Reminder: Virginia Imports 31% of Its Electricity

Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration

On a percentage basis, Virginia is the fourth largest electricity importer in the United States, following California, Ohio and Massachusetts, according to data published this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. On a net basis, the Old Dominion imports 31% of its electricity from other states.

Why does that matter? That’s economic activity, along with local multiplier effects, that we’re shipping outside the state.

Environmentalists argue that if Virginia moves to a 100% renewable electric grid, most of that electricity will be produced in the form of solar farms and wind turbines located within the state, paying leases to landowners, generating taxes for state and local governments, and supporting Virginia jobs. I think there’s something to that argument. While the 100% renewable grid will cost Virginians billions in higher electric rates and create challenges for maintaining reliability, the repatriation of energy-related economic activity to Virginia would be a silver lining. 

— JAB 

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34 responses to “Reminder: Virginia Imports 31% of Its Electricity”

  1. idiocracy Avatar

    We need to get off that Yankee electricity from PA and IL.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Oh no, not that canard again! Dominion’s three base units and one peaking unit just over the line at Mount Storm in West Virginia are a big chunk of that (1600+ MW). Most of APCo’s generation is now not located in Virginia, either. It is absolutely meaningless where in PJM the electrons are generated, and the imported power is often far, far cheaper than what Dominion generates itself.

    Back in the 2007 debate they pulled that crap. Fool me once, shame on me, but they cannot fool me twice.

    1. Yes, this old canard again. It’s not as if Virginians are subsidizing generation owned by companies NOT otherwise providing service in Virginia. In addition to our Big 2, all of the Old Dominion Power’s (KU, that is) power comes from Kentucky. Old Dominion Electric Cooperative has a big unit in Maryland, which supplies some of its members usage also.

      To Nathan’s comment below, over the past 12 years, coal has supplied a steeply decreasing % of Virginian’s electricity BECAUSE of construction of several large gas-fired plants by DVP, all located in the Commonwealth, and one by Apco (located in Ohio but owned by the Virginia based company). And all of the gas that powers those units has been reliably delivered every day using existing pipeline capacity. Dominion and Duke bailed on the Atlantic Coast pipeline not due to the environmental lawsuits, but the iron law of supply and demand. That is, demand for additional nat gas is tanking.

      1. Steve Haner Avatar
        Steve Haner

        Yeah, “canard” was the wrong word. I know it is basically true. My point is that we need not actually care. And yes the pipelines died because of declining demand, but what drove that down? Economics or politics?

        1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

          I dunno, is money economics or politics? Hmmm. Tough choice.

    2. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

      Yep. It’s long past time to give that claim up. It’s simply not true.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    In 2018, city of Roanoke. 19% of the year was a cloudy day.

  4. I’ve always thought it best to walk before you run. How about reducing our coal burning by building more natural gas capacity?

    Oh wait, we can’t the natural gas pipeline because we would need to cut down a few trees. So it’s better to deforest hundreds of thousands of acres to go solar?

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      I bet the solar plan is actually is far more damaging to the forests than the pipelines ever would have been.

      Then see this:

      1. Picture this: a billion bird kills by wind turbines.

        Picture this: one Pelican coated with crude oil who survives via Dawn soap treatment (which was a CNN documentary that may have never been shown). The “Bambi syndrome” tells us the oil soaked bird cannot be tolerated. But let’s get real.

        The basic purpose of the CNN docu was to show how disgusting crude oil is, but why is decapitation by the billions less offensive? Because we as humans accept large risks of activities that are politically correct, and we are outraged at tiny risks of politically incorrect activities.

      2. The lawsuits against the pipeline were absolutely shameful. I read them, but doubt many of the professional journalists covering the story bothered to do so. The opponents of the pipeline threw anything and everything against the wall hoping something would stick.

        One bogus issue I recall was the impact on bumblebees. The truth is, bumblebees don’t nest in mature forests. The strip of land for the pipeline would have actually been a net benefit for them over time because of the increase in nesting area and food sources.

        Not so with solar plantations. No benefit for wildlife there, just more loss of habitat.

        My primary beef with many “environmentalists” is that their policies are bad for the environment.

      3. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead V

        That is 5,000 acres of trees! That is the size of Gettysburg National Military Park. They did the same thing in Spotsylvania County near the Mine Run Battlefield. Not an old growth forest like Germany but one that had matured since the 1940s.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          The land was timbered and the owners then sold the land to SPower to do the solar farm.

