by Steve Haner
Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration has filed a letter with the State Corporation Commission asking the regulators to approve the Dominion Energy Virginia application to build a 176-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project.
The letter was on Department of Energy letterhead and signed by that agency’s director John Warren, a holdover from the Democratic Ralph Northam administration.
During and after the 2021 campaign, Youngkin was critical of the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) that mandated SCC approval of the project, slated to cost just under $10 billion. He expressed a desire to protect consumers from rising energy costs. But he and his staff took no role in the 2022 legislative efforts to repeal VCEA or restore more SCC authority over costs, bills which passed in the House of Delegates but failed in a Senate committee stacked with Democrats.
He is now off the sidelines. Youngkin’s support for the project assumes it can become an economic boon to the state. His department director wrote: Continue reading
The Luxembourg-flagged Vole Au Vent is seen here installing one of Dominion Energy’s two experimental wind turbines 27 miles off the Virginia coast.
by Steve Haner
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) has moved to open to public inspection much of the secret data and analysis about Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. His petition filed with the State Corporation Commission April 29 comes about two weeks before formal hearings on the application begin in mid-May.
Dominion is seeking SCC approval to build the 176-turbine project off Virginia Beach, and to begin billing customers for it with a new monthly charge. Authorized and all-but-mandated by the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020, the current estimated capital cost is $9.8 billion, including the required transmission upgrades but not including financing costs and utility profits.
The liberal use in the initial application of claims that data were confidential or extraordinarily sensitive obscured much of the cost and risk the project imposes on the company’s customers. Once designated as secret, only parties who have signed non-disclosure agreements can see the data or be in the room when the data is discussed in a hearing. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
I guess what shows up in the driveway every morning is now called the Richmond Times-Dominion.
On yesterday’s front page, and today picked up and spread across the state by the Virginia Public Access Project, was a long, puffy public relations piece about Dominion’s proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. It was written by the paper’s climate-alarmism correspondent Sean Sublette. It was a byline on a company news release, not something real newspapers do.
What the casual observer will miss is that it also represents a trend. The same writer, who came to the paper from a climate alarmism non-profit, about a week earlier wrote a similarly one-sided report based on Dominion’s claims of coming success in its rollout of utility-scale battery projects. Back on April 1, he quoted the company’s own cheery take on a recent State Corporation Commission approval of various solar and storage projects.
All three articles quoted only company spokesmen and provided only the company spin. Readers who stopped there would know nothing about any disputes during the SCC proceedings, long-term costs to consumers, or any of the widespread doubts about the reliability of the underlying technology. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Dominion Energy expects to create 900 construction jobs and support 1,100 employees in ongoing operations for its proposed $9.8 billion offshore wind farm. Hundreds more jobs could be created if, as hoped, companies in the wind power industry begin manufacturing components and providing ancillary services in Hampton Roads.
As part of its wind farm initiative, the utility has created an economic development plan for maximizing investment and job creation in Virginia and ensuring that the benefits are shared broadly, including with veterans and “workers from historically economically disadvantaged communities.” The plan says the company will engage with economic development authorities, business trade organizations, workforce development groups, and “minority civic and business organizations.” It even plans to collect data on the number of women, veterans and minorities employed by suppliers with contracts over $500,000 in value.
But that’s not good enough for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Dominion’s Plan is not sufficient to meet the diversity, equity, and inclusion targets” outlined in the state code, says Mark Little, co-founder of CREATE in State Corporation Commission testimony on behalf of the Sierra Club.
Little wants Dominion to set “ambitious, progressive targets” on the number and percentage of employees to be hired by sex, race/ethnicity, and veteran status, collect detailed statistics on the demographic composition of the hires, and publish updates every six months. Furthermore, Little says Dominion needs to make “structural changes” such as hiring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officers to execute its vision. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
Appalachian Power Company has asked the State Corporation Commission to schedule a separate hearing on Attorney General Jason Miyares’ motion to break the seal on exhibits in its application for new renewable energy sources.
Miyares’ April 6 motion was first reported by Bacon’s Rebellion, in a story on Appalachian’s pending application for approval of the projects and of its overall plan for complying with the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). Appalachian’s response motion was filed April 13, claiming irreparable harm to its stockholders if the actual line-by-line project cost projections were revealed to its customers.
Although some of these discrete items may appear innocuous on their own, collectively they would enable a savvy party to discern the price paid for the facility, which is competitively sensitive.
What do they say in swanky restaurants? If you have to ask the price, you cannot afford it. Revelations could be politically sensitive, as well, given the partisan divide on the VCEA itself. Continue reading
by Steve Haner
Reliance on the controlling phrase “in the public interest” helped get an energy bill vetoed by Governor Glenn Youngkin (R), bringing a rare call from a governor to maintain the independent oversight of the State Corporation Commission. Recent governors of both parties happily signed bills with the phrase into law over and over.
