From Opinion Dynamics report on PG&E’s Home Energy Report program, showing most in the program did not change their consumption of energy.
Okay, for the wonks among you: At my request, the State Corporation Commission staff directed me to the full report on Pacific Gas and Electric’s Home Energy Report (HER) Program, which found that more people in the program increased their consumption of electricity and gas than decreased it.
The SCC staff had reproduced two pages of the report in its comments on Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed demand management programs. I cited their citation at the beginning of a Bacon’s Rebellion report a few days ago. With the original report, I could extract the chart used above, which was used by the SCC staff but with a copy too blurry to reproduce.
Along with the static data for 2016, which is bad enough, the report by Opinion Dynamics also tracked various waves of participants over time and found the trends held: “For electric participants, the percent of negative savers appears to increase annually for all waves. For electric participants, the percent of negative savers increases with duration of treatment.”
The report never discusses people who increased consumption of electricity or natural gas. These customers are referred to as “negative savers.” Continue reading
If you thought the tax conformity debate took too long at the General Assembly, check out the fight at the State Corporation Commission over Dominion Energy Virginia’s corporate income tax bill. The SCC still hasn’t decided how much to cut Dominion’s base rates to reflect its lower income tax payments, but a decision is close.
There are three reasons why this case is worth exploring.
First, a battle over how to account for a small amount, $67 million, is a wonderful demonstration of how obscure phrases buried in legislation written by the utility come back to bite its customers in their wallets. Continue reading
Bill impact table included in SCC staff testimony on demand management programs case, showing impact of all pending Dominion requests. Click for larger view.
The State Corporation Commission staff has provided an updated version of a table tracking the possible rate impact of various Dominion Energy Virginia cases pending before the commission, most creating or adjusting rate adjustment clauses (RACs). It starts with a baseline of $117.64 for the February monthly cost to that famous 1000-kilowatt hour typical customer, who of course does not exist.
The largest cost increases visible on the horizon are not included.
Some of the cases which are tracked have been decided and some are pending. The table was included in the staff testimony about the proposed demand management programs paid for with Riders C1A and C2A and includes the $0.61 per month increase in them Dominion is requesting. Continue reading
California’s giant Pacific Gas and Electric has a major program providing energy audits for its customers, and recently retained an outside firm to study the results. While quite a few customers did reduce their energy usage after the audits, it turned out a larger number increased demand.
The report, dated December 2018, noted 19 percent of PG&E electricity customers reduced usage but 27 percent of them increased it following the audit. On the natural gas side, 25 percent reduced usage and 31 percent increased. Continue reading
Continued expansion of data centers in Virginia is driving demand for electricity, which gives Dominion Energy the justification for expanding its gas-fired generating fleet and building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, according to a new report by Greenpeace, “Clicking Clean Virginia: The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley.”
While several major providers of cloud services — Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft most prominently — have committed to deriving their electricity from renewable energy sources, the boom in data centers has outpaced the ability of the data center industry, Amazon in particular, to line up renewable energy contracts.
“While electricity demand for utilities is flat or declining, electricity demand from data centers in Virginia has grown sharply, between 9 and 11 percent year year, offsetting declines elsewhere, with data center demand regularly touted by Dominion to its investors as a sign of continued growth,” states Greenpeace.
Ironically, although the Greenpeace opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, information in the report undercuts an argument the environmental group’s Virginia allies use against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: that Dominion forecasts have consistently overstated future electric load. While electricity load has plateaued or even declined in many states, demand from data centers continues to push demand incrementally higher in Virginia. Continue reading
The people who make the real decisions about what we pay for electricity in Virginia, which would be the members of the General Assembly, have just cut electricity costs for large Dominion Energy Virginia customers by up to $10 million and shifted those costs over to other customer classes, including residential.
This is yet another small but significant gift to you from the 2018 Ratepayer Bill Transformation Act, which really had little to do with transforming Virginia’s electricity distribution grid. Dominion’s plans for the grid remain stalled, but this little add-on provision from the same legislation just got approved by the State Corporation Commission on February 8.
Cost allocation and rate design are major points of contention at the Commission sometimes, involving economists, accountants and reams of data. Now you can just slip a paragraph into complicated bill and bypass all that.
This was ordered by an enactment clause (number 11 of 24) at the tail end of last year’s bill and may be the first example of the General Assembly dictating the fine points of cost allocation among rate categories. The Assembly is deciding what plants to build, which transmission lines should be buried and when federal environmental regulations are inadequate. Why not move into rate design? Continue reading
Mapping gas pipeline leaks.
Dominion Energy has announced a plan to reduce methane emissions from its natural gas infrastructure by 50% from 2010 levels over the next decade. The voluntary initiative will prevent more than 430,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 2.3 million cars off the road or planting nearly 180 million new trees.
“We recognize we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to further combat climate change,” said Diane Leopold, President and CEO of Dominion Energy’s Gas Infrastructure Group. “We’ve made significant progress, but we’re determined to go much further..” Continue reading
An illustration of the coal ash de-watering and treatment process at Bremo Bluff power station, which is now out of favor. Source: DEQ website.
The cost to Dominion Energy Virginia customers for recycling coal ash or moving it into more secure landfills is growing, because the proposed bill now recognizes that Dominion’s North Carolina electricity customers cannot be forced to pay by the Virginia General Assembly or the State Corporation Commission.
