by Steve Haner
Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration has filed a letter with the State Corporation Commission asking the regulators to approve the Dominion Energy Virginia application to build a 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project.
The letter was on Department of Energy letterhead and signed by that agency’s director John Warren, a holdover from the Democratic Ralph Northam administration.
During and after the 2021 campaign, Youngkin was critical of the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) that mandated SCC approval of the project, slated to cost just under $10 billion. He expressed a desire to protect consumers from rising energy costs. But he and his staff took no role in the 2022 legislative efforts to repeal VCEA or restore more SCC authority over costs, bills which passed in the House of Delegates but failed in a Senate committee stacked with Democrats.
He is now off the sidelines. Youngkin’s support for the project assumes it can become an economic boon to the state. His department director wrote: Continue reading
by Steve Haner
Fourteen nights in a hospital, especially if you are fully awake and observant, is very instructive. Here are some things I want to share:
The hospitals are understaffed and otherwise under major stress, to the point that patient standards of care have changed. As nice and diligent as everyone is, nurses or technicians can be with only one patient at a time, and the charting they must do is extensive.
When the order for a vital test is placed at 11 a.m. and it finally happens at 2 a.m. the next morning, with two lonely techs running the CT machine through the dead of night, that’s about staffing. A 3 a.m. room visitor coming to conduct an ultrasound at bedside is a sign that team is also shorthanded.
A slow response on a call button is about staffing, not inattention at the desk. The days when the staff makes sure every patient gets at least cleaned up with wipes and gets clean sheets and a new gown daily are gone. It happens if you ask and happens quicker if a family member can help you. Continue reading
The Luxembourg-flagged Vole Au Vent is seen here installing one of Dominion Energy’s two experimental wind turbines 27 miles off the Virginia coast.
by Steve Haner
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) has moved to open to public inspection much of the secret data and analysis about Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. His petition filed with the State Corporation Commission April 29 comes about two weeks before formal hearings on the application begin in mid-May.
Dominion is seeking SCC approval to build the 176-turbine project off Virginia Beach, and to begin billing customers for it with a new monthly charge. Authorized and all-but-mandated by the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020, the current estimated capital cost is $9.8 billion, including the required transmission upgrades but not including financing costs and utility profits.
The liberal use in the initial application of claims that data were confidential or extraordinarily sensitive obscured much of the cost and risk the project imposes on the company’s customers. Once designated as secret, only parties who have signed non-disclosure agreements can see the data or be in the room when the data is discussed in a hearing. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
This is pretty cringeworthy, even for the Biden administration.
We have new rules for federal funding for new and expanded charter schools that are demonstrably racist. They uniquely disadvantage the poorest minority students because charter schools are proven to help them learn better than any other option.
But the rules are offerings to a higher power- – the teachers’ unions.
The Biden administration Education Department’s new rules for use of federal charter school startup funding are virulently anti-charter and appear to directly violate the law they pretend to enforce.
They regulate the distribution of federal funding — $400 million annually — under the charter schools startup support provisions of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (the Act).
Those new rules are unambiguously aimed to stop the expansion of New York City’s Success Academy (S/A) and non-profit charter management organizations (CMOs) like it that focus their efforts on educating poor minority children in our inner cities.
But the new broom sweeps away pretty much every charter that might apply.
The CMOs have proven amazingly successful — embarrassingly so for the teachers’ unions that hate them for it. These rules are political payback.
Actions are required by Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General. Continue reading
Methane escaping from a well being burned off.
by Steve Haner
Methane (CH4) is money. It is also known as natural gas, one of the most efficient fossil fuels we use, and allowing it to leak into the atmosphere when it could be used wastes energy and money.
Methane is also a greenhouse gas (GHG). But the story gets more interesting here, because when CH4 leaks into the atmosphere it mixes with oxygen and begins to break down into carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor (H2O), also both greenhouse gases. Burn it in your home furnace and the same byproducts result, carbon dioxide and water (and valuable heat, of course).
Methane is better at absorbing radiation and thus a more potent GHG than CO2, but it also breaks down far faster than the CO2 it eventually becomes. It all becomes CO2, whether captured and burned or released. So it is debatable whether there are huge environmental benefits behind 2022 legislation to encourage Virginia’s gas utilities to capture and sell methane from sources other than traditional gas wells. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
Appalachian Power Company has asked the State Corporation Commission to schedule a separate hearing on Attorney General Jason Miyares’ motion to break the seal on exhibits in its application for new renewable energy sources.
Miyares’ April 6 motion was first reported by Bacon’s Rebellion, in a story on Appalachian’s pending application for approval of the projects and of its overall plan for complying with the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). Appalachian’s response motion was filed April 13, claiming irreparable harm to its stockholders if the actual line-by-line project cost projections were revealed to its customers.
Although some of these discrete items may appear innocuous on their own, collectively they would enable a savvy party to discern the price paid for the facility, which is competitively sensitive.
What do they say in swanky restaurants? If you have to ask the price, you cannot afford it. Revelations could be politically sensitive, as well, given the partisan divide on the VCEA itself. Continue reading
by JC Hernandez
This past legislative session, the Virginia General Assembly set the stage to unleash opportunities for all Virginians by passing several key measures.
One of the most significant victories came in the form of a “regulatory sandbox” for health care authorized in the new budget. In simple terms, this sandbox creates space for regulators to temporarily freeze regulations and penalties. The process paves the way for private companies to develop or introduce innovative products and services in the health care arena where regulations may otherwise make that impossible. The result: better care at lower cost.
Remember that federal, state, and local governments waived over 800 regulations in the name of combating the COVID-19 pandemic and the sky didn’t fall. In fact, consumers are better off as a result, which makes you wonder why these regulations were in place to begin with. This was abundantly clear in the health care sector, where telehealth was employed to great success in areas that badly needed it.
Regulatory sandboxes are a relatively new concept. They were first introduced in the U.S. in Arizona in 2018, and since then 10 states have adopted some form of them — in the fintech, insurance, and legal realms in addition to health care. We are pleased that Virginia will now join the growing number of states to break down barriers to innovations that help people flourish and thrive. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
Reliance on the controlling phrase “in the public interest” helped get an energy bill vetoed by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), bringing a rare call from a governor to maintain the independent oversight of the State Corporation Commission. Recent governors of both parties happily signed bills with the phrase into law over and over.
Senate Bill 347 was a pretty bad bill from the start. It applied to only one company, Dominion Energy Virginia. The company is already under orders from the General Assembly to stress and increase energy efficiency with its customers (often adding the costs onto the rest of us). But the bill went deep into the weeds, calling for specific “energy efficiency savings targets for customers who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or veterans of military service,” according to the summary. Under its current management, Dominion just loves to mix identity politics with ways to make money for its shareholders.
Here’s what Youngkin put in his veto explanation:
Although this legislation has the commendable goal of promoting energy efficiency, the requirements included in this legislation could, through an arbitrary declaration of the public interest, increase energy costs on Virginians. As a result, the Commonwealth’s energy policy moves further away from a cost-effective, all-of-the-above strategy with strong regulatory oversight administered by the SCC.
Energy policy should be established by the General Assembly but not at the expense of consumer protection and strong regulatory oversight through the constitutionally-established SCC. Public interest declarations unnecessarily restrict the constitutional authority of the SCC and should be used rarely, if ever.
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
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
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
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.”
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
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
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