Three Questions about Dominion’s NoVa Transmission Line

You know that Dominion must be getting nervous when it runs full-page ads in the Richmond newspaper about a controversy in Northern Virginia. But the high-voltage transmission line that the electric power company wants to run through the northern Virginia piedmont is running into some serious flack. Here are the arguments (quoted verbatim) that Dominion published today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Fact 1: The need for additional electricity supplies for Northern Virginia is undeniable. … The number of households in the region is projected to have growth by 27% between 2000 and 2010. As a result, demand for electricity in Northern Virginia has grown by a staggering 40% over the last 10 years. …

Fact 2: Dominion is working hard to find a route that minimizes the impact of the new line. …

Fact 3: Energy conservation is important, but it can’t replace the need for a new transmission line. Dominion has examined all viable alternatives. Even the best energy conservation programs in place in the United States would not come close to reducing demand enough to fill the gap. …

Fact 4: The proposed tranmission line is being built to ensure a reliable source of electric power for Northern Virginia. …

Fact 5: The new transmission line will improve access to low-cost power. …

Fact 6: Adding enough new generation capacity in Northern Virginia is not feasible. Dominion is working on places for new generating facilities in the state, but adding enough generation in Northern Virginia to eliminate the need for the new transmission line is not financially or operationally practical.

Fact 7. Without a new transmission line, the prospect of rolling blackouts by 2001 is very real. …

Let us concede that the threat is very real and that rolling blackouts in Northern Virginia is a prospect altogether be avoided. Power outages would bring economic expansion in Virginia’s economic dynamo to a screeching halt. An uninterrupted supply is perhaps the single-most critical piece of criteria for Information Technology companies. Any IT company would seriously think twice before expanding in a blackout-prone region.

However, I would ask several sets of questions.

Question 1: electricity consumption is increasing considerably faster than the population. Why? Are households using more electricity, perhaps to provide HVAC to bigger houses? Or are businesses consuming more? If the increase is coming from businesses, to what extent can an emerging generation of energy-efficient microchips offset future increases within the next three to five years? The ad doesn’t say.

Question 2: What energy conservation alternatives has Dominion examined? Has it looked at the possibility of incentivizing businesses and homeowners to conserve energy by creating rate structures that shift demand to off-peak seasons and off-peak periods of the day? Has it examined the option of expanding “net metering,” which allows micro power producers to sell surplus electricity back into the grid? The ad is silent.

Question 3: In what way is adding new capacity within Northern Virginia “not feasible?” Is there a lack of appropriate sites? Are the fuel costs too high? Does Dominion anticipate an intense Not-In-My-Back-Yard response to any proposal to build a major facility in the region? The ad offers no clue.

Dominion may have perfectly reasonable answers to these questions — and if I can uncover them, I will post them on this blog. But right now Dominion is asking us to take their word on blind faith. And given the lack of specitivity to their arguments, that’s hard to do.

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12 responses to “Three Questions about Dominion’s NoVa Transmission Line”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Q1: Think about all the new plasma/LCD TV’s, iPods, TiVos, etc…that all are ‘phantom’ sources of power consumption, meaning they are on even when they are considered ‘off’. I know in my house we have added several of these devices in the last few years with no additions to the population. I also think you were on track with the HVAC for the McMansions. I’m not sure any power efficient microchips rollout could make that much of a difference. It is also an expensive upgrade for many businesses.

    Q2: I’m not sure what incentives they have. I know net metering is available. But I know businesses are going to balk at the thought of having to schedule production around the peak-off peak schedule.

    Q3: Just look at the reaction to a proposed plant in Leesburg a few years ago. There is no way a new plant is going anywhere in PEC controlled areas. If you think they are having a hissy fit about the power line…wait till you tell them the actual PLANT is coming.

    This is a NIMBY fight to the highest degree. I understand Dominion has owned the right of way for several (possibly close to 100) years. EVERYONE in the effected area was able to see that when they bought their home.

  2. Groveton Avatar


    “Dominion has owned the right of way for several (possibly close to 100) years”!?!

    Holy smokes.

    I never heard that before your post.

    Based on that I’d like to add a question to my previous post:

    3. Why are the landholders surprised that Dominion is going to build facilities on rights of way they owned since before those same landholders were born?

    What a bunch of prima dona crybabies.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Fact: Virginia gets a D in net metering.

    Thats going to keep us from getting innovations in power technology.

    We need to stand up to Dominion lobbyists NOW!

  4. “I understand Dominion has owned the right of way for several (possibly close to 100) years. EVERYONE in the effected area was able to see that when they bought their home.”

    Then you don’t understand correctly, if Dominion owned the right of way or had the easements, there wouldn’t be the potential for the legal battle that appears to be looming. I’ve looked at the plats and the easements and kind find the type of right of way or easement on even a fraction of the proposed routes that would allow Dominion to put up the towers, thus the applications to the SCC and potentially FERC.

    This isn’t really about right of ways or easements it’s about Kilo, state/locality’s rights and Eminent Domain albeit with a NIMBY flavor. Might want to engage your brain before your mouth lest a FERC approval create a right of way in your backyard.

  5. Groveton Avatar

    Never argue with Mom.

    I don’t knoe if you or anon are right about the easments but if you’ve looked at the plats then I guess you have the source.

    For what it’s worth – there is more than an easement in my backyard. There is a major natural gas pipeline running through a corner of the property. However, the gas company burys its pipelines so it doesn’t bother me much at all. In addition, I accept that people need natural gas and I understand that the pipeline has to be located somewhere.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The chances of this issue being decided on the merits is nil.

