Category Archives: Regulation

Dominion Must Move Customers To Competitors

by Steve Haner

The State Corporation Commission Wednesday granted motions by two competitive service providers and ordered Dominion Energy Virginia to hand over various customers.  The two companies, Direct Energy Business LLC and Calpine Energy Solutions LLC, offer a 100 percent renewable energy option in the monopoly utility’s territory.

“The Commission has found that: (a) absent the instant order, Direct Energy and Calpine will suffer irreparable harm; (b) Direct Energy and Calpine have no adequate remedy at law; and (c) the Commission is satisfied of Direct Energy’s and Calpine’s equity,” reads a footnote in the order (here). Continue reading

Best Gun Violence Idea Not Proposed in VA?

Grandstanding with guns on the House of Delegates floor. (AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bob Brown)

by Steve Haner

The most effective gun violence prevention idea presented to the Virginia State Crime Commission Monday was one seldom discussed in the state:  Add violent misdemeanors to the list of convictions that prevent gun purchases from a licensed dealer.

Four states, including Maryland, have that provision and a Boston University study found it has lowered the firearms homicide rate better than 25 percent in those states. Right now, extending the ban from felons to violent misdemeanants is not among the scores of bills pending at Virginia’s special session on gun violence.

One of the least effective proposals, but one always at the top of many lists?  Prohibiting the sale of so-called assault or assault-style rifles.  The research on that is clear, Boston University research fellow Claire Boine said in one of the most useful evidence-based presentations from the long day. You can see her slides here and the full study hereContinue reading

Fungible (and Vintage?) Green Virtue, For A Fee

Renewable energy certificates can have a vintage? Some might prefer fresh solar or wind power.

by Steve Haner

Like most major electric utilities now, Dominion Energy Virginia has a certain amount of energy generated by processes now designated “renewable.”  Hydro power has been around for a long time, and now that is supplemented by a growing number of solar generators – owned by the company or under contract to it.

All Dominion customers are getting some of their electricity from those sources.  Everyone is a little bit green.  But for an extra $4.21 per 1,000 kilowatt hours, some other customer can take away your green power and leave you less green or totally not green, at least on paper.  Overall the utility’s output stays the same, but it might pick up a few more dollars per month from up to 50,000 of its customers.  Continue reading

What Does Dominion Lose When Customers Leave?

With a competitive service provider, you pay it and not the utility for generation, transmission and fuel – the elements of electricity supply service.

When you use a competitive service provider (CSP) instead of the monopoly electricity company, what does the monopoly provider stop collecting?  Just what part of the electric bill are big customers such as Costco and Kroger and Walmart seeking to avoid by leaving Dominion Energy Virginia?

The answer is most of it, everything covered under the bill heading “Electricity Supply Service” on the sample bill illustrated above.  With a CSP, customers would stop paying Dominion for generation, transmission and fuel.  If future legislation makes retail choice the rule in Virginia, customers could leave the utility and pay a CSP for their energy and the cost to make or buy it and get it to Virginia’s local grid.  Continue reading

No Appeal Filed on RGGI Regulation, Now In Force

Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is now fully authorized under a new state regulation, and the deadline to appeal that regulation has now passed with no appeal filed.  The text of the regulation is here.

Language inserted by General Assembly Republicans into the current state budget merely puts RGGI membership and its related carbon tax on hold.  It did not overturn the regulation, which went into effect June 26. The outcome of the November election will likely determine whether that roadblock remains in place beyond next summer, when the current budget provisions expire.   Continue reading

$7 More on Dominion Bills for Transmission

Two of seventeen towers supporting the new 500kv transmission line across the James River, paid for through Rider T on your bills. Dominion photo.

Electricity bills for Dominion Energy Virginia customers jump again in September – almost $7 monthly for a residential customer using 1000 kilowatt hours – as it begins to collect on $845 million in transmission system investments over the past year.  A similar level of investment is planned for next year.

The rate hike will appear on the bills in the transmission charge, Rider T, following approval of the annual Rider T update by the State Corporation Commission July 25.  The final order is hereContinue reading

New Industrial Rate Still Challenged By Microsoft

Outdoor data modules at Microsoft’s Boydton, VA server facility. Photo: Microsoft

A hearing on Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposal for a new market-based electricity rate for its largest customers opened Thursday with the announcement it had settled its differences with the State Corporation Commission staff and that part of the dispute was over.  (The case file is here.)

As the SCC staff lined up with the utility, one of Dominion’s competitors – which has intervened in the case – took a harder line against proposal.  Direct Energy Services LLC’s attorney Cliona M. Robb complained this is not a true market-based rate, but “a means for Dominion to negotiate special deals” without the SCC oversight usually required on single-company contracts.

One of the huge customers Dominion and Direct Energy are fighting over, Microsoft with its Virginia server farms, showed no enthusiasm for the compromise the SCC staff had negotiated.  Microsoft is the only Dominion customer taking an active role in the dispute.  It complains that the new rules are too vague and too favorable to the utility.  It wants them to be much clearer, adding an “or else.”  Continue reading

New Front In Dominion’s War Against Competition

Dominion Energy Virginia has opened a new and aggressive front in its economic war against companies seeking to offer Virginians retail choice for electricity service, directly attacking two firms promising 100 percent renewable energy to lure away environmentally minded customers.

