Category Archives: Regulation

Bacon Bits: Restored Licenses; Dominion’s Millstone Plant; RGGI

Organic Carbon Capture Device

Wait.  How many suspended licenses? Today’s Virginia Mercury has one of those stories that raises more questions than it answers, this one about the suspended driving license issue. My warning that there would be massive lines at DMV were groundless because, hey, these people still have their actual licenses.  DMV never got them back or ordered them destroyed. Do you think that might have contributed to the decision so many debtors made to keep driving and blow off the collection efforts? And while DMV reports 627,000 licenses eligible for restoration, it turns out DMV has addresses for fewer than half that number, only 246,000. You can discern the problem may be less severe than the hype using the (excellent, by the way) interactive map included with the Virginia Mercury story. You will note only a handful of localities show a large percentage of suspended licenses (in Richmond City almost ten percent, but in most one to two.) That also raises questions about the reported numbers. Maybe there’s another explanation for the discrepancy between licenses and addresses?  Continue reading

Dominion Projects Tied To Facebook Approved

Ratepayers of Dominion Energy Virginia will start in June to pay for construction and operation of two solar energy facilities in Surry County intended to meet Facebook’s renewable energy goals.  The State Corporation Commission decided one issue created by the case in favor of consumers but punted on another that pit one group of customers against another.

In an opinion released this week, the SCC allowed Dominion to proceed with a new rate adjustment clause on customer but kept alive a dispute over how to allocate the costs between various classes of electricity customers.  The SCC staff and the Office of the Attorney General are complaining that the traditional cost allocation formula is less fair to residential customers when the generator is non-dispatchable, intermittent and provides its benefit through lower fuel costs.

Back in January, the SCC approved the certificates of public necessity for the project, 240 megawatts in two fields designated US-3, which will cost about $410 million to build and $843 million in total over its lifetime.  In response to SCC staff concerns, reported in Bacon’s Rebellion in November, it put various conditions on the approval intended to protect customers if the project fails to produce as much electricity as promised.  Continue reading

Is Winter Coming For Virginia Pipeline Projects?

The Mountain Valley Pipeline route on Brush Mountain, July 18, 2018. (Heather Rousseau/The Roanoke Times)

The building season is here, but for developers of Virginia’s two hotly-contested natural gas pipelines, activity is back in the government agencies and courthouses.  The construction sites remain largely silent, delays running up the ultimate cost of the projects, including the cost of failure.

Here is my (probably flawed) attempt at a status report.  And you thought Game of Thrones is a complicated plot.  Continue reading

Another Double Dip? That’s One Issue With Dominion’s Proposed Market-Based Rate

Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed market-based pricing structure for large industrial customers has been criticized as a way for the utility to double collect, harking back to a key issue during the 2018 legislative push for its Grid Transformation and Security Act.

The criticism comes in an overall endorsement by Microsoft Corporation of the proposal pending at the State Corporation Commission. Microsoft owns a growing fleet of data centers in Dominion’s territory and is already eligible to seek electricity from a competitive service provider (CSP).   The purpose of this new rate (the full case record is here) is to keep big customers happy, so they lose interest in third-party providers.  One detail of the proposal has Microsoft unhappy. Continue reading

Virginia’s “Secret” Medical Marijuana Program

The doctor who should be governor. State Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant is a Republican from Henrico County. She is also a practicing physician. In this year’s General Assembly session she put forth SB1557 which expanded last year’s so-called “Let Doctor’s Decide” legislation (HB1251).

What’s new? The 2018 legislation (HB1251) authorized licensed medical providers to prescribe CBD and THC-A oil “to alleviate the symptoms of any diagnosed condition or disease determined by the practitioner to benefit from such use.” CBD, or cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of marijuana plants. It is used to treat a variety of maladies. It is non-intoxicating. THCA, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is the non-psychoactive acid form of THC found in marijuana plants when raw. It is also non-intoxicating unless it is heated. Once heated, THCA releases THC which is intoxicating.  The 2018 legislation restricted THCA oil to contain no more than 5 mg of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana). Continue reading

DEQ Pushes Back on RGGI Costs; Meeting Set

Current RGGI States

Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board will meet April 19 to consider the next regulatory step to limit CO2 emissions from Virginia electricity plants through membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The agenda packet for the meeting, on-line here, contains more than 330 pages on the complicated issue, probably the best point counterpoint discussion on that already-voluminous record.  The entire record from the two comment periods is summarized, with DEQ staff politely thanking those who praise the regulation and vigorously disputing those who oppose it.   Continue reading

Retailers Still Push To Escape Dominion Monopoly

The large retail establishments seeking to aggregate their electricity demand and take their business away from Dominion Energy Virginia have not been dissuaded by a February ruling that went against them.  One of the petitioners in that case is seeking reconsideration, and the petitioner in another major case has sharpened its argument that the State Corporation Commission erred.

If the policy goal is now to slow demand, to prevent the need to build more utility-owned plants in Virginia, isn’t this the better and more reliable path?  The utility-managed demand response efforts funded by ratepayers aren’t having much impact, as previously reported. Continue reading

A kWh Saved Costs Triple A kWh Used. You Pay.