          There is so much unused and undeveloped land in Virginia. All of us drive by it almost every day and never notice it but it’s there.

          thousands of acres of land, tens of thousands of land in Virginia is second and third growth trees and when it is cut, it won’t be farmed and it won’t be devloped unless it is near ongoing development.

          Take a drive from the northern border of Virginia to the southern border on I-81 or Rt 29 or 64 from the WVA border to Tidewater and you’ll see hundreds of thousands of acres of land that sits essentially unused. Much of it is abandoned farm land and pasture because farming has changed.

          It’s just silly to portray solar as “destroying” land.

          The funny thing is that hardly any of the current critics complained when we were taking the tops off of mountains in western Va or West Virginia to power coal plants or fracking other land for gas. Nope. Only when we try to build solar does the “destroying land” canard get brought up.

          We are likely never going to completely power Virginia on wind and solar anyhow. It’s really just diversifying the energy mix and reducing the need to use gas or coal when we can.

          1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V

            One acre of forest produces 260 pounds of oxygen and removes 2.6 TONS of carbon dioxide per year. Care to revise that last statement?

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            Inlteresting statistic James. There is a LOT of unused open land also. And solar farms are not the cause of people harvesting timber on their land – that will continue without solar farms

          3. Nancy_Naive Avatar

            Is that disiduous, conifer, or rain? Should I decorate the Christmas tree, or try to replant it?

            Wait, didn’t Reagan say tha rainforests were bad?

          4. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V

            True Mr. Larry, about the harvesting of timber. That was going to be a good haul for somebody someday. It was just a matter of time. Distressing to see “The Wilderness” of Spotsylvania gradually being cleared of timber that has stood since the 1840s.

          5. Harvesting of timber isn’t necessarily a problem, depending on how it’s done. Done properly, it gives us healthier forests and the benefit of a renewable resource.

            Solar plantations on the other hand require complete deforestation and remove precious habitat. Loss of habitat is the #1 problem for endangered species.

          6. LarrytheG Avatar

            James – the word we get in Spotsylvania is that land is rural folks 401Ks. Some sell their land when it is adjacent to development – and the trees are cleared , others further out, timber their land when they need the money.

            But this is neither here nor there on solar.

            I know you travel Rt 29 south to the border with NC. Surely you have noticed all the open land that is no longer being farmed. Some of it is becoming overgrown with scrub vegetation. You don’t even have to cut trees to put solar on that unused land but in those cases where someone is going to timber their land anyhow – and they know they will not be around for the next “harvest”, they’ll then sell their land to get the rest of the value out of it for their own financial needs.

            We’ve had 100 times the amount of trees cut in Spotsylvania for homes for NoVa commuters than we have for solar.

            It’s just not a legitimate issue when it comes to solar.

            ” How much land would it take to power the U.S. with solar?”

            According to a 2008 analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, supplying all of the United States’ electricity needs with photovoltaic solar energy would require roughly 0.6 percent of America’s total land area or 1,948 square feet per person.


            If you do the math for 8,000,000 people it’s a square about 25 miles on a side. If you divide that by the number of counties in virginia – it’s a square less than a mile on a side for each county.

            Think in terms of not only unused land but powerline and pipeline right of ways , highway rights of ways, storm ponds, commercial buidling roofs,

            I don’t cite this as exact and precise but more along the lines of perspective as to how much land might actually be needed for a lot of solar.

          7. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Glad that solar farm is in your backyard and not mine. Many Virginians care about our land. Just look at all of the land conservation achieved by the Piedmont Environmental Council. Spotsylvania could learn something from this group. It used to be that development was the threat, now it is the so called modern environmentalist.

          8. LarrytheG Avatar

            buildling houses not only takes habitat but the wood used to build them requires massive clear cutting of forsts…that take decades, a generation to come back.

            Most of West Virginia has been clear-cut to building houses in the East then they stripped off the mountains to get coal to heat the east!

          9. LarrytheG Avatar

            James – the solar farm is 5 miles away from me on land most folks could never see in the first place and what part of it fronts on the road, they’ve built berms. You have to be in an airplane or a drone to see it!

            In terms of preservation – (which also keeps land from used as a resource for farming and other uses) – we have quite a bit set aside as Battlefield Parks. I actually live 3 miles from one and walk there almost every day.

            I’d NOT want to see solar panels there – that’s true.

