Tag Archives: CVOW

Wojick On Whales IV: Deaths Spiked with Surveys

A Humpback carcass that washed up in New Jersey recently. Photo: Marine Mammal Stranding Center

By David Wojick

The recent deaths of seven whales off New Jersey, mostly humpbacks, drew national media attention. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Directorate is responsible for whales. An outrageous statement by their spokesperson got me to do some research on humpback whale deaths.

The results are appalling. The evidence seems clear that offshore wind development is killing whales by the hundreds.

Here is the statement as reported in the press:

“NOAA said it has been studying what it calls ‘unusual mortality events’ involving 174 humpback whales along the East Coast since January 2016. Agency spokesperson Lauren Gaches said that period pre-dates offshore wind preparation activities in the region.” Gaches is NOAA Fisheries press chief.

The “unusual mortality” data are astounding. Basically, the humpback death rate roughly tripled starting in 2016 and continued high thereafter. You can see it here.  That data is just for humpback whales, with a dramatic acceleration in particular between 2016 and 2020. Continue reading

Is Unnamed Partner on Wind Project Driving This New Dominion Regulation Rewrite?

The late Lt. Gov. Henry Howell (D) and Virginia’s most famous campaign slogan.

By Steve Haner

Without fanfare and without awakening the drowsy Capitol press corps, Dominion Energy Virginia dropped in legislation last week to set up a partnership on its most massive capital investment, the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.

Just who that partner might be, what if any benefits that provides to Dominion’s 2.6 million Virginia customers, or whether it instead adds cost and risk for them, remains unexplained. The bill does describe the equity investor as “non-controlling,” leaving the utility in charge.

Suddenly, many elements of the company’s other significant bill for 2023 make more sense. The most recent iteration is a pending substitute. In this other, wind-only bill, sponsored by Senator Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac, the State Corporation Commission is instructed to disregard the capital structure of the partner, its debt to equity ratio, when determining the price to consumers.

That ratio is usually a key element when the regulators are deciding how much a utility can charge for a project, because only equity is allowed to earn profit.  In the longer bill, which has been previously discussed, Dominion is also asking the legislature to mandate how the SCC accounts for the debt and equity in its rate calculation.

The unnamed partner, perhaps already known to Dominion, may also have an interest in the debate over how a future SCC calculates the utility’s allowed return on that equity. It is equity this partner will be contributing, after all.  Virginia is the only state that sets utility return on equity by making comparisons to so-called “peer” utilities. The more complex bill changes the rules on that, too, and further limits SCC discretion. Continue reading

Consumers Be Wary When Energy Elephants Dance

By Steve Haner

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

The Virginia House of Delegates is expected to vote this week to exempt certain Virginia manufacturers, which ones to be determined later, from the coming wave of energy costs created by Virginia’s rapid transition to unreliable forms of power generation. Continue reading

SCC Drops Wind Energy Performance Standard

The 14.7 megawatt turbines to be used in CVOW. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) has abandoned its push for an offshore wind performance standard fiercely opposed by Dominion Energy Virginia. It agreed instead to some capital cost limitations for its project that the utility has endorsed . 

In a decision released today, the two commissioners accepted in full a stipulation put forward several weeks ago by Dominion, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, Walmart and several environmental groups. Should the capital costs of the project and related transmission lines exceed $10.3 billion, customers will only have to finance a portion of the excess. Beyond $11.3 billion the utility will finance the excess. Continue reading

Virginia Agrees To Compensate Fishing Industry For Damage From Offshore Wind

by Steve Haner

Nine states, including Virginia, have agreed to establish a major compensation fund to pay their private commercial and recreational fishing companies for damages caused by offshore wind turbines.  

Three guesses where the money comes from. The announcement, made December 12, hints at it coming from project developers, but in Virginia of course that is a monopoly utility guaranteed by law to collect all costs from its customers. Dominion Energy Virginia’s planned 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) just got more expensive. In other cases and other states, also expect the bill to end up with energy consumers or taxpayers. Continue reading

Why Does Dominion Fear a Wind Output Promise?

SG 14-222 DD test installation at a Siemens Gamesa land facility. Company photo. Click for closer view and perspective of this giant machine we’re buying.

