Nuke Foes Take Case to Dominion Shareholders

North Anna nuclear power station
North Anna nuclear power station

by James A. Bacon

Foes of a third nuclear power plan at Dominion Virginia Power’s North Anna Power Station have taken their case to the shareholders of parent company Dominion Resources, which is holding its annual shareholders meeting in Columbia, S.C., today.

Dominion is racking up billions of dollars of potential liabilities on the nuclear unit (NA3) that it may never recover, argues a shareholder resolution filed by Ruth McElroy Amundsen. State regulators may balk at paying for a project that, according to a Dominion estimate filed with the State Corporation Commission, would cost approximately $14.8 billion and, according to an expert witness for the Office of the Attorney General, would cost $19.3 billion,

Amundsen’s shareholder resolution (page 54) calls for Dominion to prepare and make public “a financial analysis” by November 30 reporting on “potential impact on earnings, share price and dividends should the State Corporation Commission deny a certificate for the development of North Anna 3 and further deny the recover of $1.87 billion in costs associated with the North Anna 3 nuclear reactor.”

“The massive $19 billion cost for the North Anna 3 nuclear reactor project makes it the biggest single threat posed today to the pocketbooks of Virginia consumers,” said Irene Leech, president of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council. “The ever-escalating cost of this project and the fact that it is at least twice as expensive as other alternatives, including energy efficiency and renewables, makes this a situation that cries out for responsible shareholders to speak up and be heard.”

Dominion responded in its 2016 shareholders proxy statement that the company faces immense regulatory uncertainty. Federal courts must rule on the constitutionality of the Clean Power Plan and then, if the plan is deemed constitutional, the commonwealth of Virginia must select one of four broad regulatory strategies to meet the goals of the plan, which is designed to combat climate change by reducing utility carbon-dioxide emissions.

“The analysis and report … [would] require hypothesizing a number of unrelated factors and contingencies,” stated the board of directors in recommending against the shareholder proposal. “The potential outcomes of these issues, each of which would depend, in part, on subjective determinations by regulators, would need to be taken into account if we were to prepare the requested report. The complexity of any cost-recovery analysis is further compounded by the fact that the legislative process can, at times, alter the regulatory landscape.”

Amundsen’s resolution, which echoes the arguments made by consumer and environmental groups, focuses on the risk that the nuclear plant might never get built and that the company may not recover the significant investments it is making before receiving regulatory approval. Virginia Office of Attorney General has raised concerns with the SCC whether the expenditure of $19.3 billion developing NA3, which could translate into an average rate increase of 25.7% over current Virginia retail rates, is “reasonable and in the public interest.”

The total delivered cost of power from NA3 would amount to 19 cents per kilowatt/hour, which compares to the average wholesale price of electricity in the PJM interconnection region of 5.3 cents per kilowatt/hour in 2014, stated a supporting document for the shareholder proposal. And that doesn’t take into account the prospect of more cost increases if the project runs behind schedule and over budget.

Even if Dominion never builds the nuclear facility, it has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on engineering and regulatory work to keep the nuclear option open. As of Sept. 30, 2015, the company had incurred $580 million in development costs, and Dominion expects to have spent $4.7 billion in development by the end of 2020, states the supporting document. “By the time the SCC is allowed to review this spending, more than one-quarter of the total cost will have been spent.”

Amundsen’s bottom line: “Dominion is incurring its North Anna 3 costs purely at its stockholders’ risk.”

Dominion’s recently published 2016 Integrated Resources Plan lays out four potential regulatory strategies for Virginia if the Clean Power Plan is approved. One of those scenarios, a “mass-based” approach that sets caps on CO2 emissions for existing and new power plants, would restrict coal- and gas-based electric generation so drastically that the company would have little choice but to shift to solar and nuclear power, the company has argued.

While the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter argues that “the company can substantially reduce carbon pollution with renewable energy like solar and wind power,” Dominion says that the intermittent nature of wind and solar production forces the company to maintain backup capacity it can rely upon. The low-cost option for “dispatchable” power is natural gas. But the regulatory scenario preferred by environmental groups effectively precludes gas and coal, leaving nuclear as the only option. The company also contends that neither energy-efficiency initiatives nor purchases of wholesale power from the PJM system can make up the difference.

In effect, Dominion regards its expenditures on the NA3 nuclear unit as an insurance policy should Virginia adopt the most carbon-restrictive Clean Power Plan regulatory option.

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48 responses to “Nuke Foes Take Case to Dominion Shareholders”

  1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    And how often do shareowner proposals get a majority vote? Shades of Evelyn Y. Davis.

  2. I agree with TMT. This is unlikely to get shareholder approval. At least this time around. But it is an important issue for both shareholders and ratepayers. Given the history of nuclear plants coming in behind schedule and far over budget, especially with a starting price that is many times more than other forms of generation, nuclear plants are not good choices for ratepayers. Because of their huge capital expenditures, nukes can be alluring to shareholders, but only if all of that expense ends up in the rate base. There is always the chance that the SCC will not allow full recovery of the capex, which would be a major blow to shareholders.

    Energy efficiency is a far better option for the ratepayers. Massachusetts expects to save this much capacity by 2020 (30% of their current capacity) authorizing their utilities to spend a little over $2 billion to save the ratepayers $6 billion. This is possible in Virginia as well. It would be even better if we reset the role of utilities so shareholders could benefit too.

    A related issue is Dominion’s assumption that Surry and North Anna will be allowed a second 20-year license extension with limited additional expense in 2032 & 2033 and 2038 and 2040. These plants will be 60 years old at the time and could very likely require sizeable investments to make them safe for another 20 years of operation, if that is even allowed (accumulated radiation exposure breaks down many critical components). The nuclear question is a wake-up call to all parties that we need a different way of dealing with our energy issues.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Re energy conservation. How much energy could Dominion save if prices for LED lights were comparable to those for incandescent lights? There is a price barrier that is slowing substitution. If the energy savings are sufficient, shouldn’t Dominion and the rest of the electric power industry be pushing to reduce prices for, and subsidizing the prices of, substitute lighting devices?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        TMT – LED is 1/5 the cost of incandescents if you take into account the operating costs.

        they use 1/3 the energy and last 20 times longer.

        what this illustrates is how many people are willing to pay the up-front costs – to get the longer term savings.

        but what this also illustrates is that anything that DVP does to encourage energy conservation – actually hurts their bottom line because they make money selling electricity – not saving it.

        1. In 2015, the city of Manchester, New Hampshire and its utility, Eversource, installed 9,000 new LED streetlights. The project is expected to save the city more than $500,000 per year.