          10. “Only when we try to build solar does the ‘destroying land’ canard get brought up.”

            Larry – I support permanently setting aside and preserving land, and have done so for many years. Including financially. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

          11. LarrytheG Avatar

            Preserving and setting aside land that has significant values – historic, cultural, recreational, etc is done on a regular basis and will continue but confusing other land that has no such significance in terms of “use” is not useful.

            People who own that land do have property rights to develop it to their financial advantage and that includes development and cutting the trees that are on it – unless taxpayers want to pay for it to not.

            All of us use wood products. Wood is a “crop” just like vegetables or cattle or chicken are.

            Most houses are built of wood that comes from cutting down trees in forests. Some are replanted and especially true in government-owned National Forests as well as Corporate-owned forests which are managed just like any harvestable crop.

            If one really wants to look at “wasted” land, go no further than our highway system where every single interchange gobbles up acres of land that is no longer useable even for habitat. A typical interstate corridor uses 300-600 feet for the traffic lanes. When you travel the interstates outside of the urban areas, notice the stranded land in the median between the lanes.

            All I am saying here is look around and see the realities when it comes to land use.

      4. djrippert Avatar

        20 million square meters! Oh my God, that’s, that’s that’s …. 7.7 square miles. Nothing like using the metric system to trick un aware Americans.

        The point is reasonable but the 20,000,000 sq meter measurement is click bait.

      5. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

        Done right, solar should be less damaging to forests than pipelines. Don’t have to worry about solar panels blowing up due to poor construction/maintenance that’s been overlooked by the poor safety rules and enforcement we have for pipelines. When they’re no longer used, solar panels can be removed. Pipeline companies refuse to remove pipes when they stop using them. They become another landowner liability. Don’t even get me started on the inaccurate information that’s pushed and used to support this.

  5. Actually 31% seems on low side to me, historically believe we were 40% a few years ago. If true that would actually suggest progress in reducing imports.

    Something sounds funny though. Maryland has been a bigger importer than Virginia on % basis.

    Jim you fall for the “New Jersey Syndrome”: the State should run the elec business to create jobs to create a good economy that otherwise does not exist due to high taxes, high utility costs, and lack of business friendliness. Good luck with that.

    Obviously Walmart does not like that captive-audience picture of the future.

    1. No, Tbill, I did not fall for the New Jersey syndrome. I did not try to justify the 100% renewable grid on economic-development grounds. I merely said that repatriating economic activity to Virginia would be a “silver lining.” I also explicitly said that a 100% renewable grid “will cost Virginians billions in higher electric rates and create challenges for maintaining reliability.”

      I was simply reporting on the new US EIA numbers.

      1. OK I admit I took advantage for purpose of making my point.

        To me the new numbers suggest quite a shift from a few years back when we had the Obama-admin proposed EPA Clean Energy Plan, so I may try to understand what shifts are going on. Obviously coal is falling way back.

  6. Va is 29% nuke. If we completed the two 1/2 built sites we’d be the greenest state in the country.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    On solar, Dominion does not serve 100% of Virginia. Geographically, it’s probably 50%. Population – wise it’s probably more but is it Dominion that is buying power from PJM or the 13 or so electric co-ops in Virginia?

    There is so much land that is vacant and unused, some of it actually old coal plants or other shut-down industrial, it’s a joke to talk about “damaging” land and it mostly comes from climate skeptics to boot!

    1. idiocracy Avatar

      Virginia doesn’t have all that much in the way of shut-down industrial, because Virginia never had all that much in the way of functioning industrial.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Part of the approach to particulates is on a regional basis. What are the levels region-wide?

    Are they high in hot-spots are across an entire region?

    We have, until recently, relied on the EPA to do the science.

    For instance, the designated non-attainment areas are determined by EPA science.

    Most of the current/existing limits on air and water emissions come from the EPA.

    Industry and Conservatives have always fought the EPA pretty much across the board whether it was dioxin, or PCBs, acid rain, or particulates.

    Now, the EPA is dismissed and we let bloggers decide.

  9. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    EPA research is typically used to determine water and air quality standards not permit limits. Permit limits are dervived by taking into consideration assimulative capacity of a receiving stream or the localized air.

    And FYI in Virginia forests are managed…. not clear cut no matter what you think… go take a class or talk to one of Virginia’s State Foresters. They’ll open you eyes as to how forest management works.

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