This phrase has been added to the current substitutes for House Bill 2786 and Senate Bill 1355: (v) any such costs that are allocated to the utility’s system customers outside of the Commonwealth that are not actually recovered from such customers shall be included for cost recovery from jurisdictional customers in the Commonwealth through the rate adjustment clause.
Dominion Energy North Carolina’s customers in the northeastern part of that state depend on Virginia-based generation, including those coal plants, but the General Assembly so far seems fine with billing us for their share of these costs. Why? Absent that the company’s shareholders might have to pay it. Continue reading
Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which would require the state’s utilities to pay a carbon tax on their fossil fuel power plants and to reduce operation of those plants, might cost the ratepayers of Dominion Energy Virginia $3.3 to $5.9 billion over the first decade, according to a State Corporation Commission staff estimate.
During a House of Delegates subcommittee hearing a week ago, a member of the SCC staff told legislators that joining RGGI would add $7 to $12 to the monthly bill of residential customers. He provided no details that day and a request to the SCC’s communications staff didn’t produce clarity. Continue reading
PG&E Corp., California’s largest electric utility, has filed for bankruptcy protection after incurring billions of dollars in liabilities and potential liabilities in wildfire damages. The California legislature, totally controlled by Democrats, is giving the utility no succor, reports the Wall Street Journal. Writes the Journal:
A company that was once one of the most influential in Sacramento and regularly got its way on legislation and regulation now has few defenders left. The reason, Sacramento veterans say, is that years of bad news related to deadly fires and other disasters have made the company unpopular among the public.
That sentiment now outweighs the goodwill PG&E had amassed from years of lobbying, donations and other close ties to key leaders, they say.
What brought about this turnabout? Decades of strict zoning in metropolitan areas pushed up housing prices to stratospheric levels, impelling hundreds of thousands (millions?) of Californians to seek housing in cheap land and housing in the boonies. PG&E was required as part of its mandate to serve the public to extend electric power lines to these scattered developments. Meanwhile, state policy overturned the previous practice of clear cutting and controlled burns in woodlands, resulting in the accumulation of a massive amount of fuel. Then nature intervened in the form of an extended drought. When power lines failed, as they periodically do, they sparked massive wildfires. Continue reading
Coal ash at the Chesterfield Power Station. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch
A deal cooked up between Governor Ralph Northam and legislative leaders, with the support of environmental groups and the acquiescence of Dominion Energy, will require Dominion to excavate coal ash ponds at four of its power plants, recycle at least 6.8 million cubic yards, and move the rest to modern landfills. The requirement, according to the Washington Post, will add about $1 billion to the $1.7 billion cost of Dominion’s preferred approach. The cost to ratepayers is not to exceed $225 million a year (the Richmond Times-Dispatch figure) or $5 per month per typical retail customer (Washington Post).
What I find disturbing is the totally false premise upon which the legislation is based: that landfilling of coal ash is necessary because existing coal ash ponds are leaking heavy metals. This assertion, made endlessly over the past year, provides the justification for the legislation. If you want proof that Virginia politically is becoming New Jersey, now you’ve got it.
Here are just a few recent examples of misleading rhetoric:
Sit down for this shocking news, but for the first time in recent memory a key energy subcommittee at the General Assembly has voted for the ratepayers, for the authority of the State Corporation Commission, and against protecting the stockholders of Dominion Energy Virginia.
The energy subcommittee of House Commerce and Labor Committee has approved a bill from Delegate Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) that reinforces the SCC’s authority to review the construction and operation costs for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline when Dominion starts using it. If Dominion uses gas from the line in its power plants, as expected, ratepayers will be asked to pay both the commodity cost for the gas and a share of the transportation cost of using the new pipeline.
By Dominion Energy’s most recent estimate, it will cost between $2.77 billion and $3.36 billion to recycle the utility’s 30 million tons of coal ash or bury it in synthetically lined landfills — as much as $2 billion more than burying it in place. Environmental groups say the risk is justified to offset the risk that toxic levels of heavy metals might leak into nearby rivers and streams.
But what if it were possible to reduce the environmental risks while also slashing the cost to rate payers? Shouldn’t the General Assembly be considering that option?
John Swenson, founder and managing partner of Henrico-based EnCAP-IT Solutions of VA, has developed 12 patents around a coal-ash disposal process he calls macroencapsulation, which combines the cost-efficiency of cap in place with the risk reduction of removal to landfills. He’s frustrated because he can’t get either Dominion Energy or environmental groups to consider his approach. Now a compromise solution backed by Governor Ralph Northam effectively removes the option from consideration.
The State Corporation Commission Thursday rejected in large part the highly-touted Dominion Energy Virginia proposal to rebuild its transmission grid, approving only the elements improving cyber and physical security. Those were the least expensive and least controversial pieces of its application.
The 2018 legislation that stated major grid investments were in the public interest also re-stated the Commission’s charge to review them for prudence and reasonableness.
It did (here’s the order) and found this:
In the wake of the State Corporation Commission’s recent approval of a renewable energy tariff for residential customers of Appalachian Power Company, Dominion Energy Virginia has given up the application for its own more expensive proposal for a similar service to its residential and smaller business customers.