The Main Clean Energy Bill. Both General Assembly chambers have now approved a single substitute version of the omnibus clean energy bill, on largely (but not totally) party line votes. In a further compromise on their plan to save the world, proponents decided not to force closure of a Southwest Virginia coal-burning plant and were rewarded with the votes of one Southwest Virginia Republican: Del. Terry Kilgore. (Correction: The initial post incorrectly reported Sen. Ben Chafin as having voted aye. It was Republican Sen. Jill Vogel.)
Kilgore’s vote mattered as the House had only 51 aye’s. The House roll calls are not posted yet, just the vote totals. Senate Bill 851 is now on its way to Governor Ralph Northam. Odds are further changes will be coming and another vote will be taken at the Reconvened Session on April 22. The House version was heading for a conference committee which is now not needed. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
The 2020 effort to bring Dominion Energy Virginia back under full State Corporation Commission regulation failed because too many of the loudest advocates are two-faced hypocrites. If they truly cared about ratepayers and the proper balance in utility regulation, they wouldn’t be pushing that other bill, the one that further guts the SCC and adds substantial customer costs in the name of green virtue.
During the hearing Monday night State Sen. Steve Newman, R-Bedford, was quite open in chastising the various environmental advocates for talking out of both sides of their mouths, worrying about the ratepayer in one discussion but not the other. He was right. If you want Virginia energy regulation done correctly, it needs to be done correctly in all instances. Continue reading
Three of the six electric utilities charging customers to provide others with Ohio PIPP subsidies. Per 1,000 kWh the surcharge to customers is $3.19 for Toledo Edison, $3.34 for Ohio Edison and $2.37 for The Illuminating Company.
by Steve Haner
Both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate have voted to increase the price of electricity to most Virginians in order to subsidize the bills of low-income utility customers. How much? They have no idea. But the program in Ohio being copied adds from $1 to $3.66 to the price of 1,000 kilowatt hours for those not subsidized.
The Virginia version is even borrowing the name and acronym from Ohio, the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP). The charge in both is called a “universal service fee.” In 2020, the Ohio program will cost ratepayers $301 million to subsidize the power bills of about 275,000 low-income households. The Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) sets the amount charged in each utility’s service territory and the Ohio Development Services Area transfers the necessary funds to the various electricity providers.
The largest electricity provider in that state of 11.7 million people, Ohio Power, has the highest “adder” on its rates, $3.66 per 1,000 kilowatt hours used. That works out to $44 per year for a residential customer using exactly that amount monthly. A large industrial or commercial user would pay the same rate until monthly consumption hit 833,000 kilowatt hours, when a reduced rate kicks in on additional consumption. The first 833,000 kilowatt hours of usage in Ohio Power’s territory is hit with a $3,050 monthly surcharge. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
The State Corporation Commission staff popped up in a House of Delegates Committee Tuesday to provide another unwelcome lecture, with revised estimates on the likely cost to Dominion Energy Virginia customers of the pending omnibus clean energy legislation.
The numbers it provided to the House Labor and Commerce Committee Tuesday afternoon were higher than the estimate it provided in a Senate Committee two weeks before. That first document provided a range of from $23 to $31 per month more on 1,000 kilowatt hours of residential use. Now the SCC is saying the range is $28 to $36 per month, or $334 to $432 per year. Here’s the sheet, which looks much like the prior one. The big addition is an estimate of $4-6 per month for future energy storage. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
If your main concern is that people pay a fair price for electricity, the best outcome of Monday’s Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting would be approval of the bill changing the rules on Dominion Energy Virginia’s 2021 rate review, followed by defeat or delay of the highly touted Virginia Clean Energy Act. That is also the outcome which preserves the independent authority of the State Corporation Commission.
Looks like it will be the other way around. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an organization advocating market-based solutions to environmental issues, has taken a close look at Dominion Energy’s pledge to become a “net-zero” company by 2050. The Institute sees the company’s commitment as a positive step forward, but concludes there is less than meets the eye.
Dominion’s net-zero pledge is to significantly curtail CO2 and methane emissions from its gas-pipeline and electricity-generating operations, and to offset what remains through outside initiatives, such as capturing methane from hog and dairy farms. (For background see, “Has Dominion Gone Full Climate Change Warrior?”)
