Category Archives: Utilities

Is Dominion Campaigning Behind a Front Again?

By Steve Haner

An electric power industry lobbying and public relations group which has been financially supported by Dominion Energy Virginia is mailing out flyers to voters praising legislative incumbents who helped Dominion pass favorable legislation this year.

A mailer supporting incumbent Fairfax Democratic Senator George Barker caused the Democrat blog Blue Virginia to respond with anger Friday. What appeared to be the same message appeared in mailboxes in the district of Henrico Republican Senator Siobhan Dunnavant. How many other incumbents received the mailer may not be known until the group reports its campaign spending.

If it actually does report the mailers as campaign donations.  Barker is in a very contested party primary June 20, but Dunnavant is not on the ballot until November. The mailer merely “thanks” them for “delivering energy savings for Virginia.” Votes are not directly solicited.

If anybody has received the mailer in support of a Virginia legislator who did not seek a new term, please note that in the comment section. Odds are only legislators seeking new terms got the flyer, one more sign it’s basically a campaign donation, not a legitimate “thank you.”

The group is called Power for Tomorrow and is based in Arlington. The Energy and Policy Institute, a non-profit that often clashes with the utilities over policy, notes that a donation of about $800,000 to Power for Tomorrow appears on a 2021 Dominion disclosure form. A few years back Power for Tomorrow apparently sent out mail in Virginia focused on energy regulation issues, but without using the names or photographs of individual candidates. That drew fire from Ivy Main of the Sierra Club, also reported in 2021 on Blue Virginia. Continue reading

First Lawsuit Over Whales and Wind Dismissed

Vineyard Wind 1, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

A federal district judge in Massachusetts has rejected an effort to stop an offshore wind project near Nantucket Island on the basis of danger to whales, apparently the first court test of similar claims being raised against wind turbine proposals along the U.S. eastern seaboard, including here in Virginia.

On May 17, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani granted a motion for summary judgement to the federal agency that approved the Vineyard Wind One project. With a planned 84 turbines, the project is about half the size of Dominion Energy Virginia’s planned project off Virginia Beach. Both are just the first phases of larger planned buildouts.

Plaintiffs, mainly a group of residents of the islands near the project, had also cross-filed for summary judgement and that motion was denied. Other court challenges to the project, including one brought by fishing industry interests claiming potential economic harm, are pending, but work on the project has not stopped.  Major turbine components are starting to arrive for work to begin. Continue reading

Dominion Seeks Permit to Harass 100s of Whales

Click for larger view. BOEM map of Right Whale density noting offshore wind lease areas. Dominion’s CVOW and Avangrid’s Kitty Hawk Wind are the southernmost mapped.

By David Wojick

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is taking public comments on a massive proposal to harass large numbers of whales and other marine mammals off Virginia by building a huge offshore wind complex. There is supposed to be an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed harassment, but it is not there with the proposal.

We are told it is elsewhere, but after searching we find that it simply does not exist. Like a shell game where the pea has been palmed, there is nothing to be found.

First, the bureaucratic background. The wind project is Dominion Energy Virginia’s 176-turbine offshore Virginia facility, which if built would be the world’s biggest to date. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is proposing to issue a five-year harassment authorization for the construction of this monster. This is about an enormous amount of pile driving, not just a sonar site survey, although there is more of that too.

Technically this is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Here is the announcement:

NMFS has received a request from the Virginia Electric and Power Company, doing business as Dominion Energy Virginia (Dominion Energy), for Incidental Take Regulations (ITR) and an associated Letter of Authorization (LOA) pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

There is a handy comment button at the beginning, with the comment period ending June 5. I urge people to comment, especially along the lines discussed below. Continue reading

Renewables? Fossil Fuels? Americans Want Both.

by Steve Haner

Given a choice between an energy future that is dependent on a) generation using sun, wind or falling water; or b) thermal generation sources using fossil fuels or uranium; or c) a combination of both, which do Americans prefer? Should it surprise anybody that the answer is both?

