Category Archives: Utilities

SCC Can Set CVOW Wind Performance Standard

by Steve Haner

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

Despite Dominion Energy Virginia’s complaints that the Virginia State Corporation Commission has exceeded its authority, a legal analysis provided by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy finds that the SCC’s proposed performance standard for an offshore wind project is proper.

The analysis was provided by Institute Senior Fellow Dr. David W. Schnare, an attorney and scientist with long regulatory and litigation experience.

The SCC has approved Dominion’s application for permission to build the $10 billion, 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, but added a condition the utility is opposing. It would protect the utility’s customers from paying any additional costs that result from the project failing to meet its promised power output. The target would be an average capacity factor of 42% over three year periods.

Dominion has asked the SCC to reconsider the performance standard and potential financial penalty, and the SCC is accepting additional legal briefs from the parties to the case. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) and several environmental organizations proposed the performance standard which the Commission adopted, which was more stringent than its own staff had proposed.

Miyares through his staff also asked for a reconsideration, on the question of when the performance standard would go into effect. The Attorney General is proposing the date Dominion set as its target for full operations, February 4, 2027, as the start of the first performance period. That sets up the utility for additional costs due to construction delays or permitting delays due to litigation, costs it might not be able to send along to ratepayers. Continue reading

Consequences of the Zero Carbon Fantasy

By Steve Haner

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

Virginians may finally be waking up to the consequences of the headlong rush to adopt utopian energy policies under our previous governor. The issues are getting more attention than ever before, and now people need to realize that all the issues are really just one issue.

  • A California regulatory board’s decision to ban new gasoline vehicle sales by 2035 is finally being widely reported as binding on Virginia. This has angered many but was actually old news. Under a 2021 Virginia law, our Air Pollution Control Board had already imposed the future sales restrictions, and it was some new amendments that sparked the news coverage. Various political leaders have now promised to stop it but a bill to reverse it died in the 2022 General Assembly when Democrats rallied to save the mandate.
  • Our dominant electric utility has finally acknowledged that its planned $10 billion offshore wind facility is a gigantic financial risk and is now refusing to build it unless the State Corporation Commission (SCC) places 100 percent of the construction and performance risk on its customers. Dominion Energy Virginia knows many things about this proposal it has not told us.
  • Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) is trying to remove Virginia from an interstate compact that mandates a carbon tax on electricity, imposed under former Governor Ralph Northam (D). Advocates for the tax are pushing back and will fight, delay and likely sue to preserve the tax, which costs Virginians $300 million per year at current levels and will continue to rise. Without explanation, the Governor did not keep his initial promise to promulgate an emergency regulation that could remove it quickly, so the tax lingers.
  • Governor Youngkin has opened the process for developing a revised statewide energy plan document, a political process to produce what in the past has been merely a political document. The public comment portal has already become an ideological fistfight. Northam’s 2018 plan had no engineering or economic detail.  It simply praised the legislative efforts to erase fossil fuels which had been adopted to that point and outlined the next steps his administration would take (couched as recommendations.)

Continue reading

When Politicians Run Power Companies

Elements of Dominion Energy Virginia’s residential cost, effective July 1 and pending increases. Source: SCC Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Residential customers of Dominion Energy Virginia will soon be paying 55% more for electricity than they were when the Virginia General Assembly took over micromanaging utility regulation in 2007. The Western Virginia customers of Appalachian Power will have seen their electric bills rise by 92%.  Underlying inflation for the period has been about 43%.

If that customer uses a steady 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, buying that from Dominion costs $600 more per year than it did in 2007 and buying it from Appalachian costs $736 more. Continue reading

Wall Street Journal: Wind Approved “Under Duress”

by Steve Haner

With an editorial published yesterday, The Wall Street Journal has now given its readers more insight into the risks inherent in Dominion Energy Virginia’s coming wind project than any Virginia newspaper or broadcast outlet has. It is not the kind of national spotlight Virginia should crave.

It noted that the recent approval of the project by the State Corporation Commission was “under obvious duress” and then went on to cite many of the dangers and potential cost consequences outlined  in the SCC’s own order. This is nothing new to readers here at Bacon’s Rebellion who read this about the decision already, or this earlier column on the reasons why the project should be rejected.

The WSJ does focus on one detail not available when those were written, comments by Dominion CEO Bob Blue on the firm’s most recent investor conference call. From the editorial:

Dominion could appeal. “We are extremely disappointed in the commission’s requirement of a performance guarantee,” CEO Robert Blue said on an earnings call. He griped that it would effectively require the company “to financially guarantee the weather, among other factors beyond its control, for the life of the project.” Exactly. Since no one can control mother nature, who should bear the risks? Dominion’s answer is not Dominion.

Continue reading

Wind: SCC Rejects Deal Signed By Its Staff

Click for larger view. Source: Dominion

by Steve Haner

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

Rejecting an agreement that its own staff reached with Dominion Energy Virginia, the State Corporation Commission has imposed at least some level of financial risk on the utility’s shareholders should its $10 billion offshore wind project fail to match the company’s promised performance.

