Dominion Energy Virginia is taking advantage of its annual, and usually boring, fuel cost review to move the cost of any future carbon tax or emissions allowances out of its fixed base rates and into its variable fuel charge. If the State Corporation Commission agrees it could either lower or raise your bill someday but place your bets on the latter.
The case (here) has also drawn testimony that Dominion has so much natural gas capacity under contract in existing pipelines that it is selling the excess capacity to others – about 25 percent of it, in the case of the Transco pipeline. It needs no more capacity, according to a witness hired by environmental groups.
UPDATE: Through a Twitter response I’m told that Dominion has notified other parties it will withdraw the request to place any future CO2 costs into the fuel charge, and the document I missed has been flagged. So the “is” in the lede paragraph is now a “was.” I’ll leave the story up because it remains something to watch. Continue reading
Holy mackerel, is this for real? After years of controversy, Dominion Energy finally built its $400 million electric transmission line across a historic stretch of the James River, ensuring a secure supply of electricity to the Virginia Peninsula. Now a legal challenge puts the project in jeopardy — after the transmission line has been built! It is not clear whether an unfavorable court ruling would require Dominion to tear down the line, reports The Virginia Mercury. Whether you’re pro-Dominion or anti-Dominion, there is something acutely dysfunctional about a system of governance that would allow a power company to build a $400 million transmission line and then force the company to tear it down.
Step aside, Uber! Step aside, Tesla! With financial support from Dominion Energy, Fairfax County will launch a self-driving, electric-powered shuttle between the Dunn Loring Metro station and the Mosaic District, reports WTOP. The Fairfax County bus would be the first state-funded autonomous electric shuttle for public use in Virginia, and the first to run on roads that are open to the public. I have no idea if this idea will prove to be economically sustainable. But I do believe in small experiments. It makes far more sense to test the concept than to roll out a full-fledged program. Test. Learn. Modify. Test again. Scale up when you’ve got it right.
Pumped storage or battery storage? Having eliminated a proposed Wise County location from consideration, Dominion Energy has narrowed its search for a hydroelectric pumped-storage site to Tazewell County, reports the Roanoke Times. Continue reading
It has been over a month since a coalition of unnatural allies announced a proposal to revise Virginia’s electricity regulation system – again – but the idea dropped from view fairly quickly. One of the main and most visible proponents, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has now taken on a very different role in the Trump Administration. Continue reading
Source: SCC Staff summary. Click for larger view.
With some of its closest legislative allies facing primary challenges next week, much of what Dominion Energy Virginia filed Friday in response to questions about the consumer cost of its future plans is redacted. The story in Tuesday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch (here) could only cover that portion of the data not kept secret.
Three of the four documents filed by Dominion are about its motion requesting protected status for the information, and the fourth (here) includes numerous blacked out portions, which we will not see unless the SCC rejects those motions. Continue reading
Key operating data on some Dominion Virginia coal plants, important to the Rider E case but hidden from us. Source: Office of Attorney General testimony. Click for larger view.
Dominion Energy Virginia’s pending application for a new charge on electric bills for coal ash remediation is both a fairly routine request and an illustration of what is deeply wrong with Virginia’s electricity regulation.
When the major investor-owned utilities negotiated a return to regulation in 2007, the ability to create and collect these stand-alone add-on charges (“rate adjustment clauses”) was one of their demands. It was the other major Virginia utility, Appalachian Power Company, that was most concerned about the ability to collect the cost of environmental compliance and it has had a rider on its bills for that purpose for some time. Continue reading
SCC: We’re All In This Together
The State Corporation Commission has denied another request from a major Virginia retailer for permission to escape from Dominion Energy Virginia’s monopoly electricity service. The score for such petitions is now one approval, two denials, and the message is clear to all the other petitioners: Go fight it out at the General Assembly.
The petition denied today was from Costco, seeking to aggregate 27 of its stores into a single electricity account that met the 5-megawatt demand trigger which allows large customers to seek a competitive supplier. The final order is here.
If our electric bill rises a nickel, and our grocery bill drops a nickel, do we care?
The debate over retail aggregation and choice for electricity underway at the State Corporation Commission is moving to another decision point, with a hearing examiner’s ruling May 21 on one of the many petitions. Continue reading
Dominion Energy has responded to calls for electric deregulation in the form of an op-ed by William Murray, senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications. His argument: We tried deregulation once, it didn’t work, and the arrangement we have now works just fine.