Reliance on both, the need for at least a substantial amount of electricity not depending on weather, is at the heart of the recommendations coming at Virginians from many directions. It came recently from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including the Virginian on that panel, Mark Christie. It is the premise for both Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s (R) 2022 Energy Plan and Dominion Energy Virginia’s new integrated resource plan.

The message is being disputed by advocates for the rapid retirement of existing coal and natural gas generation, many of whom are (sadly) also strongly anti-nuclear. But a recent poll shared with the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy indicates the message of maintaining traditional baseload strongly resonates. It does so across party lines.

The American people are receptive to the message because they already believe that fossil fuels will continue to be around, and surprising percentages of them would like to see their use expanded. The number of Americans dubious of reaching the poorly defined target of “net zero” by 2050 – a shibboleth among Democrats — is higher than the percentage who believe it possible.

A recent poll by Hearts + Minds Strategies of Reston, with the Thomas Jefferson Institute an invited listener to the discussion (watch it in full or read a summary here), underscores this assertion. This was not a confab of climate catastrophe skeptics. Quite the opposite. Continue reading

Christie Using FERC Pulpit for Dire Prophecy

FERC Commissioner Mark Christie

by Steve Haner

Virginian Mark Christie is using his position on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as a national pulpit to preach a message of energy reliability doom, and he is being heard.

It helps that he is not alone in spreading the alarm. It also helps that he is basing his warning on actual instances of energy shortages, from Texas’s deadly experience two years ago to the problems in the eastern United States just before Christmas 2022, which merely came close to catastrophe.

“The United States is heading for a very catastrophic situation in terms of reliability,” Christie told a United States Senate hearing May 4. “The arithmetic doesn’t work…. This problem is coming. It’s coming quickly. The red lights are flashing.”

Christie joined the FERC panel in January 2021, after 17 years as a member (and often chairman) of Virginia’s energy regulator, the State Corporation Commission. Prior to that he had a career as a lawyer, lobbyist and then advisor to Governor George Allen (R) and Virginia’s Republican state legislators. Continue reading

CVOW on Schedule and Budget, Utility Reports

Dominion’s proposed offshore wind project.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s first wave of offshore wind remains on schedule, and within the announced capital cost of $9.8 billion; and the cost per unit of the energy from the turbines will be lower than initially projected, the utility reported last week.

Details? Well, many of those are secrets. Much of the brief report the utility filed with State Corporation Commission remains redacted, with large blocks covered by black ink. The redacted data involves reports from an affiliate corporation, Blue Ocean Energy Marine LLC. There apparently is also another document “filed under seal under separate cover.”

Finally, Dominion refers to an Excel file that includes all the data on the new levelized cost of energy (LCOE) calculations which was posted to a shared eRoom. The password is available only to the SCC and case parties who signed non-disclosure agreements, reports the SCC’s communications director in response to a query about access for Bacon’s Rebellion.

Among the interesting items which are on the record: Continue reading

Hearing Held, No Vote Taken on Beach Wind Cables

Joe Bourne of Protect Sandbridge Beach opens the May 4 hearing on the Kitty Hawk North request to bring major power lines ashore in Virginia Beach.

by Steve Haner

One four-hour public hearing was not enough. Virginia Beach City Council wants another such debate before it votes on a wind company’s request to bring power cables ashore at Sandbridge Beach.

Last week’s hearing on Kitty Hawk North’s application for an easement to bury cables apparently was not covered by any Hampton Roads news media. Almost half of the time (watch it here) was used by the company’s speakers, both before and after the public spoke. Parent firm Avangrid Renewables LLC personnel were at the podium for so long because of questions from council members.

The representative for that part of the city, Barbara Henley, was the most pointed.