          Siemens is completing the installation. The project is a partnership between Eversource, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, and the city of Manchester. The city will also receive a $400,000 electric rebate from Eversource.

          Imagine the savings to taxpayers if all of the municipalities in Virginia made this change. Utilities wouldn’t like it because it reduces their night-time load which is met by low-cost sources and does not diminish the peak. However, we have granted utilities monopoly status in exchange for reliably meeting our energy needs at a reasonable cost. There is no reason we cannot adjust that compact to find ways to reduce our costs while still keeping utilities financially healthy.

  3. LED prices are rapidly decreasing, but there is still an up-front premium for lower usage and longer life that repays the initial cost many times.

    Dominion and some other utilities have opposed LED substitution where they had a say in the matter. I can’t find the reference so I am reluctant to mention it, but I believe that Dominion would not allow a town to put LED’s in the streetlights to save energy. The utility claimed that it owned the streetlights and would not allow the substitution, even though it would have been at the town’s expense.

    Currently, utilities are only paid through usage of kilowatt-hours. Any efficiency measures reduce their revenues and the payout to shareholders. The greatest energy savings are in the government, commercial and industrial sectors. Energy savings, just like solar is more expensive at the residential level because of greater “soft” costs such as as marketing, site inspection, design, permitting, billing and financing expenses, etc.

    We need to align what is good for ratepayers with what is good for shareholders. Having these two interest groups opposed to one another is not a healthy situation. It should be win-win for long-term benefit.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      From what I’ve seen in Fairfax County, the prices for LEDs have not slipped much. Zip Code pricing, which to me seems to violate the Robinson-Patman Antitrust Act.

      Also, I was under the impression that the VSCC allows power companies to recover dollar for dollar any money they spend on reducing energy consumption (subject to a cap) on the ground that it reduces the need for purchasing peak power and postpones the need for building additional generating capacity. While utilities like big rate bases, they also like to postpone CapEx costs. There are, indeed, risks to shareowners that capital investments will not earn the allowed RoR or become economically obsolete before the capital investment is recovered through deprecation and/or amortization. It’s a balance.

      To Tom’s comments, there must be a sweet spot where the economic interests of shareowners and ratepayers align. That might be a good Ph.D topic.

      1. I would like to see the SCC regs on that. I suspect the cap is quite low. Utilities historically have concentrated more on shifting loads off-peak (they make more money that way) than eliminating it entirely.

        I’m not sure that Dominion and Duke are trying to avoid capex at the present time. Their shareholders are rewarding them with higher share prices because of the prospect of future long-term sources of income from a diversified income stream (pipelines, etc.). Utility stocks also tend to respond to interest rates fluctuations so this is a great time to load up on long-term projects while interest rates are low. Especially when utilities can shift most of the risk for future price increases on to the ratepayer.

        1. Rowinguy Avatar

          Tom and TMT, I direct your attention to the Code of Virginia, Section 56-585-1.A 5 c. This law (not regulation) allow DVP and Apco to request a rate adjustment clause that recovers:

          “Projected and actual costs for the utility to design, implement, and operate energy efficiency programs, including a margin to be recovered on operating expenses, which margin for purposes of this section shall be equal to the general rate of return on common equity….The Commission shall only approve such a petition if it finds that the program is in the public interest. (NEXT is the good part) As part of such cost recovery, the Commission, if requested by the utility, SHALL ALLOW for the recovery of revenue reductions related to the energy efficiency programs…..”

          This provision of law allows a utility that implements EE programs to recover all the costs of the program, plus a “margin” (i.e., a return on capital even if no capital is invested) plus recovery of lost revenues.

          Does that sound like something that is in the public’s interest to you?

          1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            That that law I had in mind.

            I think it can be of benefit to consumers if, it can be shown payment for foregone revenues costs the consumer less than the purchase of peak power or the costs of adding plant. Hence, my call for some Ph.D student to study this.

            If I ran a power company, I think I would be somewhat careful in incurring substantial capex due to the business risks presented by alternative generation. I can foresee a situation where existing generation technology cannot compete with new methods and investors in the former eat the cost since the customers won’t purchase the higher cost power. Diversification, on the other hand, makes good sense to me as a business strategy.

          2. Recovery of lost revenues is one of the tricky parts dealing with energy efficiency as it involves analyzing past weather and customer usage patterns. It is interesting that it provides for a rate of return too. I wonder for how long? Probably less than the 40+ years for a new plant. Do you know what the cap is?

            Also given that the capital required to save X MW’s is usually quite a bit less than what is required to build a plant to generate X MW’s, the return would be less to the utility – still it is a step in the right direction.

            A few more tweeks plus incentives to become the distribution platform provider might encourage utilities to take less risks in building more projects and concentrate more on being well paid to assure that we were able to meet our energy needs in the lowest cost, most reliable way possible.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: ” We need to align what is good for ratepayers with what is good for shareholders. Having these two interest groups opposed to one another is not a healthy situation. It should be win-win for long-term benefit.”

      obviously the win-win is for DVP to be allowed to move into other service areas such as professional design and installs for energy conservation systems.

      Can they not do that?

      1. Not currently. The present rate design pays them back for their investments, plus a rate of return, through revenues generated by the sale of electricity. If they make investments that reduce the sale of electricity they harm their shareholders interests, even though they have helped the ratepayers.

  4. Rowinguy Avatar

    “Even if Dominion never builds the nuclear facility, it has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on engineering and regulatory work to keep the nuclear option open. As of Sept. 30, 2015, the company had incurred $580 million in development costs, and Dominion expects to have spent $4.7 billion in development by the end of 2020, states the supporting document. “By the time the SCC is allowed to review this spending, more than one-quarter of the total cost will have been spent.”

    Amundsen’s bottom line: “Dominion is incurring its North Anna 3 costs purely at its stockholders’ risk.””

    So long as Dominion continues to control the Virginia General Assembly’s attention, the costs it is incurring for North Anna 3 can continue to be imposed, as the Assembly mandated in 2014, on customers rather than stockholders:

    “The remaining 70 percent of all costs of such a [nuclear] facility that the utility incurred between July 1, 2007, and December 31, 2013, shall not be deferred for recovery through a rate adjustment clause under this subdivision; however such remaining 70 percent of all costs shall be recovered ratably through existing base rates as determined by the [State Corporation] Commission in the test periods under review in the utility’s next biennial review filed after July 1, 2014.”