On the positive side, RMI describes Dominion’s plan as “a novel development” that extends beyond CO2, which gets most of the attention as a greenhouse gas, by addressing leaks of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas, from its roughly 100,000 miles of gas pipelines. Also worthy is the promise to invest hundreds of millions of dollars capturing methane from farm production, a source that has received little attention to date.
However, concludes the think tank, “It is important to not let Dominion’s work on methane leaks cloud larger issues. The utility’s plan to reach net zero is not the same as the zero-carbon pledges of electric utilities. … Even if Dominion plugs all the leaks in its transmission and distribution networks, its operations will still result in emissions at the point of combustion.” Continue reading
by Jane Twitmyer
When talking about the future of Dominion Energy in a recent TV interview, Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell mentioned carbon sequestration as an approach for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as the company moves toward a “zero net” carbon energy mix. In the past, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) seemed to be going nowhere. But Farrell’s comments prompted me to wonder what the current status of CCS technology was.
Today, according to the Global CCS Institute, there are 19 large-scale commercial carbon capture and sequestration facilities operating around the world, ten of which are in the United States. All of them are pulling carbon dioxide from the emissions of an associated factory or power plant. Trouble is … the carbon has nowhere to go, so both removing and sequestering the carbon adds major costs to electricity generation.
Once you’ve captured the large amounts of carbon dioxide emitted from the electricity plants, there’s the small matter of where you store it. Under everyday conditions carbon dioxide is a gas, so it takes up a huge amount of space, and we’re producing it in vast quantities. An option with its own set of complications is to turn the carbon dioxide into a liquid (so it takes up a tiny fraction as much volume) and then pump it deep underground where it hopefully will remain. The thought of storing it deep in the ocean has been discarded because the ocean has already acted as a CO2 sink and appears to be reaching its limit absorbing CO2 without creating great damage.
Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, St. Paul, VA. It survives until at least 2030 and perhaps 2045 in the clean energy legislation. Dominion Photo.
By Steve Haner
Will all of Virginia’s existing fossil fuel electric power plants be closed under Governor Ralph Northam’s new clean energy transition legislation? As we continue our detailed examination of House Bill 1526 (with line references), the answers may surprise some. Not many of them. Not the natural gas plants.
Dominion Energy Virginia has been on a building spree for more than a decade, financing new coal, natural gas and woody biomass generators around the state with “rate adjustment clauses,” specific charged for specific projects. All of them emit carbon dioxide. Monthly bills now include six separate RACs or “riders,” costing residential consumers $12.43 cents for every one thousand kilowatt hours of juice they consume. Continue reading
What will Virginians see due to the Virginia Clean Economy Act? “Lots and lots of solar,” said the patron, Del. Richard Sullivan, D-Arlington. Higher bills, added the State Corporation Commission.
By Steve Haner
The General Assembly adopted Governor Ralph Northam’s clean energy package Tuesday, with party-line votes in both the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate. Two House Democrats joined the Republicans in opposing the House version.
House Bill 1526 and Senate Bill 851 appear identical but amendments were being adopted at the last minute. Now that they have crossed over to the other chamber, they likely will become identical. And expect furious efforts to recruit some Republican votes in favor, as this new vision for Virginia’s energy economy will be disruptive, expensive and politically explosive.
Using the House version as it passed, here is a tour of some (not all) highlights, with line references so you can follow on this PDF version of the engrossed bill. If you want to see it without line numbers, but with highlighting of the new language instead, look here. For that I’ve used the Senate bill.
The bill overrides State Corporation Commission authority to look out for consumers in too many places to count, but you’ll find the clearest and most important example of that on line 1399 of the House bill. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
The delayed Atlantic Coast Pipeline is undergoing a major change due to rising costs and legal delays – The Southern Company, based in Atlanta, is backing out of the project as an equity partner.
According to an announcement late Tuesday, Dominion Energy will acquire The Southern Company’s 5% stake in the natural gas project whose cost has risen from $5.1 billion to $8 billion thanks largely to legal challenges by environmentalists and regulatory agencies. The new ownership structure will be 53% Dominion and 47% Duke Energy, based in Charlotte.