Electric deregulation was “in fashion” in the 1990s,” he wrote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It promised lower prices and more choices for customers. What really happened was something quite different. In fact, electric rates in deregulated states are more than one-third higher today than rates in states that have retained regulation.”
Moreover, Murray argued, 1990s-era deregulation did nothing to make the electric grid stronger, more secure, and more resilient — “pressing needs today in the face of threats such as cyberattacks from hostile nation-states.” To the contrary, deregulation invited predatory players like Enron into the system, leading to price spikes in New England, Maryland, Delaware and California. The outcome in California was particularly disastrous, bringing rollouts and widespread economic chaos.
Maybe his argument stands up, maybe it doesn’t. This may sound like a cop-out, but we need more data.
The Cooch is back. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli penned an op-ed for the Wilmington, North Carolina based Star News opposing Duke Energy’s proposed changes to electrical regulation. The title of the opinion piece is, “N.C. should block this Duke Energy power grab”. Cuccinelli’s biggest issue with the pending regulation is extending the period of time between utility rate cases. The editorial board of the Star News agrees. Cuccinelli writes:
“Key provisions to extend the period of time between utility company rate cases are embedded within N.C. Senate Bill 559, being debated at the N.C. General Assembly. Similar provisions hurt Virginia customers, and will hurt North Carolina customers, too.”
Image credit: Power for the People VA
I am not making this up. Yesterday, Dominion Energy joined a newly launched coalition of more than a dozen major corporations and environmental groups – CEO Climate Dialog. This organization will urge Congress to pass climate change legislation. Example members of the group include BP – an oil and gas company, Citibank, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Exelon – a power company and The Nature Conservancy, an environmental organization. Continue reading
Dominion’s Scott Solar Facility in Powhatan Co.
Some of Dominion Energy Virginia’s recent solar installations, despite using technology designed to track the moving sun, have turned in disappointing energy results, fueling skepticism at the State Corporation Commission toward the utility’s claims for future solar energy success. Continue reading
Two recent State Corporation Commission rulings on utility-sponsored energy efficiency and demand management programs produced contrary results for the applicants but a consistent theme of SCC skepticism in the absence of hard data and a demand for more data going forward.
The SCC last week approved all eleven new or continued programs proposed by Dominion Energy Virginia, which will cost its customers up to $226 million over five years. That May 2 opinion is here. But an April 30 opinion (here) rejected much of a similar request from Washington Gas and Light, citing a lack of specific results data from that company’s customers. Continue reading
In the mid-1980s William W. Berry, president of Dominion Energy predecessor Vepco, championed the cause of deregulating electricity markets. He proposed breaking the electricity industry into separate components: generation, transmission, and retail distribution. Only retail electric lines, he suggested, were a “natural” monopoly. Berry’s vision, which was never fully executed in Virginia, bore strong similarities to the proposals outlined today by the Virginia Energy Reform Coalition (VERC).
VERC, a coalition of free-market, environmental and anti-poverty groups, is calling for a massive restructuring of Virginia’s system of regulated electric utilities. The existing monopoly structure is “broken,” argued a series of speakers at a noon press conference, because politically powerful utilities utilize campaign contributions and their lobbying clout to advance their interests in the General Assembly at the expense of the public. Continue reading
Retiring state Senator Frank Wagner gets appointed to some job by Governor Ralph Northam Friday and the headline on Blue Virginia labels him a “Dominion tool.” But has the other legislator being rewarded with a full-time job, Delegate Mathew James, cast any votes against the state’s favorite political whipping boy? Continue reading
Dominion Energy has announced the construction of six new solar farms — three in Virginia and three in North Carolina – to offset the electricity demand of Facebook data centers in the two states. The 590 megawatts of new renewable energy generation will be enough to power 147,000 homes at peak output.
The partnership will support Dominion’s goal of having 3,000 megawatts of new solar and wind energy in operation or under development by 2022 and Facebook’s goal of supporting its global operations with 100% renewable energy by the end of 2020. (See the press release here.)
In the abstract, I’m all in favor of generating electricity with clean, renewable energy sources like solar. But I’m still trying to understand the implications of the solar rush for grid stability and ratepayers. Continue reading