    What that piece of legislative sludge quoted above did was to require the SCC to charge 70% of the nuclear development costs DVP incurred back to 7/1/07 on North Anna 3 as if those costs had been recovered from customer base rates in 2013 and 2014, thereby REDUCING the excess earnings DVP otherwise recorded during those 2 years, a significant (but not total) part of which would have been refunded to customers. Before this 2014 amendment all these development costs would be recoverable ONLY if DVP had actually committed to building a North Anna 3 prior to 2018 AND obtained all necessary regulatory approvals both from the NRC and the SCC.

    Seeing as how that wasn’t going to happen, the friendly folks at the Virginia General Assembly slid that little amendment into the law in 2014. No reason to assume those same folk are any less friendly now than then.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m conflicted by the Nuke issue in several ways.

    from a technology point of view – why , after 60 years do we still not have a design that shuts down without a potential meltdown.

    And why in the world would you put such a high-risk unit in an area that is now an active earthquake zone?

    and how does baseload energy “work” with wind/solar. Isn’t baseload essentially incompatible with wind/solar ?

    Finally – how much baseload does Va actually need now and in the future?

    would such an additional plant be in excess to Va needs?

    1. There are a lot of safeguards built into the design of nuclear units. They are designed to shutdown automatically (SCRAM) when a wide variety of unexpected events occur. However, we cannot anticipate all conceivable events and human error does occur. The difficulty with nuclear is that the worst case scenarios are far worse than when something goes wrong with a natural gas or coal plant.

      Baseload is complementary not incompatible with renewables. Baseload is the load that occurs 24 hours a day. Think of it as a block of usage upon which the intermediate and peak loads are built. These additional loads occur around sunup and extend until people go to bed. Solar is particularly useful for this period at least when the sun is shining. Wind speeds increase when temperature differentials appear often around sunrise and sunset and into the evening hours, so it is a useful counterpart to solar, but can displace traditional baseload units during night-time hours.

      The difficulty with baseload is when you have too much slow-to-respond baseload capacity. These units work best when they run at full capacity so it is a problem when there is not enough load to serve. Dominion and PJM dealt with this issue by building the Bath County Pumped Storage facility to shift excess night-time baseload generation for use during daytime peaks. However, nuclear units are not designed to ramp up and down quickly to follow variations in output from solar units. Gas-fired combined-cycle units are a bit better at this but not great. Natural gas and oil fired combustion turbines are best a rapidly following variations in load.

      Energy efficiency cuts usage 24 hours a day, so in effect they act like baseload units except there is no downtime for refueling or repairs. And it is much cheaper.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        recent news: ” UNC study says seismic shifts that caused 2011 Louisa quake likely to continue”

        in terms of baseload – my understanding is that Nukes do not ramp up or down quickly – thus teaming them with wind/solar does not deal with the up and down – nor at night. Nukes just run at one speed.
        Come night – whatever solar was adding during the day – goes away and what replaces solar then?

        If gas is “not great” – what is better?

        my impression is that there is nothing else besides Gas for raping up and down…

        1. Are you asking about using solar for baseload capacity? It is possible now, but expensive. It requires storage, whether pumped storage, battery storage, or some other form. The combined price of solar plus storage would have to be less expensive than the other baseload alternatives to make this worthwhile. It is in places like Hawaii, but not here. Probably wouldn’t be cheaper than old nukes, or new combined-cycle gas-fired plants (as long as gas is cheap). Solar plus storage might be cheaper than gas-fired alternatives, if natural gas prices get too high. It could be less expensive than new nuclear plants, especially as solar prices are cut in half and storage gets cheaper. Much less baseload capacity would be needed with widespread energy efficiency.

          My comment was that gas-fired combined-cycle plants are not too great at following load variations. They are about ten times slower responding than gas or oil-fired combustion turbines which are the preferred way of meeting peaks and load variations at this time.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            well … Bacon and other skeptics of solar claim that it’s not a good power source because it is not “steady” and varies and that can de-stabilize the grid.

            I’ve always felt that if you team up Solar with the type of gas unit that CAN ramp up and down quickly that it would mesh with varying inputs to the grid – not only increased demand but fluctuations up – and down – in general.

            that KIND of gas plant – as differentiated from the combined-cycle plants that perform more like baseload plants.

            In other words there are some kinds of plants that ramp up and down quickly – and they are needed when demand quickly starts to exceed the existing baseload – quicker than baseload plants can be ramped up in response.

            I was unaware that in any significant sense that DVP used oil plants to deal with load variations… and that it was gas turbines that filled that role. Are there oil plants in Virginia?

            in terms of “baseload capacity” – my question was not about storage but about the statewide 24/7 baseload demand.

            In other words if there was no “fluctuations” – just a static demand for generation what is that base level need

          2. Larry – sorry I missed seeing this earlier. I looked for actual numbers for Dominion’s base load at different seasons but a quick search did not turn up anything. Maybe when I get more time I can find something. But my guess is that although the minimum amount of electricity required to be supplied by Dominion varies a bit throughout the day and throughout the year, the baseload amount is probably around 60+% of the peak load on any particular day.

            Demand side management (DSM) programs attempt to reduce the peak and spread that usage into the “shoulders” rather than the peak because lower cost generation sources can then supply that load.

            You are right, combustion turbines (basically jet engines connected to a generator) are the best current method of rapidly following variations in load. These are typically gas fired or oil fired units. Dominion operates several oil-fired combustion turbines in Cheaspeake, Dumfries, Lively, and Covington, VA. The 400 MW Yorktown Unit 3 is also oil fired and is used in a cycling capacity.

            Oil releases more pollutants than natural gas and Dominion has plans to add more pollution controls to at least one of its oil-fired units. Low oil prices have contributed to more frequent use of the oil-fired peakers.

            Dominion also operates multiple gas fired combustion turbines in five locations around the state.

            As fossil fuel prices rise and battery and other storage options fall you will see these options begin to replace the older combustion turbines. Batteries are already being used in PJM for voltage stability and volt/VAR support on the grid.

    2. TBill Avatar

      The new generation “safer” reactor design is the Westinghouse AP1000 being build in Georgia and South Carolina and China.

      Dominion has NOT chosen the AP1000 for NA3, so they have some explaining to do from the start. Apparently however Dominion has picked an alternate new generation reactor design.

      I’d be more comfortable if they dropped the NA3 and waited to see AP1000 operating experience in USA and China. Also I am not convinced we need a new plant, so I’d say wait and see if we need it and wait for experience of the new plants.

      We do face a dilemma: if USA environmentalists want to ban all carbon sources as their top priority, and they do, then that leaves nuclear. That was a big argument among environmental leaders during the Paris climate talks. My solutions is to not chose to ban carbon in the first place, but just saying.