Senate Bill 347 was a pretty bad bill from the start. It applied to only one company, Dominion Energy Virginia. The company is already under orders from the General Assembly to stress and increase energy efficiency with its customers (often adding the costs onto the rest of us). But the bill went deep into the weeds, calling for specific “energy efficiency savings targets for customers who are low-income, elderly, disabled, or veterans of military service,” according to the summary. Under its current management, Dominion just loves to mix identity politics with ways to make money for its shareholders.
Here’s what Youngkin put in his veto explanation:
Although this legislation has the commendable goal of promoting energy efficiency, the requirements included in this legislation could, through an arbitrary declaration of the public interest, increase energy costs on Virginians. As a result, the Commonwealth’s energy policy moves further away from a cost-effective, all-of-the-above strategy with strong regulatory oversight administered by the SCC.
Energy policy should be established by the General Assembly but not at the expense of consumer protection and strong regulatory oversight through the constitutionally-established SCC. Public interest declarations unnecessarily restrict the constitutional authority of the SCC and should be used rarely, if ever.
A schematic from the application for the proposed 14.7 megawatt turbines for the CVOW, with measurements. Click for larger view.
by Steve Haner
A similar article was published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
Testimony filed by the State Corporation Commission staff on April 8 opened a slight possibility that the Commission could reject Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed $10 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project off Virginia Beach. It all depends on how the SCC decides to calculate the CVOW’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE), the dollar cost of every megawatt hour of electricity it produces plus the transmission costs.
When the 2020 General Assembly adopted the Virginia Clean Economy Act and related legislation, it set a cap on that key LCOE measure, which is used to compare the costs of various methods of making electricity.
If the utility failed to stay under the LCOE cap, the SCC would have the authority to reject the proposal as imprudent and unreasonable. If the project remains below the cap, legislators mandated approval by the SCC, despite any other doubts about its prudence and without considering less expensive alternatives.
The cap set was $125 per megawatt hour, after deducting the value of the very large tax credits granted for wind projects under federal law. In the application it filed late last year to build the facility, Dominion estimated the LCOE (after the tax credits) at about $83 per megawatt hour. But Katya Kuleshova of the SCC’s Division of Public Utility Regulation challenged several of the assumptions in her testimony and noted that if the assumptions prove wrong, that number rises substantially. Continue reading
Exhibit submitted by Office of the Attorney General showing the excessive generation Dominion Energy will have compared to its expected demand, funded by ratepayers. The black line in the middle is the projected customer demand. Click for larger view.
by Steve Haner
There is no justification for Dominion’s $10 billion offshore wind project other than that the General Assembly has ordered it, a witness for Virginia’s Attorney General has testified. The utility doesn’t need its electricity, doesn’t need its renewable energy attributes, and is ignoring lower cost alternatives if it does need generation in the future. Further, its claims of economic benefit are based on faulty assumptions.
Virginia’s Attorney General Jason Miyares is the customers’ main representative at the table as the State Corporation Commission reviews this pending application. By law the AG office serves as Consumer Counsel in these matters. Despite all the concerns raised in his expert’s review, Miyares is not recommending that the SCC reject the project.
In fact, as mentioned in an earlier Richmond Times-Dispatch review of the case testimony, no party so far has recommended that the SCC reject it. That was noted by a triumphant Dominion spokesman at the end of the newspaper’s story when it might properly have been the headline.
That is the headline at this stage of the case. The language inserted into the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act by Dominion and its environmentalist allies demands approval of the project without regard to proving necessity, reasonableness or prudence. The law orders the SCC to find the project prudent unless it misses a very high cost target or fails to have a plan to start operation by 2028. (Note, it doesn’t have to be in operation then, merely have a plan.) Continue reading
Clean Virginia’s witness prepared this list of current U.S. offshore wind projects, their owners, size and contract structure. Click for larger view.
by Steve Haner
The table reproduced above may one of the most interesting exhibits submitted to the State Corporation Commission as it considers Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore wind application. Two things jump out, both highlighted in pre-filed expert testimony sponsored by environmental activist group Clean Virginia.
First, only in Virginia is such a project being financed directly by the captive ratepayers of a monopoly electric utility. Only in Virginia will the turbines be owned by the utility rather than a private investor. Continue reading
Photo credit: Creative Direct
by Steve Haner
If the Commonwealth of Virginia was not paying Matthew Moran to serve as Governor Glenn Youngkin’s deputy chief of staff and point person with the General Assembly, as recently revealed, who was? Based on the websites for his employers, mainly the renewable energy industry.