Third generation Nest programmable thermostat. You may be asked to buy one for your neighbor, with a sweetener for Dominion.

Buying yourself a kilowatt hour of electricity costs about twelve cents.  Persuading your next-door neighbor or the store at the corner to use less electricity is three times as expensive, costing about 35 cents per kilowatt hour.

That figure comes from a fresh exhibit filed by Dominion Energy Virginia with the State Corporation Commission, an exhibit only filed because a member of the court asked a simple question from the bench:  What has all the spending on energy efficiency programs cost to date and what has been the result?  If that information was buried in the thousands of pages of data on the case, he hadn’t found it.   Continue reading

On Energy Efficiency, Ratepayers Lose Again

Fellow electricity ratepayers, we just took it in the neck again.

This morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch brings the news that Dominion Energy Virginia will not seek to count lost revenue as one of the cost elements in the energy efficiency program it was ordered to undertake by the 2018 Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act.  This follows an earlier story, also by the Associated Press, that Governor Ralph Northam has written the company to insist on that position.

Missing from both stories is a key fact:   Dominion won’t spend a dime.  It is all your money.  When the 2018 General Assembly mandated $870 million of spending on energy efficiency and demand response programs, it was the same as a near-billion dollar tax increase.  One of many in the bill.  Now the $870 million customer cost will get larger.   Continue reading

Grass No, Hemp Yes! New VA Law Signed

Source: Purdue University

Two years of trade-dispute induced tariffs have decimated Virginia’s tobacco farmers, the president of Virginia’s Board for Agriculture and Consumer Services told his fellow board members Thursday.  As he spoke Governor Ralph Northam was upstairs in the same building preparing to sign legislation the industry hopes provides a path forward for those same farmers.

Hemp.  Industrial Hemp.  Not for smoking but for squeezing out the oil.

Robert J. Mills of Pittsylvania County is already in the business of growing hemp, some of which he says is being grown to meet organic standards for the state of California.   The production schedule for hemp is like tobacco’s, he said, it works well in the same soils, and tobacco curing barns can be used to dry the product.    Continue reading

SCC Details High Customer Cost of RGGI

RGGI states

The State Corporation Commission staff has “shown its work” on an earlier estimate of electricity rate increases resulting from Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, despite a Democratic legislator’s complaint in Sunday’s Washington Post it was not being transparent.

“Even if you agree with the SCC, its analyses should be public information designed to inform the public debate. The SCC, however, has chosen a less transparent route, disadvantaging the public and the legislature from having all the necessary information to determine energy policy in the commonwealth,” Delegate David Toscano of Charlottesville wrote.   Continue reading

Next Up: Carbon Tax, Cap and Trade On Your SUV

They are coming next for your SUV.

While the Air Pollution Control Board still has steps to take, it is safe to consider Virginia’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative a done deal.  That will quickly hit you in your electric bill, as Virginia’s two major electricity generators will have to pay a tax on their carbon emissions and alter their generation fleets to steadily reduce their CO2 output.

Here is what’s next:  The counterpart to RGGI for another major sector of the economy is the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), which Virginia announced it would join in September.   In addition to Virginia, the current TCI member jurisdictions are Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, with policy support from Georgetown University.   Continue reading

Updates: IRP Amendments, Utility Tax Cuts

Dominion Files IRP Amendments,  Cost Scenarios Requested by SCC

Late last week Dominion Virginia Power filed a summary of amendments and additions to its rejected Integrated Resource Plan, along with a legal memorandum arguing with the SCC over what parts of the 2018 Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act are mandates.  Dominion, of course, uses its name for the Grid Transformation and Security Act (GTSA).

The provisions of GTSA included add $4.7 billion in capital costs to the plan. (Hence my nickname for the legislation.)

I share this mainly to give interested readers a link to the documents, which will not mean much without careful comparison to the earlier data.  The testimony of several Dominion witnesses mentioned is not yet included on the record, and other parties to the case have until April to digest and respond to the new data.  SCC staff testimony is due April 16.  A hearing is set for May 8.   Continue reading

VNG Accused of Tilting Bid Process to Affiliate

Virginia Natural Gas Service Territory (marked in brown)  Source:  Segment of SCC map. Click to expand.

A State Corporation Commission hearing examiner has recommended that a proposed agreement between Virginia Natural Gas and an affiliated asset manager be rejected and put out to bid once more, with their shared parent entity Southern Company Gas not making the decision this time.

The proposed agreement, a continuation of a relationship dating back to 2000, is opposed by three unsuccessful bidders for the contract and a group of large industrial customers of VNG.  One of the other bidders, Tenaska Marketing Ventures reportedly outbid the Southern Company affiliate by 50 percent but was rejected. Continue reading

Environmental Groups Supported Paying “Lost Revenue” Before They Opposed It

Paying an electric utility for power it doesn’t sell is the economic equivalent of paying a farmer not to grow corn or soybeans, and the result will be the same as well – higher consumer prices.

In a legal memorandum filed Friday, Dominion Energy Virginia doubled down on its request that about 40 percent of the money it seeks to recover for a series of new demand management programs be compensation for lost revenue.  If the programs work, and it is verified they reduced demand, Dominion wants to be paid for the electricity it didn’t sell.  Over and over, apparently.   Continue reading