      1. There is a new design for a nuclear unit that could vary its output at a reasonable enough speed to be considered for load following duty. But this is just in the conceptual stage and far from commercial availability. Besides, nuclear prices keep going higher while several alternatives, with no carbon either, keep getting cheaper.

        EDF’s response to Dominion’s 2016 IRP was that Dominion went farther than necessary to meet CPP requirements in their lowest carbon scenario. Not all of the existing plant closings were required as was proposed in order to identify an option that required a new nuclear plant. And it was the nuclear plant that made this option so expensive compared to the other choices.

        New gas plants look OK when addressing the CPP, which is a CO2 control regulation. They don’t fare as well when the discussion is about climate change, because the methane leaks in the natural gas supply chain are far more potent contributors to greenhouse gases than is CO2.

        If we set aside the highly politicized discussion about the CPP and ratepayers vs shareholders, I think we could design a system that includes a mix of energy efficiency, distributed and utility scale solar, peak load shifting, the already constructed gas-fired plants, maximizing the use of PJM, and grid modernization that would provide more reliable service, at a lower cost, with less environmental impacts than any of the options currently being discussed.

        Is this pie in the sky – maybe. Would it require a major realignment in political attitudes and corporate plans – probably. But the present plans assume that the future (for a long time) will be mostly like the past. This doesn’t seem to be a reasonable assumption. None of the events in the world at this time would verify that assumption. New useful developments only occur when we have the courage to question old assumptions and begin to view the world in a different way.

        1. My mistake. It was NRDC’s response to which I was referring not EDF’s.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” if USA environmentalists want to ban all carbon sources as their top priority, and they do, then that leaves nuclear. That was a big argument among environmental leaders during the Paris climate talks. My solutions is to not chose to ban carbon in the first place, but just saying.”

    Tbill – do you follow EDF ? do you consider them to be “extreme” ?

    I don’t see this as black and white with one side/choice being ” ban all”.

    and I don’t think EDF is advocating that either or for that matter NRDC.

    Is this a situation for some of us where we react to the most extreme on the left by then establishing our own position as the polar opposite?

    For myself – I do not associate with either of the two but I DO lean towards getting rid of coal – where we can as opposed to fighting any/all options in that direction.

    I do not see any/all carbon as evil incarnate which must be dispatched forthwith but on the other hand – defending keeping it is a loser… also.

    it’s days are numbered – the only issue is timeline.

    how about it? can you lay out your basic position?


    1. TBill Avatar

      One environmental group (EDF?) seems to have a more helpful view.

      If we look at Virginia’s CO2 it is extremely low today (within our boundaries) due to 40% nuke and 30-40% imports. If we let the nukes go out of business long term, then we probably have to substitute with natural gas. That increase in CO2 would be hard to accept for some.

      I realize we can get more renewables but not sure that much.

  7. CleanAir&Water Avatar

    Regarding the energy efficiency programs discussed above … that too is a matter of rules changes. Reducing demand is not in Dominion’s interest as rules now stand.

    RE Nukes at Lake Anna … same thing

    It is my understanding that as long as the third nuke at Lake Anna remains a possibility Dominion can write off the costs of its development planning process to the ratepayers. Once building Lake Anna 3 is no longer under consideration the development expense has to be paid for by the stockholders. So nuke 3 stays in the planning process even though we should be talking about shutting down Lake Anna since we now know it sits on the fault line that gave us the earthquake that shook DC a few years back.

    AND … how can Dominion even consider the enormous costs of an Anna 3 when they continue to balk at the price of installing 2 test windmills off the Norfolk coast. Dominion outbid other companies for 113,000 acres of federal offshore leases which they seem to have placed on ‘layaway’, protecting them from being developed. Everyone understands that the price of offshore wind will come down once the industry begins to build projects, but that won’t happen when potential developers sit on vast acres of leases.

    A 2 turbine demonstration project, promised as part of the original leases won and ensuring that some offshore lease development would begin, is not underway because the bid came in at an estimated cost of $375 million instead of the $230 million Dominion had forecast. The company refuses to move forward because this project is $150 million over projection while Lake Anna costs dwarf the cost of getting underway with an offshore wind industry, which can have great economic benefit for Virginia.

    A Stanford study tells us that Virginia’s coast could provide 60% of the electricity we used in 2012. NREL says rural solar can give us many times what we need and on-site solar can provide 25+%. Dominion is doing what makes the most money for its parent company. It’s time to change our state’s rules. Most other states are way ahead of us. What are we thinking?

  8. […] ¶ Foes of a third nuclear reactor at Dominion Virginia Power’s North Anna Power Station, near Mineral, Virginia, have taken their case to the shareholders of parent company Dominion Resources, which is holding its annual shareholders meeting in Columbia, South Carolina. [Bacon’s Rebellion] […]

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” If we set aside the highly politicized discussion about the CPP and ratepayers vs shareholders, I think we could design a system that includes a mix of energy efficiency, distributed and utility scale solar, peak load shifting, the already constructed gas-fired plants, maximizing the use of PJM, and grid modernization that would provide more reliable service, at a lower cost, with less environmental impacts than any of the options currently being discussed.”

    okay – I’m having a confusion here.

    I THOUGHT the reason the CPP WAS politicized was because the critics said it WAS trying to deal with climate change by reducing green house gases.



    however, I HAVE ALSO read that frack gas does indeed emit methane gas

    however – I THOUGHT that when compared to the gases emitted by burning coal – is was still LESS and thus using it to replace coal actually got reductions – but yes – the idea was to eventually reduce gas by more renewables and more energy conservation.

    so back to the CPP – politics aside – does it not address the gases associated with climate change or not?

    these discussions are excellent for me in terms of becoming better informed … and again I thank those who are knowledgeable and patient enough to hang in and explain.

    1. TBill Avatar

      I’d say CPP is political for two main reasons: (1) unusual approach delegating control to the States gov’ts versus normal approach setting limits on companies themselves and plants. State boundary approach is unusual way to manage, (2) if you are able to to see through EPA’s and environmental group sugar-coating attempts to sway public opinion, it is a severe and onerous rule.

      Methane leakage does NOT currently appear to be a fatal flaw of fracking. That rhetoric is environmental groups trying to sway public opinion. Not to say methane should not be controlled better, it probably should. My opinion still is natural gas is very clean alternative to coal, and very civilized, advanced way for society to make electricity for the future. There is a “but” : there is some danger factor that must be managed properly. I also like renewables because I am not so hot on coal and nukes.

    2. I am hesitant to weigh in on climate change issues because I am not an expert and it is very likely that there are a wide variety of issues at work in our current cycle of climate change.