By Steve Haner

While we await a decision by the State Corporation Commission on competing approaches for protecting consumers from unexpected offshore wind costs, some additional relevant information is worthy of notice. Two items call into question Dominion Energy Virginia’s refusal to assume financial risk for poor turbine performance. Continue reading

Feds: Whales Must Be Protected from Turbines

Two right whales photographed off the Virginia coast last month on their way south toward the calving grounds. U.S. Navy Photo

by Steve Haner

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

Soon after a group of opponents to proposed East Coast offshore wind projects hired a law firm with environmental regulation expertise, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a new plan to protect North Atlantic Right Whales and put it out for public comment.

The opponents, with Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy as part of the coalition, had been pointing to the impact of the project on the whales for months and this protection and mitigation plan admits the problem is significant.

One apparent result of the announcement will be a major delay in publication of the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) on Dominion Energy Virginia’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project off Virginia Beach.  The EIS was supposed to be available this past August, and once published is expected to be the focus of extended comments and perhaps litigation from opponents.

The ongoing debate at the Virginia State Corporation Commission over consumer price protections (a decision should come soon) is not the last hurdle to construction of the $10 billion project, with a much higher cost now under discussion.  That EIS clock is not even running yet. Continue reading

SCC Urged To Focus on Wind Construction Risk

by Steve Haner

Advocates made their case Monday for a proposed settlement that offers Virginia consumers some protection from construction cost overruns on Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed offshore wind project. Not everybody said it was superior to an earlier proposal that protected consumers from future operational failures, but all saw it as unlikely to kill the project.

The earlier approach, placing the risk of operational failure over 30 years on the utility, was going to kill the project, the utility claimed. The utility stood by that threat in the hearing in front of the Virginia State Corporation Commission. But the company is willing to risk its shareholders’ money on its ability to complete the project on time and on budget, its attorney told the Commission.

There was no indication during the hearing when a decision would come. The two judges could leave their original order unchanged or issue a new one based on the proposed agreement between Dominion, Attorney General Jason Miyares (R), two environmental groups and Walmart, one of Dominion’s largest commercial customers.

Other parties, including representatives for major industry and the SCC staff, didn’t sign the stipulation. Nor did they oppose it, and Commissioner Judith Jagdmann polled them one by one.

Two conclusions are evident from the hearing. First, all the parties to the new approach took Dominion’s threat to kill the project at face value and that is what backed them down, including Miyares. He had Deputy Attorney General Steven Popps appear at the hearing, not just consumer section chief Meade Browder, to emphasize his (Miyares’) desire to save the project in a closing statement. Continue reading

East Coast Ocean Wind Projects Faltering

Not an offshore wind project. Just a cool picture from Germany last week.

by Steve Haner

In recent days several proposed offshore wind projects, which unlike Virginia’s are not guaranteed by captive ratepayers, are showing cracks in their pylons.

Multinational developer Avangrid recently told Massachusetts regulators that its proposed 1.2 gigawatt Commonwealth Wind project is no longer economically viable. It seems to be seeking to renegotiate the power purchase agreement for more money because the electricity price it promised in the contract is being eroded by rising costs and interest rates.

Then the developer of a smaller Massachusetts project, 400 megawatt Mayflower Wind, made a similar announcement. An EE News Energy Wire story on both can be found here and included this:

Avangrid’s warning — echoed in part days later by Mayflower Wind, the developer of the state’s other upcoming offshore wind project — is the strongest signal yet that a chilling trend on renewable energy projects may migrate into the offshore wind sector.

Continue reading

Miyares Retreats from Wind Performance Standard

Dominion’s proposed wind project off Virginia Beach.. Scale is correct and a second tranche is planned.

by Steve Haner

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

The big risk with Dominion Energy Virginia’s planned offshore wind extravaganza has always been that either the wind out in the Atlantic blows too little or it blows too much. Too little and the ratepayers are paying an inordinate amount for intermittent electricity; too much (a major hurricane say) and the turbines could be damaged or destroyed.

Because the monopoly utility will own the project, not a third party energy developer, all that risk lands on its ratepayers. The State Corporation Commission sought to protect Virginia ratepayers from the risk. That was the point of its imposition of a performance standard on the project tied to its overall energy output.

That is the risk Dominion’s leadership refused to accept, threatening to kill the $9.8 billion project entirely. It was not an idle threat.