The Southern Company will be still related to the project as an “anchor shipper,” the announcement said.
Another surprise in the announcement is that the pipeline project will buy a small Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Jacksonville, Fla. Dominion will assume ownership of it from Southern. That raises questions because for years Dominion has vigorously denied that the 600-mile-long pipeline has any link to plans to export LNG. Dominion does own an LNG export facility at Lugsby, Md. on the Chesapeake Bay that exports LNG mostly to Asian utilities. Continue reading
Pacific-islander climate change warriors
by James A. Bacon
As the Democratic-dominated General Assembly considers legislation to transform Virginia’s electric grid, Dominion Energy has issued a statement setting a formal goal of achieving “net zero emissions” of carbon dioxide and methane by 2050.
That’s not an easy thing to do for a company that hopes to expand its 14,000-mile natural gas pipeline network by building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Under Dominion’s long-range plan, CO2 and methane emissions will be offset through the capture of methane from hog and dairy producers and investments in electric school buses and electric-vehicle infrastructure, among other strategies.
“Our mandate is to provide reliable and affordable energy – safely,” said Chairman Thomas F. Farrell. “But we recognize that we must also continue to be a leader in combating climate change. … I am confident we can … help solve this challenge and leave the world a better place for future generations.”
A topic not mentioned in the press release was how much this 30-year transformation will cost electric ratepayers in Virginia. As Steve Haner has reported, State Corporation Commission staff has estimated that Governor Northam’s proposed zero-carbon legislation will boost retail electric bills by 20%. Continue reading
Posted in Energy
By Steve Haner
In the first ten years, Governor Ralph Northam’s signature zero carbon electricity legislation will add almost 20%, about $280 per year, to typical Dominion Energy Virginia residential bills. That was the low-ball estimate Sunday from a State Corporation Commission expert who quickly discovered that shooting the messenger is the normal General Assembly response to bad news.
Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, visibly scoffed as Kim Pate, the SCC’s director of utility accounting and finance, explained the SCC had no position on Senate Bill 851. She was there to talk about the likely consumer cost, just as she had earlier Sunday on other bills dealing with Dominion Energy Virginia’s massive offshore wind proposal. The last time this was in committee, no legislator even asked about cost. Continue reading
By Steve Haner
Green energy advocates never tire of telling us that accomplishing their zero-carbon electricity supply will lower our costs. If so, why does their dream bill include a new income transfer entitlement program for low-income customers?
It is called the Percentage of Income Payment Program with a handy acronym PIPP. It first appeared in Delegate Lamont Bagby’s House Bill 1483. The Henrico County Democrat saw his bill pass the House Labor and Commerce Committee February 4, but for good measure it is now enshrined on lines 1828 through 1909 of the omnibus clean energy bill revealed February 6, House Bill 1526. Continue reading
The House Labor and Commerce Committee has now seen (sort of) and passed out two major revisions to Virginia’s energy policies, promising a new clean energy economy and demanding that the two dominant electric power providers reach 100% renewable status in a few decades.
Delegate Richard Sullivan, D-Arlington, is patron of both House bills, which were were the product of furious private negotiations. His House Bill 1451 is the shorter (12 page) RPS bill and his House Bill 1526 goes into more detail on how Virginia’s energy economy will change. Buried deep in that 75-page bill are provisions on building offshore wind and a new income transfer program to subsidize the electricity bills of lower-income customers with other customers’ funds.
Let’s all start reading together. I certainly am not ready to comment. Here is Virginia Mercury’s take, which provides the headline talking points from proponents. Continue reading
Will the General Assembly unshackle the SCC so it can grant refunds or lower rates?
By Steve Haner
As the energy whirlwind continues to spin at the General Assembly, changing the landscape the way a twister changes a trailer park, one proposal that should be a boon to Dominion Energy Virginia ratepayers passed a notable hurdle late Tuesday night.
House Bill 1132, the chance for legislators to repent and make amends for earlier sins against their constituents, cleared the House Labor and Commerce energy issues subcommittee on a 6-4 vote, following a long and instructive debate. Two versions of the bill were introduced, one by Powhatan Republican Lee Ware and the other by Norfolk Democrat Jay Jones. It was the Jones version that passed, but Ware was also at the podium sharing credit. Continue reading