      However, the underlying assumption for the CPP is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and a reduction in the amounts produced by human activity would be a good idea. Mining coal releases a good deal of coal seam methane and burning coal in power plants produces about 42-46% more CO2 than what is produced by an equivalent natural gas combined cycle plant.

      Natural gas has been designated our “bridge fuel” by the energy industry to wean us from our heavy reliance on coal. Some believe that this was a bailout for Wall Street interests to save the billions poured into now failing shale drillers after the housing crisis. This “money play” may have caused us to overlook some of the less appealing aspects of natural gas.

      On the upside, natural gas is currently cheap, primarily because of the oversupply caused by drillers needing to stay in business. And it is a flexible fuel that can be easily transported and used for many functions, including generating electricity. Even if bankruptcies continue to occur and drillers go out of business, the gas remains for others to extract.

      On the downside, new studies such as the one done by Yale University are beginning to show that the production, transport and use of natural gas releases far more methane than was previously assumed. Further study is needed to understand the true scope of the issue. A good portion of the leaks seem to be coming from the natural gas distribution system which has nothing to do with producing electricity.

      There is also concern that we are making a long-term bet on natural gas when we cannot be assured of a long-term supply of affordable gas. Production from conventional gas wells in the U.S. has been declining for some time. Then fracking of shale plays came along and production soared. However, shale wells decline in a matter of a few years rather than decades as with conventional wells. The most productive area ever discovered (the Haynesville formation) played out in less than a decade, at least at current prices.

      Production and prices for fossil fuels have risen and fallen with advances in technology and variations in political and financial conditions. That is likely to continue and is difficult to predict when and to what extent changes will occur.

      My comment applied not to the reason for the CPP but to our chosen response. My suggestion was to consider a wider variety of solutions that can be implemented more quickly, at lower cost, that are less affected by future fuel price increases. I believe that this is a better strategy that protects both the ratepayers and utility investors and provides a greater reduction in CO2 emissions.

  10. CleanAir&Water Avatar

    This environmentalist would like to support the possibility that Tom H put forward … Here is what CitiGroup wrote. They have a nice series called Energy Darwinism that explores just about everything. Here is what I posted at another Bacon question. I think the 50% decline in grid demand is significant … occurring from both retrofitting buildings and on-site/microgrid generation.

    The UCS view of future grid based electricity demand is echoed by CitiGroup. “Combining the declining size of the electricity market in terms of volumes with the declining market share for conventional generation, we could see utilities in their current form suffer a 50%+ decline in their addressable market.”
    – 30-40% – Distributed resources (solar, CHP, wind) both for households and industry
    – 20-40% – Renewables (onshore wind, offshore wind, biomass, hydro) to constitute a big portion of centralized energy that could cover 30-40% of demand.
    – 20-40% – Conventional generation (nuclear, CCGTs, coal) to cover some of the base-load demand as well as provide back up to the system.”

    CitiGroup’s conclusion is based on their analysis of the changing structure of our utilities around the country, a structure and rate setting process incorporating distributed generation that has not occurred in Virginia, but which is inevitable.

    I would also like to say that gas is NOT the transition fuel we all thought it was going to be. While methane stays in the atmosphere only 10-15 years it is 85 times more potent as a Green House Gas while it is there. Professor Howarth from Cornell who first raised the issue about how CO2 and methane were compared recently added a whole lot of other problems to the idea that methane isn’t a big issue.
    • Leakage and venting of methane is shown to be 10% or higher than recognized when looked at from satellite pics.
    • The patent holder of the measuring instrument the EPA uses claims the instrument is not being used correctly according to the Prof.
    Another study believes emissions are 8 times higher than what is being estimated and the increase in methane emissions has risen dramatically since shale fracking began.
    Whatever the answer, the administration is looking to reduce methane emissions by 40%. Too bad that wasn’t done in the CPP, although the NRDC and the EDF think the reductions can be done easily.

  11. We got a little far afield from the initial point of the article. What would be the attitude of the shareholders regarding North Anna 3, if they were truly at risk for continued investments (no GA bailout)?

    Dominion keeps the NA3 option alive in each year’s IRP in order to preserve cost recovery and rate of return options. Is this truly in the interest of Virginia ratepayers? It is quite possible that they will pay the price of a new gas fired plant with no generation in return.

    Unregulated businesses have attempted to invest for years in “vaporware” but eventually the market made them pay the price. There is presently no risk for Dominion to keep spending money. Not only are they reimbursed for pouring money down a rathole, but they earn a profit for it too! So many other far cheaper options exist to deal with the contingencies of 2030+. When will our elected representatives step up to protect the ratepayers?

    I know there are many who look favorably on nuclear, but the huge cost disparity and the habitual schedule delays cannot be overlooked.

    My experience working with utility employees is that they are bright, well meaning people. But they tend to think about the energy picture in only one way – build more to meet increasing demand. Much is changing; especially the decoupling of load growth from economic activity, the ability to eliminate or shift customer loads, and alternative methods of decentralized generation. There were many nice people who made carriages and buggy whips too, but most of them didn’t help us transition to a new mode of transportation. Utilities need our pressure and support to transform our energy system.

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” I’d say CPP is political for two main reasons: (1) unusual approach delegating control to the States gov’ts versus normal approach setting limits on companies themselves and plants. State boundary approach is unusual way to manage, (2) if you are able to to see through EPA’s and environmental group sugar-coating attempts to sway public opinion, it is a severe and onerous rule.”

    Tbill – if you look at how the EPA handled acid rain and the Bay Cleanup – they tend to address the issue in total then parcel out the individual states – “share” of the reductions. I don’t think it’s unusual for air pollution issues since they transcend boundaries but you have to get each state to do their part.

    “Methane leakage does NOT currently appear to be a fatal flaw of fracking. That rhetoric is environmental groups trying to sway public opinion. Not to say methane should not be controlled better, it probably should. My opinion still is natural gas is very clean alternative to coal, and very civilized, advanced way for society to make electricity for the future. There is a “but” : there is some danger factor that must be managed properly. I also like renewables because I am not so hot on coal and nukes.”

    IF the idea behind CPP in general is greenhouse gases – then methane probably is an issue just as with the ozone holes – CFCs were – once enough analysis was done and it became clear that CFCs were far more potent than originally thought.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    I cannot conceive of how renewables “work” unless there is some way to compensate for their variability and my view was that natural gas turbines were the way to do that – in fact, the ONLY WAY to do it short of using oil which I cannot imagine is in any way a viable competitor to gas turbines except in areas where natural gas is not available.

