What Virginia’s Electric Grid Could Look Like

A Next-Era Energy Resources battery storage facility.

by Jane Twitmyer

Virginia has all the tools it needs to build an inexpensive, reliable, clean energy future. We’re not talking about exotic technologies that might become available some day in the future. Solar power, wind power, battery storage, microgrids, energy-efficient buildings and other clean-power technologies are available right now at a cost competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear. The Old Dominion just needs a regulatory structure to match.

Virginia’s energy landscape has changed faster than many thought possible. Electricity-hungry data centers are demanding electricity generated from 100% renewable sources. As projected demand has shifted, Dominion Energy has canceled two planned large, base-load natural gas plants. In their place the company now plans to build 3,600 megawatts of gas-fired “peakers’” designed to back up the promised 5,000 megawatts of solar and solar power when clouds block the sun or there is a lull in the wind.

But the experience of other utilities is showing that even the peaker plants aren’t necessary. Consider the Moss Landing gas-powered plant in California. In 1998 PG&E sold Moss Landing to Duke Energy, which spent $500 million upgrading the plant before selling it to Dynergy. Last year Dynergy retired two super-critical steam units because they were no longer economically competitive. Now, a newly reinvented Moss Landing anticipates becoming an energy storage facility filled with 300 megawatt/1,200 megawatt-hour batteries.

In Vermont, Green Mountain Power has built a system of distributed stored energy. Solar customers pay $15 a month to host a utility-owned and-operated Tesla Powerwall in exchange for backup power. During peak energy days the utility pulls from 500 Tesla Powerwalls as well as energy storage facilities in Rutland and Panton. Vice President Josh Castonguay says these alternatives to gas work as planned this summer when the batteries took the equivalent of 5,000 homes off the grid.

In New Hampshire, Liberty Utilities wants to own and install 1,000 Tesla Powerwalls in the homes of its customers. The five megawatts of aggregated battery capacity would allow Liberty to reduce its load peak, saving an estimated $693,000 a year in transmission costs and potentially offsetting traditional wires upgrades.

Another approach to meeting peak demand is to combine offshore wind with solar. Rooftop solar combined with our extraordinary offshore wind resource can meet all of Virginia’s summer peak demand. Solar’s peak production ends as the wind picks up, and thanks to the sea breeze effect, an offshore wind farm is very productive when electric demand in the region is at its highest.

Virginia’s offshore wind has the potential to generate three times as much net energy as Dominion’s 2017 net energy load with no fuel required. Just the offshore leases acquired by Dominion in 2013 can provide the electricity equivalent of 2.5 nuclear plants. More leases will be available in the future, yet the utility’s 2018 Integrated Resource Plan anticipates building only two “demonstration” windmills on Dominion’s leased waters during the next 15 years. Offshore wind looks like a missed opportunity.

The Virginia coast is located on the Mid Atlantic Bight, the geological formation that runs from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. The Bight is the shallow, wide edge of the continental shelf 30 miles, more or less, from shore. Wind speeds on the Bight are higher, blades can be larger, and the “sea breeze effect” generates power during times of high demand onshore.

The Mid-Atlantic Bight has been called the potential “Saudi Arabia of Wind.” Bight wind installations are underway in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maryland. The Governor of New Jersey Governor’s has signed an executive order setting a goal of generating 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. New York Governor Cuomo has called for developing 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030, targeting 800 megawatts for this year and next.

The U.S. offshore wind industry will be built. A pipeline of wind projects totals 25.46 gigawatts, including 1.3 gigawatts added last year. Building Offshore Wind means building a whole new industry. Costs will drop rapidly as supply chains and construction capabilities develop. Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent hiring of the international energy consultants BVG Associates to analyze how the state can become a coastal leader for the offshore wind industry is important. The Hampton Roads area is well suited to becoming an offshore wind hub. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), it will bring 4,377 jobs and $641 million economic benefits to the state.

Price has been an issue but onshore support for the new industry changes the pricing picture. Block Island’s wind farm, built only last year without onshore support facilities, cost $244 per megawatt-hour. Recent bids for Vineyard Wind have come in at $74/megawatt hour, demonstrating the financial value of onshore support facilities. In Massachusetts the old whaling port of New Bedford is undergoing a commercial makeover of more than $200 million, including the construction of a marine commerce terminal financed by the state, to prepare for the offshore wind industry.

The clean energy economy is being created around the world. Virginia needs to diversify away from gas as its primary, centrally distributed resource. We all want Virginia’s privately owned utilities to remain profitable, but it will take writing basic new rules to avoid the “death spiral” of declining monopoly utility sales and rising electricity rates. A utility-owned multi-directional grid that can accommodate a multiplicity of solar and wind is proving to be the most reliable and affordable choice for other states, and can be for Virginia, too.

Jane Twitmyer is a member of Renewable Loudoun. She has been a renewable energy consultant and advocate since 2011.

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29 responses to “What Virginia’s Electric Grid Could Look Like

  1. “Solar power, wind power, battery storage, microgrids, energy-efficient buildings and other clean-power technologies are available right now at a cost competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear.”