Lest you think that means the ratepayers can relax, the long final order issued August 5 once again highlights all the things that could go wrong with the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, scheduled to be fully operational by 2027. The regulators also wash their hands of any responsibility and record for posterity that the Virginia General Assembly made them approve this. Continue reading

Delayed Fuel Costs May Include Interest Now

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia wants its customers, not its shareholders, to pay an interest penalty for the privilege of taking three years to pay off the recent explosion in its fuel costs. The company is paying  about $1 billion more for fuel than it planned when the fuel portion of bills was set a year ago. Continue reading

Bill to Bury Fauquier Powerline Comes to You

Various proposed power line routes from Warrenton’s Blackwell Road substation. Dominion illustration. Click to expand.

by Steve Haner

One of the key skills in politics is to make your constituents happy with money provided from those far, far away. It is happening again as Fauquier County’s leaders want the General Assembly to force all Dominion Energy Virginia’s ratepayers to pay to bury a 230-kv power line out of sight from their voters.  Continue reading

Wojick on Whales II: Missing BOEM Report?

by David Wojick

In my previous article I raised this question: what is the potential adverse impact of Virginia’s massive offshore wind project on the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales? Answering this basic question should be a central feature of the upcoming Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) required for the wind project by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

The 70-ton North Atlantic Right Whales migrate through Virginia’s offshore waters twice a year, making the impact of these proposed huge offshore wind projects a serious question. I have been doing some digging, and the results are puzzling. We may have some secret science going on.

To begin with, while there has been a lot of research on these whales, it has almost all been done in their northern and southern habitat zones. There is almost nothing on migration, even though migration is especially dangerous for any critters that do it, whales included.

So, it is not clear that we even have a clear picture of how they migrate through the waters where these massive wind projects are proposed. A lot of the risk depends on how they migrate, and we seem not to know much about that.

I say we “seem not to know” because someone in the federal government may actually know more than they are prepared to divulge. This is where it gets puzzling, as follows. Continue reading

Can Dominion Be Made To Stand Behind Promises?

Perhaps the biggest weather risk to the performance of Dominion’s planned offshore wind project. In all the briefs about mitigating risk, the word hurricane appears once.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. Second of two articles.

In promoting its proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project, Dominion Energy Virginia has made many specific projections about its costs and performance. The State Corporation Commission is now being advised to convert one or more of them into binding promises, with financial consequences for the utility and its shareholders if the 176 turbines fail to meet expectations.

As noted in previous discussions, including part one yesterday, Dominion’s 2.6 million Virginia customers are fully exposed to any additional costs created if the construction schedule falters, if material costs explode, tax credits disappear, or if the amount of energy provided over the next 25-30 years fails to meet targets. As also previously reported, no other similar project on the U.S. East Coast is structured to put full risk on customers. Continue reading

Offshore Wind Risks Stressed in SCC Briefs

The footprint for Dominion’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, 27 miles off Virginia Beach.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. First of two articles, with the second coming tomorrow.  

Virginia’s State Corporation Commission has now received a series of legal briefs offering opinions on what steps, under the law, it can take to protect Dominion Energy Virginia consumers from the massive risks facing its proposed offshore wind facility. Those risks range from cost overruns to poor energy output to failure.

All the parties asked responded that the SCC did have some authority to act and somewhat shift the risk. The utility had a more limited view. But the legal question is truly secondary, and the real question is whether two judges will take actions to protect consumers when their elected representatives openly and knowingly left them so exposed. Continue reading

The Defense Production Act as a Political Tool to Boost Solar Farms

Courtesy Dominion Energy

by James C. Sherlock

We have had multiple discussions, good ones, on the issues surrounding solar farms in Virginia.

Jim Bacon wrote an excellent column about it in February of 2021 titled “The Political Economy of Solar Farms.” It was good then and prescient as of yesterday.

He wrote another one two days earlier.  From that piece:

With the enactment of the (Virginia Clean Economy Act) VCEA, Freitas wrote in the press release, Virginia is experiencing extensive land leasing and acquisition by solar developers. More than 180 solar projects accounting for 140 million solar panels are in various stages of approval or construction. Full implementation of the ACT would consume 490 square miles of Virginia’s forests and farmland, an area twenty times the size of Manhattan.

Thanks to President Biden’s new political/industrial policy, those solar farms just got cheaper. And Chinese solar stocks just got more expensive.

Both of which were made to happen because the President removed the tariffs on Chinese solar panels. Readers rationally can be for that action or against it. But the left has settled on the Defense Production Act as a favored service animal.

So, the President, in addition to removing the tariffs, invoked that act as a national emergency response to mandate additional domestic production of solar panels.

Let’s try to pin down the nature of the emergency and the unintended consequences. Continue reading