for the proposed 14.7 megawatt turbines for the CVOW, with measurements. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

A similar article was published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Testimony filed by the State Corporation Commission staff on April 8 opened a slight possibility that the Commission could reject Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed $10 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project off Virginia Beach. It all depends on how the SCC decides to calculate the CVOW’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE), the dollar cost of every megawatt hour of electricity it produces plus the transmission costs.

When the 2020 General Assembly adopted the Virginia Clean Economy Act and related legislation, it set a cap on that key LCOE measure, which is used to compare the costs of various methods of making electricity.

If the utility failed to stay under the LCOE cap, the SCC would have the authority to reject the proposal as imprudent and unreasonable. If the project remains below the cap, legislators mandated approval by the SCC, despite any other doubts about its prudence and without considering less expensive alternatives.

The cap set was $125 per megawatt hour, after deducting the value of the very large tax credits granted for wind projects under federal law. In the application it filed late last year to build the facility, Dominion estimated the LCOE (after the tax credits) at about $83 per megawatt hour. But Katya Kuleshova of the SCC’s Division of Public Utility Regulation challenged several of the assumptions in her testimony and noted that if the assumptions prove wrong, that number rises substantially. Continue reading

Updates: Missing Wind, Lazy Assembly, Gas Wars

Germany’s energy generation mix, March 6 to April 6. When the wind and solar lag, the conventional (and related CO2 emissions) spike regularly. Click for larger view.     Source: Agora Energiewende, via Steve Milloy, @JunkScience

by Steve Haner

The German Energy Mix in March

When you dig in, the amount of data available on energy usage is stunning, and the presentations are often quite clear and informative. Case in point is the illustration above of Germany’s energy mix during March, in the news now as Europe seeks to wean itself from fossil fuels imported from Russia. But it cannot go without fossil fuels. For that matter, neither can Virginia.

Germany is far more dependent on onshore wind than offshore wind, as you can see in the chart. You can see the daily peaks and troughs from solar.  The vast majority of the delta between their output and the demand line is made up of conventional fossil fuels and apparently nuclear is in that category of “conventional.” But Germany is down to a handful of operating nukes now.

The power output tracks demand well, but the upper thin line shows the fluctuating CO2 emissions that go along with the coal and gas Germany will be using more of, unless Europe opens itself to modern drilling techniques to release gas in its shale formations (a.k.a. fracking) to retire coal.

Speaking of wind, check out this page from time to time. On windy days the output (again, watch both onshore and offshore) can be quite impressive. But not all days are windy. In the German example above, 19 of 31 days required big- time back-up. Continue reading

Virginia’s Greens Need to Change Their Strategy

Utility-scale solar farm

by James C. Sherlock

When you ask a question you have to be prepared for the answer.

McKinsey Global Institute, in collaboration with McKinsey Sustainability and the Global Energy & Materials and Advanced Industries practices released in January a massive study of the costs to get the planet to net zero emissions by 2050.

The study is “The Net Zero Transition – What it would cost, what it could bring.

McKinsey’s short answer to the question of cost is $275 trillion globally between now and 2050; $275 trillion is $9.2 trillion per year on average if the entire world participates.

It won’t. Some nations will not or cannot. At what point do we expect China and Russia to pay their share? Or impoverished nations?

McKinsey noted that the increase in costs over previous assessments is $3.5 trillion annually. The increase is “approximately equivalent, in 2020, to half of global corporate profits, one-quarter of total tax revenue, and 7 percent of household spending.”

For reference:

Continue reading

AG Expert: Wind Project Unneeded, Accounting Off

Exhibit submitted by Office of the Attorney General showing the excessive generation Dominion Energy will have compared to its expected demand, funded by ratepayers. The black line in the middle is the projected customer demand. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

There is no justification for Dominion’s $10 billion offshore wind project other than that the General Assembly has ordered it, a witness for Virginia’s Attorney General has testified. The utility doesn’t need its electricity, doesn’t need its renewable energy attributes, and is ignoring lower cost alternatives if it does need generation in the future. Further, its claims of economic benefit are based on faulty assumptions.

Virginia’s Attorney General Jason Miyares is the customers’ main representative at the table as the State Corporation Commission reviews this pending application. By law the AG office serves as Consumer Counsel in these matters.  Despite all the concerns raised in his expert’s review, Miyares is not recommending that the SCC reject the project.

In fact, as mentioned in an earlier Richmond Times-Dispatch review of the case testimony, no party so far has recommended that the SCC reject it. That was noted by a triumphant Dominion spokesman at the end of the newspaper’s story when it might properly have been the headline.

