Category Archives: Utilities

Principles for Virginia’s Energy Future

NOAA data for Virginia, 1900-2020, showing no rising pattern in the number of days with an average high above 95 degrees F.

By Steve Haner

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

Energy is our economy. Energy is the basis of wealth and a comfortable life. As Virginia chooses a new set of legislators to wrestle with the old and new energy issues facing the Commonwealth, here is a review of some of the key points the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy has been stressing and writing about over recent years.

Candidates in either party would do well to adopt them. Continue reading

Did Assembly Trim Dominion Bills $7-$14? No.

The SCC’s breakdown of Dominion’s energy price for a home using 1,000 kwh.  Click for clear view.

by Steve Haner

When the Virginia General Assembly passed a complicated electricity regulation change a few months ago, the Richmond Times-Dispatch parroted as fact this Dominion Energy Virginia claim in a front-page paragraph:

The compromise on electric bills — in legislation that passed nearly unanimously — would bring an immediate $6 to $7 cut in a benchmark 1,000 kilowatt-hour monthly bill, which now stands at $137.

Continue reading

Legislature Moves To Fill Power Vacuum It Created

State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, new Chairman of the Commission on Electric Utility Regulation (Image: Virginia Star)

By Steve Haner

State Senator Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, showed today that he had something which the State Corporation Commission now lacks – a quorum.  Surovell and the other legislators will gather in Richmond tomorrow to address the state budget but are expected once again to fail to fill the two vacancies on that vital regulatory body.

Surovell, however, was chosen this afternoon to chair the newly reconstituted Commission on Electric Utility Regulation (CEUR), a legislative oversight panel that has not met since December 2017 despite several tumultuous years of change in Virginia’s energy sector. The meeting lasted just a few minutes beyond one hour and never discussed the huge problem the legislators have created by refusing to elect new SCC regulators. Continue reading

TJI To SCC: Keep Dominion Gas Plants

The following has been submitted to the State Corporation Commission via the public comment portal it has established for Dominion Energy Virginia’s pending 2023 Integrated Resource Plan.  It was drafted by Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy Senior Fellow Stephen D. Haner.

Dominion Energy Virginia is acting reasonably and prudently by planning to maintain most of its natural gas generation and perhaps some of its coal generation for the foreseeable future, despite narrow votes in the Virginia General Assembly in favor of eliminating their use.

That is the only aspect of the pending Integrated Resource Plan review (PUR-2023-00066) on which the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy is offering an opinion.  However, the opinion is strongly reinforced by data put on the case record by the State Corporation Commission’s own professional staff and cited below. Continue reading

Politicians Back Interest-Heavy Fuel Debt Payoff

Better yet, how about ten years from now? With a decade of interest added on, of course.

By Steve Haner

Several Virginia legislators have encouraged the State Corporation Commission to allow Dominion Energy Virginia to convert a $1.3 billion unpaid fuel debt into a ten-year revenue stream for the utility, adding up to $370 million in additional costs onto its customers.

The SCC will open a hearing Tuesday on the utility’s pending application to convert the unpaid fuel costs for the past three years into a bond. A public comment period on the application just ended, and four legislators and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce filed letters supporting Dominion’s request. The 2023 General Assembly created the bonding option during session as part of an omnibus regulatory change.

The issue is simple. Dominion failed to foresee the explosion in fuel costs caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the generalized wave of inflation. A year ago the SCC approved a plan to cover the first batch of those unpredicted costs that accrued through June 2022, with a three-year payoff schedule.

But the second year of unexpected fuel expenses added almost $700 million more to the unpaid balance by June 2023. Years two and three of the original payment schedule and the new additional costs combine to the total of about $1.275 billion, not including interest. And the interest is what this is all about, with the trade-off being smaller installment payments but a decade of interest charges. Continue reading

Dominion Plan to Maintain Gas Attacked at SCC

Percentage of Virginians reporting difficulty in paying for electricity, including those setting their thermostats to uncomfortable levels. From expert testimony filed by the University of Michigan’s Justin Schott, based on census data. Click for larger view.

By Steve Haner

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

The front line in the war against fossil fuels in Virginia has now shifted back to the State Corporation Commission, and as usual only one side has fielded an army and brought heavy weapons to the battlefield.  Those who might defend the continued use of coal and natural gas are missing in action.   Continue reading

NJ Democrats Tacking Away from Wind Power

by Steve Haner

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

Virginia is one of only two states that hold their major legislative elections this odd-numbered year, with the other being New Jersey. In New Jersey, the state’s offshore wind aspirations have become a major political issue, with even Democrats now starting to question the wisdom of the plan.

The Democrats control new Jersey, so it is noteworthy that both leading Democratic legislators, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, signed a joint statement expressing concern about “unanswered questions” as the state’s Board of Public Utilities goes full speed ahead on its wind projects. The turnabout is even more dramatic because the same legislators just weeks ago voted to give the private wind developers of the first project a more profitable deal at ratepayer expense. The company was one of those complaining its project was not financially feasible under the original terms.