In separate filings on July 15, the utility charged that both Direct Energy Services LLC and Calpine Energy Solutions LLC are not meeting the requirements under the law to claim they are offering 100 percent renewable energy.   It asks the State Corporation Commission for a declaratory judgment on those requirements and refuses to transfer any more of its customer accounts over to those firms until the SCC rules.  Here is the motion against Direct Energy and here is the similar move against Calpine.

Both companies quickly responded with motions for  injunctive relief, asking the SCC to order Dominion to continue transferring customers until the dispute is resolved.  How many customers have signed up for the competitive service providers only to be held in limbo is not included in the filings, although Calpine provided a confidential list to the SCC.  Continue reading

You Want Solar? Swear Fealty to the Monopoly

Dominion’s Scott solar facility. No FPL-style loyalty oath required.

The push to create retail electricity choice about to start in Virginia is already fully underway in Florida, with the dominant utility there first proposing and then abandoning a stunning opposition tactic. It wanted to offer an attractive solar option only to customers loyal to its monopoly.

The recent Miami Herald story (here), accompanied by a long video clip from a June regulatory meeting on the issue, is in the past tense because Florida Power and Light (FPL) quickly retreated under pressure.  Continue reading

Dominion’s IRP Approved, With High Costs Detailed

Source: SCC Staff summary.

The State Corporation Commission today approved Dominion Energy Virginia’s Integrated Resource Plan, laying out possible investment combinations to keep the power flowing in its territory over the next fifteen years.  It also laid out the costs, in excess of $18 billion of investments plus interest plus profit margin to be paid by future customers.

The Commission added the standard caveat that individual decisions to build new generation, energy storage or transmission still must come to the SCC for the regular review.  In some cases the judges will have full discretion to approve or reject proposals, but the General Assembly (at Dominion’s suggestion) has also dictated in state law outcomes for several expensive choices.  Continue reading

Illinois to Legalize Recreational Pot: Implications for Virginia

Legal tokin’ in the Land of Lincoln. Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign Illinois’ recreational marijuana legalization bill tomorrow. Illinois, America’s sixth most populous state, will become the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The District of Columbia has also legalized the possession of ganja. This has implications for Virginia.

First, Illinois is the first state to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana via the state legislature. Vermont’s legislature legalized the possession but not the sale of marijuana. All other states came to legalization via citizen led ballot initiatives. Since the Virginia Constitution has no provision for citizen-led ballot initiatives, the General Assembly would have to follow in the footsteps of the Illinois legislature to legalize marijuana in the Old Dominion. Illinois has proven this is possible. The second implication is the looming encirclement of Virginia by states with legalized recreational marijuana. The closer legal pot dispensaries get to Virginia the harder it will be for Virginia to stop cross border marijuana flows. Continue reading

Fix the General Assembly, Then Tackle Energy Bill

It has been over a month since a coalition of unnatural allies announced a proposal to revise Virginia’s electricity regulation system – again – but the idea dropped from view fairly quickly. One of the main and most visible proponents, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has now taken on a very different role in the Trump Administration.  Continue reading

More (But Not All) Cost Projections Filed About Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act

Source: SCC Staff summary. Click for larger view.

With some of its closest legislative allies facing primary challenges next week, much of what Dominion Energy Virginia filed Friday in response to questions about the consumer cost of its future plans is redacted.  The story in Tuesday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch (here) could only cover that portion of the data not kept secret.

Three of the four documents filed by Dominion are about its motion requesting protected status for the information, and the fourth (here) includes numerous blacked out portions, which we will not see unless the SCC rejects those motions.  Continue reading

Rider E Case Shows Many Flaws With This Process

Key operating data on some Dominion Virginia coal plants, important to the Rider E case but hidden from us. Source: Office of Attorney General testimony.  Click for larger view.

Dominion Energy Virginia’s pending application for a new charge on electric bills for coal ash remediation is both a fairly routine request and an illustration of what is deeply wrong with Virginia’s electricity regulation.

When the major investor-owned utilities negotiated a return to regulation in 2007, the ability to create and collect these stand-alone add-on charges (“rate adjustment clauses”) was one of their demands.  It was the other major Virginia utility, Appalachian Power Company, that was most concerned about the ability to collect the cost of environmental compliance and it has had a rider on its bills for that purpose for some time.  Continue reading

SCC Again Denies Escape from Dominion Monopoly

SCC: We’re All In This Together

The State Corporation Commission has denied another request from a major Virginia retailer for permission to escape from Dominion Energy Virginia’s monopoly electricity service.   The score for such petitions is now one approval, two denials, and the message is clear to all the other petitioners:  Go fight it out at the General Assembly.

The petition denied today was from Costco, seeking to aggregate 27 of its stores into a single electricity account that met the 5-megawatt demand trigger which allows large customers to seek a competitive supplier.  The final order is here.

Continue reading