    Dominion has a business plan and a market strategy and it’s not something they cooked up last month in a 15 minute session.

    The chances of the opposition figuring out what this is REALLY about while not impossible .. will require quite a bit of shoe leather. (PEC may well have the juice because at the end of the day – you either develop this expertise in house over time or if you have the money – you go out and buy a consultant).

    The ADs in the RTD are chump change.. take a look at the VPAP – and see that Dominion if the second largest donor at 500K to the GA.

    Still.. as they say .. there is opportunity in change – it’s possible that Dominion might swallow some conservation initiatives…

    I’d sure like to see a Smart Meter Pilot Project… that would yield one very important piece of data at the end of the project and that would be a statistical comparison of power useage between a Smart Meter Customer and a regular customer.

    THAT data could be very, very important if it were to be extrapolated across most of Dominion’s customer base AND also could effect power generation and distribution planning for the future.

  7. “Dominion has a business plan and a market strategy and it’s not something they cooked up last month in a 15 minute session.”

    Exactly, it can’t be circumstance that the initial route for the powerline bisected the properties of some of the wealthiest and best connected residents of the Commonwealth. I smell divide and conquer, throw out a plan that will lead to an expensive fight that they might lose to politically well connected individuals then come back with a plan that doesn’t impact their properties, realize that their NIMBY interests are satisfied and hope that is enough to keep their influence and money on the sidelines. Then proceed with acquiring the route your really intended against a lesser opposition. Looks like somebody read “The Art of War”.

    “you either develop this expertise in house over time or if you have the money – you go out and buy a consultant”

    This is the fly in the ointment for Dominion, particularly given that a large number of those with the requisite expertise, knowledge and influence reside in the affected corridors. The only question is whether they have the time to pursue the issue to its limit.

  8. Gold_h2o Avatar

    “it can’t be circumstance that the initial route for the power line bisected the properties of some of the wealthiest and best connected residents of the Commonwealth.”

    I made that same observation months ago.

    The Dominion plan is simple….choose the hardest, most difficult path first. Then they can come back in round two and propose “alternative routes” against land owners who don’t have the money to fight.

    Politicians can pile on Dominion because it’s an election year and fight the good fight for voters….it will be interesting to see who steps up to the plate and continues to fight for the landowners once the “alternative routes” are proposed.

    It’s called, “The Art of Politics”

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    so two questions:

    What is the most direct route to NoVa and where are the terminal points especially in NoVa?

    What does the Ti’l Hazel lawsuit have to do with the issue?

    Is it happenstance or is it part of the strategy?

  10. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “I understand Dominion has owned the right of way for several (possibly close to 100) years. EVERYONE in the effected area was able to see that when they bought their home.”

    I don’t know what the situation was in Leesburg, but the power company has NOT owned any right of way for the new proposed power line. This statement is simply wrong and misleading with regard to the new line through Clarke, Fauquier, and PW.

    Many of the farmsteads they propose to run through have been there for far more than a hundred years. That is one reason they are so upset.

    I recently spoke to a woman who had bought a home in the golf community, Dominion Valley. She paid a $95,000 lot premium to be located adjacent to land under cosnervation easement. Now the power line plans to usurp that easement. Money she spent in good faith will be utterly lost, and Dominion will pay nothing to her, since the power line is not on her land.

    Dominion is not paying for what they get out of this deal, and they are also not paying for what they break in the process.

    You are correct in saying that no one wants a power plant. If you don;t want a power plant in your back yard, then you should not be too surprised to learn that people dont want the transmission facility in their back yard.

    Especially since they will still be paying tax on the land under the wires.Til Hazel is essentially arguing that those who have protected their land the longest, at their own expense, should have equal standing with those that have been paid enormous sums of taxpayer money to have their land protected for them.

    I can see why that is an unpopular position, but it seems to me it is correct. The argument for the power line is that NOVA (and putatively the North East) needs the power. Part of the reason is precisely because they have refused and shut down existing plants they don’t want around themselves.

    So, it is a public benefit, greater good argument. By taking up the banner for protected land (which the governemt has already paid for) the government is effectively saying this is for the public good except in my back yard.

    In fact, the rule says that if eased land is taken, it has to be replaced, elsewhere. This is an additional expense that Dominion can avoid by crossing (mostly , but not entirely) eased land.

    What is good for the goose ought to be good for the Gander. If Dominion will pay everyone, (under easement or not) enough to go replace the land elsewhere, plus moving costs, then there might be a little less commotion than under the current situation, where Dominion will simply steal the land with government help.

    But the bottom line is, if this is really so much of huge benefit for so many, then surely there is enough money involved to fairly compensate those who are damaged, wherever they are, and whether they are under easement or not.

    A deal is when both parties come out ahead. If the winners can pay te losers and still come out ahead, what’s the problem?

    Greed. Dominion will do this because they are allowed to do it. They don;t have to pay any more, or consider other alternatives, and they won’t. They know this is grossly unfair, to pay a pittance once and make profits by selling to those that benefit forever.

    There are millions of electricity users, and hundreds of landowners. You do the math.

  11. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Everyone should be upset by this, not just the landowners affected by the present proposals, because, under the current rules, no one’s home or business is safe. You could be next.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Why isn’t anyone bringing up the biggest issue I see – the health of those living near the transmission line. Cancer clusters have been found in hundreds of locations around the country near high voltage transmission lines. Electromagnetic radiation could very well be one of the most serious health threats threatening our society – particularly to those living near this giant transmission lines.

    And to say that people knew these risks when they gave the right of ways almost a hundred years is ridiculous. It has only been in the last 20 years or so that we have begun to find out how dangerous electromagnetic radiation might be.

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