    20, 30, 40 years from now we’ll have the same issue with the variability of wind/solar and a need to compensate for it – and even batteries won’t fix that issue unless there is some centralized way to tell solar/wind to charge batteries instead of feeding the grid.

    it would seem that some sort of higher level central grid control is mandatory – even with batteries. At some point – the grid has to be able to meter stored power as well as generated power – in concert with demand.

    a simple way of looking at this is a home backup generator – which automatically adjusts to demand (to the limits of the backup unit).

    so if the fridge or furnace comes on, the backup generator increases it’s revs and gas fuel consumption and when the fridge or furnace cycles off – the backup generator drops to a lower generation rate.

    I would anticipate that before we get significant batteries that what the grid would do – for excess solar – it would reject it just not use it – much like right now when a coal plant is fired up and running and demand drops below what it is generating – the coal continues to burn but the steam turbines go to idle.

    when I asked the question about what Virginia’s default grid energy needs are – it related to how much baseload we currently have – verses how much more baseload – we’d need 20, 30 years from now – because that”s the issue with the 3rd nuke – unless DVP plans on becoming a PJM-provider of baseload ….


  14. It is a bit difficult to give a precise answer to your question because the questions you are posing relate to a 20th century energy system and the alternative I am suggesting is to create a 21st century one.

    First let me address – “I would anticipate that before we get significant batteries that what the grid would do – for excess solar – it would reject it just not use it – “. PJM will always accept solar output when it is available because it has zero marginal cost. The capital cost has already been invested so because no fuel is required – each additional unit of power generated is “free”. If PJM rejected solar generation they would just be throwing money away. So the challenge is how to utilize higher contributions from solar while keeping the grid in balance. This can be done in several ways. The more decentralized generation we have, the more stable and reliable the grid becomes (with appropriate distribution system modifications). This is the law of large numbers at work. Many small, distributed sources of generation can actually provide smoother, more reliable output than a few big chunks of generation. Today’s response is to bring on new sources of generation to meet increases in demand. The new system (that is already partially in place) will use extremely accurate forecasting tools to anticipate changes in output and adjust the load accordingly or shunt excess capacity to or draw more supply from many dispersed storage locations, that can also be used for other grid support functions.

    Second, “when I asked the question about what Virginia’s default grid energy needs are – it related to how much baseload we currently have – verses how much more baseload – we’d need 20, 30 years from now – because that”s the issue with the 3rd nuke – unless DVP plans on becoming a PJM-provider of baseload ….” Again, the 20th century thinking is that demand (both baseload and peak) must continue to grow if we are to support our style of living with a growing population and a growing economy. The 21st century outlook identifies many ways for more people to live in greater comfort and prosperity using less total electricity than we use today. So the need for more capacity can be entirely eliminated using the correct design principles. Most regulators and utilities don’t grasp this possibility yet.

    Acbar has pointed out that Dominion and every other utility in the territory does provide baseload and other types of generation to PJM and buys it back from PJM in order to satisfy their customers’ demand. PJM is the large intelligent grid that allows generation to be optimized. The more local optimization that utilities provide by adopting 21st century technologies, the more flexible and responsive the entire PJM grid becomes. Remember it is PJM that determines which power plants are on line, not the individual utilities. PJM has a separate market for renewable generation because of its zero marginal cost.

    The home sources of energy you discuss might one day be thermal storage units that can store excess “hot” or “cold” that can be used at other times of the day when solar input is not available or is maxed out. There are many new technologies coming into use. It should be exciting to see what happens if we free up our energy markets to innovation. The only way this can happen is to change the way that utilities are regulated so that they have an incentive to facilitate this change rather than obstruct it.

    Think back on the computer landscape of 30-40 years ago. It was dominated by big chunks of capacity in the form of mainframes and minicomputers. When desktop computers came on the scene they were scoffed at and considered toys or a “fad”, just not taken seriously. Quickly the small computers gained more capability at ever lower costs and the landscape began to change. As the small computers became even more capable they were connected together into an intelligent network, with information flowing in all directions, not just from the central units out. This transformation allowed us to do far more with less material and at a lower cost.

    This same transition can occur in the energy industry if we choose to make it so.

  15. LarrytheG Avatar

    Thanks again..

    when I’m trying to understand something – I seek info from others and other sources but I also look for contradictions which helps me understand what are “beliefs” and advocacy verses reality and consensus.

    So I focus on things like ” Remember it is PJM that determines which power plants are on line, not the individual utilities” – which I am not doubting but it is apparently in conflict with the idea that DVP issues a state level IRP to the SCC who is the one who will play a stronger role than PJM in approving construction of new plants.

    PJM’s vision of how the grid works and will work – is not congruent with DVP nor for that matter the Va SCC.

    this is one of the reasons why I ask what Virginia’s actual baseload use currently is and what it is projected to be – relative to what plants they now have , what is available from PJM and whether or not – we are actually seeing a projected deficit in baseload in Va.

    and this goes to not only the 3rd nuke but to new combined cycle gas plants which are used for baseload and peaker turbine plants for peak load.

    also – when I ask the question about proximity of new plants – I’ve been told you can build them anywhere and feed their generated power into the grid but then we are told that the ONLY way to replace the Yorktown baseload is from 60-year Surry south of the James – as if Surry was not already generating power for those 60 years and providing to existing locations.

    that we cannot bring gas or electric down the Peninsula from Richmond along the existing I-64 corridor.

    so for me – there continue to me inconsistencies between what DVP wants to do and what PJM does…. and how that dynamic actually plays into what DVP does it Va.

    then finally we have this. DVP and those that align with them claim that not only it’s “too expensive” to incorporate solar and upgrade power lines down the Peninsula but if we actually want solar – we have to build a 3rd nuke. solar is not baseload, nukes are. how does more solar drives the need for more baseload?

    questions. questions. and so far.. not all the answers are adding up … there are still conflicts and inconsistencies.

    for me, I know that something is a real plan – when the parts of it are congruent and the inconsistencies go away. In my view – DVP does not yet have a real plan and even people who are knowledgeable seem to acknowledge that there are still unresolved questions…

  16. Larry, you ask excellent questions. I hope the SCC staff does as well. In a previous post, Acbar answered your question by saying that it is the PJM plan and its operation that truly counts. The IRP process is just a required formality. But it is part of the dance that Dominion must go through on their way to getting approval for constructing new plants and getting them into the rate base. It is also the platform by which their view of the world can be broadcast through the media to convince the ratepayers about what should be done. Most people just read the headlines not the details that support (or do not support) the headlines.

    My major concern is that the IRP process is the current stand-in for a missing statewide energy policy that is presently being dictated solely by the utilities. Options are presented only from the utility’s point of view and choices that would be largely provided by others, such as energy efficiency and distributed generation that would affect the need for new plants, are brushed off with cursory comments.