For example, Moran is identified as on the Virginia advisory board of an advocacy group called Conservatives for Clean Energy, strong supporters of the push to eliminate fossil fuel use in the state and replace it with solar and wind-driven electricity. Continue reading
Yes, it is that big. Click for larger view, and note the on-shore transmission expansions.
by Steve Haner
In the coming weeks, Virginia’s State Corporation Commission takes up one of the largest utility investments ever undertaken in the Commonwealth, where the cost and the risk will rest squarely on Virginia’s citizens: Dominion Energy Virginia’s $10 billion Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.
In applications and appendices filed late last year, probably running to hundreds of thousands of words and hundreds of technical drawings, Dominion outlined its request to build the project 27 statute miles (24 nautical miles) off the mouth of Hampton Roads. The project area covers 176 square miles of seabed. It uses about one square mile for each of the planned 176 turbine towers. Continue reading
Jason Miyares. Photo credit: Washington Post
by Steve Haner
On behalf of Dominion Energy Virginia’s customers, Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) asked the State Corporation Commission to reject five of the solar projects included in the statewide renewable energy development package the Commission approved last week.
The Commission, however, did not take them off the approved list and thus did not “use its authority to send a regulatory signal to the Company that excessively priced projects will not be approved,” as Miyares requested. This is just the beginning of a years-long process of many such applications, including the pending offshore wind project. Such a missed opportunity could be important. Continue reading
The well-shaded weeds and untilled earth under a Dominion solar facility. Dominion photo.
by Steve Haner
Perhaps issuing its ruling on the Ides of March by design, Virginia’s State Corporation Commission last week approved another major wave of requests from Dominion Energy Virginia for solar plants it will own, solar plants it will contract with, and a smattering of battery storage facilities added to provide some public relations cover.
In reviewing the massive case file that built up between July and February, without even diving into the long December hearing transcript, some key takeaways appear quickly.
- The utility proposal received strong pushback from the SCC staff in its analysis, from the Office of the Attorney General on questions of cost, accounting and necessity, and even from the environmental advocates who helped write the controlling Virginia Clean Economy Act. Each might rate an individual report.
- All the legal brilliance and accounting work were largely in vain, as the Commission has been reduced by law to merely checking boxes on the VCEA approval criteria list Dominion wrote for itself.
- Secrecy continues to rule, especially on the key issue of the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) used to compare and choose generation sources and related storage. The Cone of Silence was not broken in this case and the utility will fight like a banshee to keep it in place in the pending debate over its offshore wind proposal.
- While the overall LCOE numbers are secret, the utility is putting two huge thumbs on the scale by including 1) a high social cost of carbon as a financial benefit to offset the consumer cost of the projects and 2) a claimed “avoided cost” because it is meeting its clean energy goals and thus avoiding a VCEA financial penalty for failure. Dominion invents the fine, $45 per megawatt, then counts it as a boon to consumers that it doesn’t have to pay.
- The opponents did extract a possibly useful stipulation from the utility for future cases, and a careful read opens up the possibility that the VCEA’s rigid dictates may bend after all. I was not imagining things months ago when I sensed pending flexibility, just looking in the wrong place.
by Steve Haner
Virtue signaling can be fun. It can also be profitable if you can shift the overall cost onto somebody else. That is what is going on in the battle over a proposed “minimum bill” for Dominion Energy Virginia customers who seek to partially escape the utility by signing on with a separate shared solar provider.
Everybody who signs up for the outside service will still expect full power on cloudy days, or anytime some other circumstance reduces the flow from the solar panels owned by the third party. They just don’t want to pay the full freight for that back-up service, and would rather pass the bill on to you. Continue reading
Artist rendering of now-terminated Chickahominy Power. Click for larger view.
By Steve Haner
First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
A long-embattled plan to build a natural gas-fueled generating plant not owned by Dominion Energy has become the latest victim of Virginia’s patent hostility toward fossil fuels. Environmental opponents and the incumbent utility will probably join in popping the corks.
Chickahominy Power in Charles City County has posted a notice on its website that the project, once scheduled to start construction in 2019 and begin operation in 2022, is terminated. Investors are seeking a location in Ohio or West Virginia, and the scope of the project has grown.
Irfan Ali of Herndon, who uses the title managing member and who is the principal investor, now plans to develop data centers to use power from the plant, which is also designed to use hydrogen for fuel if that becomes available and economical. He also plans to couple it with a carbon capture and storage system.
“And I would have done that in Virginia, so Virginia is losing out in a big way,” Ali said. Continue reading