Make This Check To: Southwest Virginia

Source: Dominion Power website. Click for larger view.

Here is what I had to say in today’s The Roanoke Times about Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed pumped storage facility in Tazewell County, addressed to the people so excited about the revenue it will generate. This posting is for the people here in the other part of Virginia who pay the bills for the utility.

Read here how Dominion is selling this to the Southwest Virginians who are not its customers, promising hundreds of millions of dollars in this propaganda. That all would come from our future bills. The $320 million in estimated benefits to them is just a start on what it will cost us because we will also be paying over decades for:

  • The profits to the stockholders,
  • The interest on any bonds or loans,
  • The massive construction project itself, and
  • No additional electricity generation, just a storage system for electricity generated elsewhere, much of it lost over the hundreds of miles of transmission lines.

The good news is perhaps this one can be stopped. This is one where we really need to have the State Corporation Commission study the costs and benefits closely with no more legislative games.

This one will be a serious gut check for Attorney General Mark Herring, ordered by state law to protect the interest of consumers in these matters, but eager to win favor out in the western regions.

When first proposed in 2017, the advocates were talking about filling a couple of abandoned coal mines and pumping water back and forth between them for pumped storage. You want to talk about endangering the water table? Polluting giant amounts of water with heavy metals? That idea was just nuts, and the bill received too little attention and almost no opposition.

Dominion representatives I asked disavowed the bill, claiming it wasn’t their idea. Yet it passed.

Somebody has pulled a bait and switch, and now the discussion focuses on a traditional approach with two reservoirs, very viable, proven technology. If it was for Southwest Virginia, if it was closely linked to say a major mountaintop wind field, then the economics might improve. If customers nearby were paying the bill and using the output, not Virginians hundreds of miles away, that’s very different. If the Bath County storage facility were running steadily at 95 percent capacity, that might change the economics. It’s not.

Worse for the proponents, battery storage really does seem to be improving in viability and cost. Imagine what the situation may be by the time this facility could be built. No valley need be flooded to install a bunch of batteries.

Which, of course, is why the legislation passed in 2017 seeks to prevent the SCC from considering alternatives and directs that the pumped storage project is “in the public interest.” Here’s the basic giveaway: If something actually is in the public interest, the General Assembly doesn’t need to declare it so. This the General Assembly substituting its judgement for the SCC’s and the engineers’.

We have yet another lesson in how Virginia does it wrong. There were no “nays” on Senate Bill 1814 in the House and only one in the Senate, Fairfax’s Chap Petersen. If inclined to ask your incumbent how this one slipped past, feel free.