New Jersey has become a major hotspot for political opposition to offshore wind, in part because the planned projects are often closer to shore and will be more visible from beach homes and tourist areas than the project off Virginia Beach. There is also more focus in that media market on the unexplained spike in whale deaths, now reportedly up to 60 since December of last year.

The same questions of cost and tourism impact remain unanswered in Virginia, but so far there is no sign many candidates are seeking to enter the legislature with promises to reverse course on our $10 billion project, if that is possible at this point. Dominion Energy Virginia intends to build a second wave of turbines, however, and the next few General Assembly sessions will have every opportunity to change the rules for that tranche. Continue reading

Dominion “Bill Relief” Disappears September 1

By Steve Haner

Homeowners willing to cut back power usage when Dominion Energy Virginia asks them could earn rebates of up to $28 a year. So reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, citing yet another final order from the State Corporation Commission.

The Richmond paper is always bringing us such great news about the folks at the giant utility looking out for us. The headline in the print edition today is even more positive: “New Rebate Program Could Lower Power Bills.”

Who is actually going to provide the $28 in hard cash? Yep, Bacon’s Rebellion readers get it on the first try. Dominion will raise the rebate money given to the few by raising its cost of electricity to everybody. Even the people getting rebates will pay the surcharge. But your bill just goes up a bit — so little you won’t notice the increase starting on September 1.

You also won’t notice it because the increase in the energy efficiency program’s rate adjustment clause (a separate charge also known as a RAC or rider), is just one of several such increases, all hitting September 1.

The higher bill totals will be creeping into your email and snail mail inboxes along with all the campaign brochures about how the 2023 General Assembly provided “bill relief.” That is gone in a puff of smoke. Come September 1 Dominion customers also start paying for, or start paying more for: Continue reading

Why Dominion Stays Calm in Wind Industry Storm

By Steve Haner

First published by Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  There is some overlap with a post from last week by another author,  but with a slightly different focus.  

With growing  turmoil in the offshore wind industry finally being reported, it would be nice to turn the clock back a year and revisit the State Corporation Commission’s failed 2022 effort to impose a real performance standard on Dominion Energy Virginia’s $10 billion, 176-turbine project.  No such luck, Virginia. Continue reading

One Hand Applauds for Dominion “Bill Relief”

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s customers still owe it $1.26 billion for fuel they have already used, as of the end of June.  The utility is going to give us either seven or ten years to pay off that debt, but at a total cost of over $1.54 billion if we take seven years or almost $1.7 billion if we take the full decade.

The difference, of course, is interest, a return on investment (profit) for the lender, almost $300 million on the seven year plan or $400 million on the ten year plan.  And that initial $1.26 billion already includes some interest.  It was clear from the beginning that extending this debt out like a credit card balance would produce a profit for the lender. Continue reading

Electricity Bill Caps for Poor Start in November

by Steve Haner

Beginning next winter, low- income customers of Dominion Energy Virginia or Appalachian Power Company will be eligible to have their monthly bills capped under a new state financial assistance program.

The income cut off to qualify for Virginia’s new Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) assisting low income households with their electric bills is the same as the threshold for the long-standing Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). So LIHEAP beneficiaries will likely be the first enrolled in the new program later in 2023. Continue reading

Clean Virginia Win is Bad News for Gas Consumers

By Steve Haner

Renewable energy donor Clean Virginia Fund was the biggest winner in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, going head to head against Dominion Energy Virginia in several nomination contests and often winning.  Senior incumbent Democrats with strong Green New Deal voting records went down to defeat, because good wasn’t good enough. Continue reading

VPM Reporter Digs Into Power For Tomorrow

Ben Paviour at Virginia Public Media has fleshed out additional substantial details on the political activities of Power for Tomorrow, a utility advocacy group with major funding from Dominion Energy Virginia.

Questions asked and issues hinted at by this report on Bacon’s Rebellion now have more clarity.

Yes, Paviour found quite a few Virginia incumbent legislators are being supported by the group, not just Senators George Barker (D) and Siobahn Dunnavant (R).  Other beneficiaries include Senator Joe Morrissey (D), Senator Scott Surovell (D), Delegate Delores McQuinn (D), Delegate Buddy Fowler (R) and Delegate Emily Brewer (D).  Most but not all are involved in party nomination contests.

Yes, there is a strong correlation with the people receiving support from Power for Tomorrow not receiving support from Clean Virginia, with the exception of Surovell.  He has received help from both.  Along with the mailings mentioned before, Power For Tomorrow is also spending on digital advertising (as Clean Virginia also does.)

Paviour also found the group is active in South Carolina, another Dominion Energy state, attacking a proposal that South Carolina utilities be forced to join a regional transmission organization.  He turned up the 2021 IRS 990 report for “Power 4 Tomorrow,” but of course that is now out of date.  The IRS reports for these groups lag badly.

The key issue that somebody needs to keep watching is how all of this is reported – or not – in campaign finance disclosures.  No question now, these are political expenses intended to influence an election.  Period. Power for Tomorrow still only shows up as having a registered lobbyist on the Virginia Public Access Project database, with no mention of any campaign donations.  That is the point where this may be stretching Virginia law and should irritate voters who care about transparency.

— SDH

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. 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. Continue reading