That is the headline at this stage of the case. The language inserted into the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act by Dominion and its environmentalist allies demands approval of the project without regard to proving necessity, reasonableness or prudence. The law orders the SCC to find the project prudent unless it misses a very high cost target or fails to have a plan to start operation by 2028. (Note, it doesn’t have to be in operation then, merely have a plan.) Continue reading

Another Try for Natural Gas to Hampton Roads

Existing 12″ natural gas pipelines proposed for replacement with new 24″ lines. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Natural gas pipeline companies have applied to federal regulators with another proposal to enhance supply into Virginia’s Hampton Roads region, despite the earlier failures of two similar high profile efforts.

Columbia Gas Transmission, part of TC Energy which is best known for the recently-rejected Keystone XL pipeline, is proposing to replace 48 miles of existing, 1950s-era, 12-inch diameter pipe with new 24-inch pipe. Compressor stations and other facilities would also be modernized. This proposal is being marketed as the Virginia Reliability Project and stays within existing right of way from Sussex County to Chesapeake.

Transcontinental (Transco), in a separate application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, wants to add a 6.35-mile loop of new 24-inch pipe in Brunswick and Greensville counties, and improve a compressor there, allowing it to supply an additional 105,000 dekatherms per day to points east and south. It has been named the Commonwealth Energy Connector Project.

From the S&P Global story linked in the adjacent paragraph. Click for larger view.

To some writing for the energy trade press, the combined projects look like an effort to make up for the loss of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, abandoned by Dominion Energy. It was to provide substantial new supply to regional retailer Virginia Natural Gas. Following that retreat in the face of environmental opposition and a change in attitude by elected Virginia leaders, the VNG Header project was also abandoned. Will this third proposal fare better? Continue reading

If U.S. Copies Europe, “It Will End In Tears”

Dr. Benny Peiser

by Steve Haner

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

A major European voice for climate and energy rationality told a small Charlottesville audience March 30 that his home, the United Kingdom, and the rest of Europe face an immediate energy crisis that was brewing long before the war in Ukraine.

Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation said prices in Britain jump as of today, April 1. Householders are seeing the rising electricity and natural gas costs suddenly double, from about 1,000 pounds to 2,000 pounds annually. By the end of the year another jump to 3,000 pounds annually (almost $4,000) is predicted. The parallel impact on business and transportation will push up food and other commodity prices. Continue reading

No Other State Plans Utility-Owned Wind Farms

Clean Virginia’s witness prepared this list of current U.S. offshore wind projects, their owners, size and contract structure. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

The table reproduced above may one of the most interesting exhibits submitted to the State Corporation Commission as it considers Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore wind application. Two things jump out, both highlighted in pre-filed expert testimony sponsored by environmental activist group Clean Virginia.

First, only in Virginia is such a project being financed directly by the captive ratepayers of a monopoly electric utility. Only in Virginia will the turbines be owned by the utility rather than a private investor. Continue reading

Wind Case Spinning Up; Your Comments Sought

Yes, it is that big. Click for larger view, and note the on-shore transmission expansions.

by Steve Haner

In the coming weeks, Virginia’s State Corporation Commission takes up one of the largest utility investments ever undertaken in the Commonwealth, where the cost and the risk will rest squarely on Virginia’s citizens: Dominion Energy Virginia’s $10 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.

In applications and appendices filed late last year, probably running to hundreds of thousands of words and hundreds of technical drawings, Dominion outlined its request to build the project 27 statute miles (24 nautical miles) off the mouth of Hampton Roads. The project area covers 176 square miles of seabed. It uses about one square mile for each of the planned 176 turbine towers. Continue reading

AG Sought Rejection of Some Solar Over Cost

Jason Miyares. Photo credit: Washington Post

by Steve Haner

On behalf of Dominion Energy Virginia’s customers, Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) asked the State Corporation Commission to reject five of the solar projects included in the statewide renewable energy development package the Commission approved last week.

The Commission, however, did not take them off the approved list and thus did not “use its authority to send a regulatory signal to the Company that excessively priced projects will not be approved,” as Miyares requested. This is just the beginning of a years-long process of many such applications, including the pending offshore wind project. Such a missed opportunity could be important. Continue reading

Secrecy Also Hides Key Solar Energy Data

The well-shaded weeds and untilled earth under a Dominion solar facility. Dominion photo.

by Steve Haner

Perhaps issuing its ruling on the Ides of March by design, Virginia’s State Corporation Commission last week approved another major wave of requests from Dominion Energy Virginia for solar plants it will own, solar plants it will contract with, and a smattering of battery storage facilities added to provide some public relations cover.