“We’ve heard a lot tonight from Avangrid, but in all this time, this is the first time we’ve heard it,” she complained.  “I think we all deserve answers to all of the questions before we make a decision.” Information she’d heard that evening seemed to contradict previous things she was told by city staff, she claimed. She also said city staff at one point told her of the project: “It’s not going to be viable. Don’t worry about it.”

Henley said the Sandbridge residents have been “shortchanged” so far, and also worried that nobody in the room spoke for the residents along the nine-mile route the power cables will take before connecting to the main electric grid at Corporate Landing.

Her comment came right before the meeting ended. She did not indicate how she might vote and included in her comments general support for offshore wind and the economic dream of creating a wind energy industry hub in the region. “None of that depends on where this project lands,” she said.

She was followed by Mayor Robert “Bobby” Dyer, who announced the intention for council to host another hearing “but not have a vote that night.” No date was announced. Continue reading

Combining RACs in Base Rates May Be “Bill Relief”

by Steve Haner

Simpler is usually better.  Monthly electric bills for many Virginians are about to get less complex, and in the short run also lower.  Will that lower cost be long term?  It is too soon to tell.

On July 1 Dominion Virginia Power will stop collecting separate monthly payments on its bills for three of its newer power plants, all now covered by their own stand-alone rate adjustment clauses or RACs.  This change flows from the major regulatory revision the General Assembly recently adopted and does not need State Corporation Commission approval.  Dominion instead notified the SCC of this change.

This is a different filing than the one about collecting its unpredicted fuel costs, and while they were announced together on May 1, really needed its own analysis. Continue reading

Putting Off Paying Your Debt is Not “Bill Relief”

In this case, for us along with Popeye’s friend, “Tuesday” translates into “after the next election.”

by Steve Haner

Whether customers pay a lot more for one year starting this July, or just a little bit more for ten years starting next winter, Dominion Energy Virginia’s entire backlog of accumulated fuel costs from prior years will be paid in full.   Every dollar will come from customers, with annual interest tacked on in the case of the long-term approach.

The second approach, the “put it on the credit card and pay the minimum” approach, is not bill relief.  Paying less now in order to pay more for ten years is not bill relief.  It is bad enough that a major newspaper is helping to sell the con.  The story was then shared on Twitter as an example of “Republican-led utility reform,” and Democrats are likely to seek to claim credit, as well. Continue reading

Dominion’s New Plan Abandons Carbon Free Goal

Rendering of a GE combined-cycle natural gas-burning plant.  Despite demands from some for carbon free electricity, Dominion wants to add more gas generation in Virginia.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia has long been warning, albeit somewhat quietly, that the dream of running Virginia’s economy on nothing but solar, wind and battery power was not based on reality.  With the filing of its most recent integrated resource plan (IRP) on May 1, proposing how to meet customer needs out 25 years, it has made those warnings concrete.

The alternative plan that the company points to as preferred includes adding natural gas generation as early as 2028, an idea not even hinted at in the previous plan just a year ago. It wants to add 2,900 megawatts of new gas plants in all.  That proposal will prove anathema to the climate alarmism movement that imposed the Virginia Clean Economy Act just three years ago, demanding carbon-emissions-free electricity by 2045. Continue reading

Residents Ask VA Beach to Reject Wind Easement

Source: John Locke Foundation. Click to expand.

By Steve Haner

Opposition to offshore wind is stirring in Virginia Beach, but the focus is on a North Carolina proposal that would bring its power ashore at Sandbridge Beach, not the Dominion Energy Virginia project which is closer to the state’s largest city.

Private energy developer Avangrid Renewables LLC still needs a key easement from Virginia Beach City Council to proceed with its plans.  That vote was delayed earlier this year and the company was asked to increase its local outreach and engagement.  A public meeting which is part of that effort will take place Thursday, May 4 at Municipal Center Building 1. Continue reading

One Case, Five Virginia Energy Reg Failures

Dominion solar farm. Photo credit: Dominion.

by Steve Haner

How badly broken is Virginia’s energy regulatory system?  One recent State Corporation Commission decision on Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed next wave of solar projects illustrates several of the problems.  The projects are unimportant, routine.  What matters are the policy failures revealed.