    Much of what is pushing Dominion’s aggressive development program is their load growth forecast. PJM also does a system wide forecast and Dominion’s projections for load growth are 40-50% higher than all of the other participants in PJM. Is Virginia’s population and economy growing 40-50% faster than the other 12 states in PJM? Not likely. Besides, in 2015 even with population and economic growth, the U.S. electrical usage declined by 1.1%.

    The deficit in being able to meet the load (peak load is the driving factor here) is what requires more new generation. PJM’s requirements are that each utility must have adequate capacity to meet the PJM system peak in their territory, plus their share of the system reserves. PJM’s peak does not occur at the same time as Dominion’s peak. PJM allows the utility to supply this capacity with their own units, or capacity contracted from others, plus purchases from the PJM spot market.

    Dominion’s high load growth projection is making it appear that they need to construct new generating stations. Even so, they should be sending out requests for bids to others to provide this generation too, to be certain they are providing it at the lowest cost to their customers. There is current capacity in PJM that might be cheaper than Dominion’s proposals. It appears with the Remington Solar proposal, the SCC might be paying more attention to this.

    However, a higher quote from a third party for let’s say the Greensville plant, might include a contingency for stranded costs, that is being ignored by Dominion because they see other ways of covering that risk that are not available to a third-party.

    This especially applies to the North Anna 3 proposal. The market clearing price for each day’s auction is what all generators are allowed to bill for their generation that day. It is hard to believe that this price would be anywhere near the price of NA3. Jim’s article says the NA3 price would be 19 cents /kWh compared to the average PJM price of 5.3 cents in 2014. Dominion could not sell NA3 output to others in PJM at that price. If the SCC grants approval for this project, the ratepayers would be responsible for paying for a project that vastly increases their bills when other far cheaper options are available. Since the cost for nuclear plants only go up, it would seem that the SCC staff could see that the economics of this project just do not pencil out and put an end to the charges to the ratepayers. Or at least make a ruling (immune from GA interference, if that is possible) that all future expenditures would be the responsibility of the shareholders.

    The Surry-Skiffes Creek issue is a transmission issue (also determined by PJM, but other agencies are involved) not so much one about generation. Transmission peak congestion issues do not always coincide with peak loads although they are usually related. Distributed solar would be an excellent response to this, as would energy efficiency, because local solar output would be highest during peak use and would reduce the need to import power from other locations (thus reducing the overload on transmission lines). The 400 MW oil-fired Yorktown 3 is scheduled for operation until 2022. That allows sufficient time for better options to be developed.

    These sensible low-cost, low-impact solutions are not being considered by Dominion at this time, not because they are not good solutions, but because they do not produce a rate of return as does the construction of a new transmission line or a Dominion-owned power plant. One can understand why a CEO, responsible to the shareholders, gives them little consideration.

    But utilities were granted monopoly status to serve the public good. Their current incentives are taking them farther from that path. The agency responsible for balancing the ratepayers’ interest with the needs of the shareholders must take a broader view and look for new ways to serve both groups. The field is slanting increasingly in favor of the shareholders with the risk shifting to the ratepayers and Virginia will suffer for it.

  17. LarrytheG Avatar

    I note this headline: ” Germany had so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity”

    On Sunday, May 8, Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. Thanks to a sunny and windy day, at one point around 1pm the country’s solar, wind, hydro and biomass plants were supplying about 55 GW of the 63 GW being consumed, or 87%.


    Germany’s power surplus on Sunday wasn’t all good news. The system is still too rigid for power suppliers and consumers to respond quickly to price signals. Though gas power plants were taken offline, nuclear and coal plants can’t be quickly shut down, so they went on running and had to pay to sell power into the grid for several hours, while industrial customers such as refineries and foundries earned money by consuming electricity.

    now – we are being told that we’re too far north to be able to really take advantage of solar compared to the southwestern US but I also note that Germany is at 50 deg latitude while we are at 38 degrees. 51 degrees latitude is Newfoundland and Montreal.

    ” Critics have argued that because of the daily peaks and troughs of renewable energy—as the sun goes in and out and winds rise and fall—it will always have only a niche role in supplying power to major economies. But that’s looking less and less likely. Germany plans to hit 100% renewable energy by 2050, and Denmark’s wind turbines already at some points generate more electricity than the country consumes, exporting the surplus to Germany, Norway and Sweden.”

    Denmark is at 55 degrees latitude – equivalent to Goose Bay Labrador in North America.

    It’s still a puzzle to me why if Germany and Denmark are doing this good with renewables – why we do not see most islands in the world doing this also … instead of generating from oil at fifty cents per KWH.

    1. “It’s still a puzzle to me why if Germany and Denmark are doing this good with renewables.”

      Larry, do two Google searches

      First, find out what has happened to Germany’s electric rates since the widespread implementation of solar and wind. As a bonus, Google “hollowing out of German industry.”

      Second, find out how successful Germany has been in actually reducing the CO2 emissions of its electric industry over, say, the last 10 years. As a bonus, compare and contrast to the U.S. electric industry.

      1. Jim, I have not researched this recently, so you might be more current with the data. But my understanding was that it was Germany’s already high utility rates that allowed solar to get an early foothold there, although the government provided considerable incentives too.

        Germany’s installed costs for solar are lower than any country in the world, as far as I know (they are very efficient at what they do). So it seems unlikely that solar has contributed to price increases. I think other factors might be at work, including the sale of their old central station power plants by the utilities.

        The hollowing out of their industries has more to do with their high labor rates compared to lower costs in nearby former communist countries where many labor-intensive activities have been moved.

        The lower costs and zero emissions from renewables seems to have helped hold the line on costs and CO2 increases caused by a large influx of immigrants and unusual weather conditions. Germany uses 1990 as their base for CO2 emissions compared to the much higher base of 2006(?) used in the U.S. Much of their progress was achieved in the early 2000’s when the U.S. was doing nothing. Germany is not doing everything perfectly. But they are doing things well enough so that up to 40% of their power production is exported to other countries so they are taking the CO2 hit for energy used elsewhere. Between 1990 and 2015, greenhouse gas emissions in Germany from the energy sector fell by 20%. We haven’t seen anything like that in the U.S. yet.

        We can learn from their successes and their disappointments. They have about twice the amount of renewables that we do (in the 32-33% range compared to 13-14% of domestic power consumption in the U.S.). Sweden is over 50%, but they have lots of low cost hydro and use fiords and mountain valleys as pumped storage locations for excess Danish wind production.

        Larry’s point is correct. Being in a northern zone does not rule out solar. Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York are three of the top 10 states for solar in the U.S.