Now Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) has a new proposal which protects Dominion and its shareholders from that risk after all, putting it back squarely on the utility’s 2.5 million customers. Instead, the person charged by law as the protector of Virginia consumers is focused on the risk of construction cost overruns. Continue reading

Legislators MIA on Wind Performance Standard

Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax

by Steve Haner

In the ongoing debate over Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed $10 billion offshore wind project, focus should remain on the people truly responsible for undercutting State Corporation Commission authority to protect consumers: the legislators who passed provisions in the code the utility interprets as a rubber stamp for its proposals.  Continue reading

Dominion is Keeping Whale Data Secret, Too

Click for expanded view. Source: NOAA

by David Wojick

Secrecy abounds around the monster offshore wind (OSW) project proposed by Dominion Energy. In this case the hidden data is about the threat to the severely endangered North Atlantic Right Whales.

I earlier reported on the big hidden whale study done by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is doing the Environment Impact Assessment for this huge project.

Digging into Dominion’s filing with BOEM I found something even worse. Dominion has done an actual threat assessment, but it is 100% secret! This is outrageous.

Here is a bit of background so folks can dig for themselves. There is a lot to look at. BOEM has a separate website on this monster OSW project, which would be one of the world’s largest. The project is titled Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind or CVOW. Dominion has submitted a large set of documents in what is called the Construction and Operations Plan or simply the COP. The COP is here.

There is a long main report plus 32 technical appendices. My endangered whale interest was immediately drawn to “Appendix R: Threatened and Endangered Species Review.” It is here, and the title indicates it reports on any and all species on those lists for protection. Continue reading

SCC Can Set CVOW Wind Performance Standard

by Steve Haner

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

Despite Dominion Energy Virginia’s complaints that the Virginia State Corporation Commission has exceeded its authority, a legal analysis provided by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy finds that the SCC’s proposed performance standard for an offshore wind project is proper. Continue reading

Consequences of the Zero Carbon Fantasy

By Steve Haner

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

Virginians may finally be waking up to the consequences of the headlong rush to adopt utopian energy policies under our previous governor. The issues are getting more attention than ever before, and now people need to realize that all the issues are really just one issue.

  • A California regulatory board’s decision to ban new gasoline vehicle sales by 2035 is finally being widely reported as binding on Virginia. This has angered many but was actually old news. Under a 2021 Virginia law, our Air Pollution Control Board had already imposed the future sales restrictions, and it was some new amendments that sparked the news coverage. Various political leaders have now promised to stop it but a bill to reverse it died in the 2022 General Assembly when Democrats rallied to save the mandate.
  • Our dominant electric utility has finally acknowledged that its planned $10 billion offshore wind facility is a gigantic financial risk and is now refusing to build it unless the State Corporation Commission (SCC) places 100 percent of the construction and performance risk on its customers. Dominion Energy Virginia knows many things about this proposal it has not told us.
  • Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) is trying to remove Virginia from an interstate compact that mandates a carbon tax on electricity, imposed under former Governor Ralph Northam (D). Advocates for the tax are pushing back and will fight, delay and likely sue to preserve the tax, which costs Virginians $300 million per year at current levels and will continue to rise. Without explanation, the Governor did not keep his initial promise to promulgate an emergency regulation that could remove it quickly, so the tax lingers.
  • Governor Youngkin has opened the process for developing a revised statewide energy plan document, a political process to produce what in the past has been merely a political document. The public comment portal has already become an ideological fistfight. Northam’s 2018 plan had no engineering or economic detail.  It simply praised the legislative efforts to erase fossil fuels which had been adopted to that point and outlined the next steps his administration would take (couched as recommendations.)

Continue reading

Secret Wind Case Documents Are Key to Appeal

Snippet from UVA video showing how winds can destroy a large wind turbine.

by Steve Haner

Now comes applicant Dominion Energy Virginia, petitioning the Virginia State Corporation Commission to reverse its recent decision to impose actual financial risk on the company and its stockholders. If a hurricane blows down its planned offshore wind farm in a few years, the related costs should be imposed 100% on its captive ratepayers, Dominion demands.

Imagine that: expecting a monopoly with a guaranteed right to earn in excess of 10% profit on a $10 billion project forced to face actual risk. What is the world coming to? Continue reading