Only the rich can look at the future and yawn. Continue reading

SCC Agrees Dominion Must Own Most Wind, Solar

Dominion wins one for the shareholders.

By Steve Haner

The State Corporation Commission has rejected arguments that the Virginia Clean Economy Act would allow Virginia’s dominant electric utility to get more than 35% of its new wind, solar and battery power from third party suppliers. Dominion Energy Virginia is guaranteed by law (actually, required is the better word) to own 65% of those assets directly.

The ruling was issued today in the Commission’s final order on Dominion’s most recent application for additional solar and battery assets, most of which were approved.  The question has lingered through several recent cases since the General Assembly passed VCEA in 2020, with various stakeholders arguing that the third-party assets are usually cheaper for consumers and impose less risk from failure.

The lower cost of those alternative approaches was highlighted in this case and discussed earlier on Bacon’s Rebellion. Dominion had rejected several cheaper third-party choices in compiling its plan. That earlier story also touched on the dispute over whether the 35% referenced in the statute was a ceiling or a floor.  The SCC looked at the plain wording of the law in effect and declared it really is a target that cannot be ignored or exceeded. To wit:

This particular law is written as follows: “… and 35 percent of such generating capacity procured shall be from [third party-owned resources], with the remainder, in the aggregate, being from construction or acquisition by (Dominion.) As written, the above says “35%” – neither something more nor something less – “shall” be from third party-owned resources.

Continue reading

Youngkin Energy Reforms Killed Without Votes

By Steve Haner

Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to ensure that any future wave of wind turbines built off Virginia must follow a real competitive bid process ended up dead as a beached whale. The General Assembly didn’t just kill his proposed amendment during its reconvened session April 12, it refused to even take up the matter.

Both the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Democrat-controlled Senate voted to “pass by” the substitutes. The substitutes then died when the motion to adjourn was approved at the end of the day. Such a motion is often used to avoid a recorded vote loaded with political risk.

Rejection of the amendments, first discussed here, leaves Youngkin (R) free to veto the underlying bill (actually two identical bills, one in each chamber), but his argument was not with the underlying bills themselves. He was just trying to weaken Dominion Energy Virginia’s control over the wind development process, which has led to Virginia building the first and only $10 billion project with all the cost and risk on its ratepayers. At this point, any second phase will likely be the same.

The gubernatorial amendment on competitive bidding for offshore wind was injecting a new issue in the last stage of the 2023 session. Youngkin offered other amendments which constituted repeat efforts to pass things rejected during the regular part of the session. They met the same fate, some also by motions to pass by supported by his own party. Continue reading

Youngkin Seeks Bids on Future Offshore Wind

Dominion’s proposed offshore wind project. Phase two, similar in size, would build out to the east.

By Steve Haner

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed a stronger requirement in state law that any second wave of offshore wind serving Virginia be subjected to a competitive procurement process, rather than simply allowing Dominion Energy Virginia to build it with all the costs and risks imposed on its customers.

The planned 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project now under federal environmental review remains the only such project in the United States which is being developed directly by a monopoly utility. Other projects involve third-party developers raising the capital and taking on much of the financial risk for the multi-billion-dollar investments, then selling the power to utilities.

This is just one of several consumer-oriented amendments Youngkin proposed on a series of energy bills, to be voted on at the General Assembly’s reconvened session April 12. Should the Assembly reject his amendments, his option then is to either sign or veto the bill as it passed in February.

The financial and operational risk imposed on ratepayers by direct utility ownership of the wind farm was the focus of debate before the State Corporation Commission (SCC) finally authorized the project, now estimated to cost $10 billion. A method to shift some of the risk to the company’s shareholders if power output fell below projections was initially accepted but then abandoned by the regulators. Continue reading