In reviewing the massive case file that built up between July and February, without even diving into the long December hearing transcript, some key takeaways appear quickly.

  • The utility proposal received strong pushback from the SCC staff in its analysis, from the Office of the Attorney General on questions of cost, accounting and necessity, and even from the environmental advocates who helped write the controlling Virginia Clean Economy Act. Each might rate an individual report.
  • All the legal brilliance and accounting work were largely in vain, as the Commission has been reduced by law to merely checking boxes on the VCEA approval criteria list Dominion wrote for itself.
  • Secrecy continues to rule, especially on the key issue of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) used to compare and choose generation sources and related storage. The Cone of Silence was not broken in this case and the utility will fight like a banshee to keep it in place in the pending debate over its offshore wind proposal.
  • While the overall LCOE numbers are secret, the utility is putting two huge thumbs on the scale by including 1) a high social cost of carbon as a financial benefit to offset the consumer cost of the projects and 2) a claimed “avoided cost” because it is meeting its clean energy goals and thus avoiding a VCEA financial penalty for failure. Dominion invents the fine, $45 per megawatt, then counts it as a boon to consumers that it doesn’t have to pay.
  • The opponents did extract a possibly useful stipulation from the utility for future cases, and a careful read opens up the possibility that the VCEA’s rigid dictates may bend after all. I was not imagining things months ago when I sensed pending flexibility, just looking in the wrong place.

Continue reading

Key Data on Dominion Wind Project Still Secret

Cover page blocking public access to the engineering and cost details for Dominion’s proposed $10 billion plus Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.

By David Wojick

A previous article published by Bacon’s Rebellion and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow challenged the notion that Dominion Energy Virginia can build a huge amount of wind and solar generating capacity and retire all of its fossil-fueled generators with almost none of the enormous storage capacity that is required to make the renewables viable.

This proposed long-term plan does not work and Dominion knows that, but in the short run it can make billions in profit by building the unreliable wind and solar. The disastrous unreliability shows up only in the long run.   Continue reading

A Low Solar Minimum Bill Ups Yours, By Design

by Steve Haner

Virtue signaling can be fun.  It can also be profitable if you can shift the overall cost onto somebody else. That is what is going on in the battle over a proposed “minimum bill” for Dominion Energy Virginia customers who seek to partially escape the utility by signing on with a separate shared solar provider.

Everybody who signs up for the outside service will still expect full power on cloudy days, or anytime some other circumstance reduces the flow from the solar panels owned by the third party. They just don’t want to pay the full freight for that back-up service, and would rather pass the bill on to you.  Continue reading

Another Reliable Energy Provider Abandons VA

Artist rendering of now-terminated Chickahominy Power. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

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

A long-embattled plan to build a natural gas-fueled generating plant not owned by Dominion Energy has become the latest victim of Virginia’s patent hostility toward fossil fuels.  Environmental opponents and the incumbent utility will probably join in popping the corks.

Chickahominy Power in Charles City County has posted a notice on its website that the project, once scheduled to start construction in 2019 and begin operation in 2022, is terminated.   Investors are seeking a location in Ohio or West Virginia, and the scope of the project has grown.

Irfan Ali of Herndon, who uses the title managing member and who is the principal investor, now plans to develop data centers to use power from the plant, which is also designed to use hydrogen for fuel if that becomes available and economical.  He also plans to couple it with a carbon capture and storage system.

“And I would have done that in Virginia, so Virginia is losing out in a big way,” Ali said. Continue reading

Virginia Remains a Green New Deal Mecca

by Steve Haner

The elections of a Republican Virginia governor and a new Republican majority in the House of Delegates have not changed Virginia’s status as one of the greenest of Green New Deal states in the country.  Every effort to reverse the course set during the previous period of Democratic hegemony has failed at the 2022 General Assembly.

The massive construction plans for ratepayer-funded solar, wind and battery facilities dictated by the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act remain on track. A bill to repeal VCEA failed in the majority-Democratic Virginia Senate. So did a simpler bill that merely restored the ability of the State Corporation Commission to review those construction plans for prudence, reasonableness and cost.

If California moves to ban the sales of new internal combustion engine cars and other vehicles starting with the 2035 model year, as expected, Virginia is still positioned to automatically follow suit. Until then, a growing percentage of all new car sales must be electric starting in 2025. A bill to revisit that 2021 legislation, and do a proper regulatory adoption process, also died in the Senate.

Legislative efforts to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative regional compact all failed. A regulatory reversal may still be possible without legislation, but in the meantime the carbon tax remains on every Dominion Energy Virginia bill and works its way into everything touched by electricity costs. Continue reading