Category Archives: Regulation

Fuel Costs Explode on Dominion Bills in July

by Steve Haner

Are you enjoying paying more for gasoline? Have you noticed how that works its way through and inflates the price of just about everything else you buy? The other shoe drops in July when Dominion Energy Virginia increases its prices to reflect the rising cost of fuel. It will also spread more inflation virus throughout the economy.

The cost of fuel and purchased electricity is a separate charge, designated Rider A, on every monthly electric bill, residential and commercial. The annual fluctuations are usually small, and can go either way, but the increase this time will hit everybody hard and may hold for years. (Here is the case file.) Continue reading

You Just Paid More RGGI Tax, Virginians

Six RGGI auctions have reaped Virginia $378 million.

by Steve Haner

Last week Virginia collected another $76 million in carbon tax dollars through the ongoing Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative allowance auction. That was the sixth such sale since Virginia joined RGGI, and the state’s total tax take is now $378 million in 18 months.

Do not for one minute allow yourself to be fooled into thinking this money is not coming out of the pockets of Virginia’s citizens or businesses. Do not fall for the ploy Dominion Energy Virginia is attempting by claiming it will charge it off to “base rates.” The pea is still under your walnut shell.  Continue reading

What the Wind Project Costs You and Who Pays

The annual revenue required from Virginia customers to finance Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore wind installation. It peaks at about $800 million in 2027, driving the amount to be collected on monthly bills. Source: SCC Testimony. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

If the project goes as planned, the consumer cost for Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore wind installation will rapidly rise to a peak in 2027 and then descend annually over the following 20 years. If it produces power for 30 years, in the final phase the revenue related to the project will exceed the remaining capital costs.

What is this going to cost Dominion’s captive ratepayers?  There is also a related but often ignored question: which of those customers did the Virginia General Assembly exempt from those costs, effectively bumping up the price to those not exempt? Continue reading

Miyares Wins Partial Transparency Victory

Jason Miyares, Attorney General of Virginia

by Steve Haner

Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) was partially successful in his efforts to challenge much of the secrecy shielding key data in Dominion Energy Virginia’s application to build its planned offshore wind facility, with some useful precedents set for the future.

Just before the hearings on the application began last week, a State Corporation Commission hearing examiner accepted the Attorney General’s office’s motion in part and rejected it in part. As a result, several portions of the SCC staff testimony have been filed again with dozens of previously redacted sections now open. Continue reading

Youngkin Endorses Dominion Wind Project

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. Continue reading

TAVR Tuesday and Barbecue Thursday

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. Continue reading

Miyares Challenges Secrecy in Dominion Wind Case

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. Continue reading

Biden Mounts a Direct Attack on America’s Most Successful Schools for Poor Minority Children

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

Building Systems to Use Methane Not From Wells

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

SCC Asked for Hearing on Secret Renewables Costs

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

Key Victories for Virginians in 2022 Legislative Session, But Work Remains

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

Youngkin Vetoes Bill Because It Weakened SCC

Applause Earned

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.

Continue reading

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