  18. LarrytheG Avatar

    duly searched and here’s what I got:

    ” The UK could learn a lot from Germany’s long-term industrial strategy
    A combination of long-termism, social obligations, vocational education and state support are what keep German manufacturing so healthy”

    Jim , I’m sure you’ve noticed how many German car manufacturers there are these days …. quite a few …

    What are the points you are trying to make here?

    If Germany can generate significant power from renewables at 51 degrees latitude -why are we at 38 degrees “too far north”?

    why do you consider Germany’s use of electricity a failure if they generate lots of renewable energy, use a lot less per capita than us, have a healthy manufacturing economy and are head and shoulders above us on education and health care?

  19. LarrytheG Avatar

    German CO2 emissions fall for first time in three years

    CO2 emissions declined by more than 41 million tonnes last year, equivalent to a drop of 4.3 percent, data from Germany’s UBA environment agency showed. Compared with 1990, emissions were down 27 percent.

    “The trend is finally pointing in the right direction again,” Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said in a statement.

    The decline is good news for Germany, which has made climate a key issue for its presidency of the G7 group of industrialized nations this year, but the country remains at risk of missing its medium-term emissions goal because of rising dependence on brown coal and an increase in transport emissions.

    Hendricks said that a large part of last year’s reduction could be put down to the mild winter but that the expansion of renewables had played a role in squeezing out polluting gas and coal power plants.

    As part of a shift away from nuclear and fossil fuels, known as the “Energiewende”, Europe’s biggest economy has rapidly expanded power generation from the sun, wind and other green sources. Renewables accounted for 27.8 percent of power consumption in 2014, up from 6.2 percent in 2000.

  20. CleanAir&Water Avatar

    Here is one explanation about German electric rates. I read something about this several years ago …that the taxes on German Electric bills were complicated and BIG. Here is a current cursory search about what I remembered.
    From the BBC…
    “Taking exchange rates out of the equation, Helsinki is the cheapest of the 23 European cities surveyed for electricity prices. Households in Berlin – the most expensive – pay two-and-a-half times as much, largely due to taxes and subsidies designed to boost renewable energy production.”
    “In fact, almost a third of a Berliner’s electricity bill comprises energy taxes. The equivalent figure for the UK is currently 9%, but this will fall – possibly by three or four percentage points – once energy suppliers pass on recently announced changes in green levies.”

  21. Erica Avatar

    Interesting comments posted so far on this article.
    I would like to add, I have spent years attending the NRC meetings with Dominion on North Anna 3 and can tell you Virginians would be more than appalled to know how they are already allowing exemptions, exceptions etc in writing the application for this “new, never been built or operated anywhere in the world nuclear reactor”.
    “Theoretically” is the only word that correctly describes this project.
    To start with, Dominion was missing important seismic equipment at NA when we had the 5.8 earthquake in 2011.(now they have installed it) So, they are just running a computer numbers game.
    In one meeting the NRC/Dominion tried to reassure me that the 3rd reactor would be built to handle 2x’s the force (earthquake), that the 2 existing reactors can handle.
    My response was, what good will the whole complex be if the new 3rd unit makes it but the other older ones don’t?

    The reality is unit 1 & 2 already sit on an ancient fault and Dominion is willing to risks our lives and the future of our state to continue their status quo.

    Plus Dominion still can not say they have fixed the radioactive tritium leak that has been ongoing for a few years now.
    I am still waiting for the 2015 Annual Effluent Report to be publicly available.
    Here is the 2014 report:

    And it’s not just the planning or construction costs that we should be weary of. The nuclear industry is low balling the cost of decommissioning, the costs of storing nuclear waste (essentially forever), and what the costs would be of a nuclear accident.

    One thing Fukushima has proved, is the nuclear industry does not have the tools needed to be able to deal with this nuclear disaster. The technology simply does not exist.
    Commissioner Magwood @1:50

    Nuclear is too costly and too risky!

    1. TBill Avatar

      Seems to me NA3 is a “non-starter” if the reactor design has not been previously used. Not to mention the earthquake fault in the region. Seems to point to keeping the project open for reasons other than actually building the plant.

  22. LarrytheG Avatar

    the immutable truth is that if electricity prices go up- as they have in California, New York and most of Europe and Asia, – people will utilize energy efficient technology to reduce consumption.

    we heat and cool homes in the US, even when we are not in them – we heat/cool rooms that we are not using. we heat water 24/7 whereas in virtually all other countries in the world – they use on-demand water heaters.

    Germany, Finland, Denmark – all at latitudes above 50 degrees have 20% and higher installs of SOLAR whereas in the US, we are told that SOLAR does not work well in places like New York and Virginia at 40 degrees latitude.

    This is simple economics. DVP and other utilities have a business model that makes money and they want to protect and preserve it from disruptive innovation so they will drag their feet on Solar by using their power and influence in the General Assembly to hold back the forces of change.

    But here is an example from just this week showing how those forces are going to happen –

    ” King George signs contract to bring solar farm to its industrial park

    ” The county’s Economic Development Authority approved a contract Thursday night to bring a solar power generation plant to the King George Industrial Park. The company, the Coronal Group of Charlottesville, would lease 119 acres in the park to create a 15- to 20-megawatt solar farm.”

    This industrial park is adjacent to the King George Landfill – as well as Birchwood Power – a merchant coal-fired electric plant.

    Just Imagine, for instance, installing solar on top of existing capped landfills to not only produce power but to shed rain from entering the closed landfill.

    Imagine for every place where mountaintop removal has taken place – that it be covered in solar panels.

    Imagine for every powerline or pipeline right of way – in which the utilities pay million of dollars to continuously prune vegetation that they kill two birds with one stone by covering those areas with solar panels and feed it into the grid.

    Now – the excuse has shifted – not that solar is no feasible but that too much of it will “destabilize” the grid – even though the gas turbine technology exists and is an easy complement to Solar just as easily as such plants can be used as “peakers”. Those kinds of gas plants become modulators.. that buffer not only high demand but also varying demand because they can vary their output within seconds… unlike combined cycle gas plants, coal plants and nukes.

    this is not some evolving technology. This is here right now – unlike storage batteries.

    What DVP is arguing – at the same time – is that upgrading the grid to handle varying solar inputs is “too expensive” but a new Nuke at North Anna is “needed”.

    so what should rate-payers be paying for ? A new nuke or upgrading the grid so that more solar can be used?

    go back and read the IRP – and ignore the arcane jargon which is basically used to obfuscate and confuse – the relatively simple choice – a new nuke or upgrade the grid to accept SOLAR?

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