    So why should we join RGGI or otherwise try to increase the cost of power for residential customers and small businesses? If new technology is cheaper and equally reliable, market forces (and I think PJM , if I understand correctly how it operates) will push out much of our fossil fuel base replacing it with renewable energy.

    Environmentalists talk a good game but they are twice as crooked as Dominion. At least Dominion’s greed is transparent.

    • The dependency and reliability issue here has long concerned me with regard to what might reasonably be considered too much reliance on green energy.

      In addition, now that I believe as I do that Dominion needs stricter regulations put on its profits, well then this is a matter for my equal concern as to all the others getting into the business, most particularly green, as to how do we calibrate those issues regarding profits and other consequences.

      At the end of the day, the complexities here are daunting.

  2. I’d yield to no no one in my enthusiasm, hope and optimism to incorporate wind/solar renewables into the grid but I think we face significant obstacles that are not going to be easily solved.

    Here is the basic problem.

    Most houses COULD run off of solar plus batteries/powerwalls for things like lights, TV computers, etc.. but the 3 things that are not really compatible with solar at the residential level is HVAC, hot water and refrigeration.

    That’s because when these things come on – they are high demand and most residential solar setups cannot meet that demand so they rely on grid power as “backup”.

    The problem for the grid is that some of these things come on across thousands of residences at the same time. HVAC, for instance – when the temps get HOT or COLD or when many folks get home from work and use dishwashers, cloths washers, and baths/showers.

    The grid can’t meet these demands either unless gas peaker plants fire up – and at a cost that is 4-5 times as much than for regular grid power.

    So the electric utilities job is not just to provide reliable grid power -but reliable PEAK power… and that’s whether or not solar/wind is available or not – but most assuredly when they are not.

    I think that is why in their Integrated Plan update – they deleted some base load gas plants and added more gas peaker plants.

    This is the problem in Germany and California also. It’s the peak power demands – a grid that remains reliable during peak power demand that is the issue. That will always be a need although if there is a LOT MORE solar – “available” but not used …but ready to be used in response to peak demand but that’s a ways down the road…

    Natural gas is the key to a reliable grid especially during peak demand periods.

    • Larry, I would build on your argument here. The challenge is not only meeting peak load during a typical day, it’s meeting peak load during the peak day of the year. Actually, it’s more like meeting peak load during the peak day of every three or four years. The grid must hold up under extreme weather events that might occur only once every three or four years — typically large storms that blot out the sun and (potentially) shut down wind power for three or four days, draining all battery power, at a time when extreme temperatures are pushing up demand.

      • the peak load – peak day problem is there no matter what happens to wind/solar.. it was always there.. it’s not something that is a consequence of wind/solar – it’s something that will continue to be there – as wind/solar come online.

        And wind/solar won’t fix it anytime soon unless or until we have “extra” wind/solar … on the grid – not being used -but available for peak….

        In other words if we install MORE solar than we need at most times on the grid -then that extra standby solar is available for peak demand.

    • Larry, the best way to meet peak power is reduce peak demand, not build extra generation. Demand response and demand flexibility…time shifting … can meet a lot of peak.

      I am not saying we won’t be using gas at all for quite awhile. I am just saying we don’t need to build more fossil resourced generation if we have a system that rewards reducing demand.

  3. @Jane – I agree but……. I still think we need more peaker plants in the interim…

    but I think weather is a big influence on peaks and in our own personal case – even with the thermo set at 84 – the AC still comes on at the hottest part of the day… ( we were not here but away for 7 weeks.. AC still coming on). Not sure we could tolerate 84 degrees anyhow….

    so even at 84 – there is a “peak” and no easy way to shave it more… until/unless they make much more efficient HVACs!!!!

    We can get graphs from our utility – and a cursory look at them is pretty convincing as it shows our use – with a second line showing the outside temperature… they pretty much track each other.

    so the thing is – when our HVAC is calling for more power to cool -even at 84 degrees – you can bet that everyone’s else HVAC is also… and that means that the utility has to fire up a peaker plant…

    right?

  4. We allow Dominion to cut us back if they need to…I think only one day this summer we saw our thermostat go over the setting, meaning we were cut back for a few hours. Also you get a Mulligan (a couple days you can ask for relief) if say you were having a big party on a day they wanted to cut back.

  5. REC sends a notice that they are planning an “event” which usually consists of increasing the thermostat temperature a few degrees for a few hours… and we can override it if we wish.. or opt out all together.

    we use fans in the house and normally keep the thermo at 78 or so and they bump it to 82 or so…

    If they charged us more for those peak hours ……. Smart Meters would do that .. i.e. allow the power company to pass on the higher costs of having to use peaker plants or buy more from PJM during high demand – which I understand is more than twice as much , often 3 times as much as regular power. THAT .. WOULD spur people to take more conservation measures – it would encourage me to replace the current HVAC with a higher efficiency one… and seriously consider not heating/cooling rooms we are not using (which is the way a lot of the rest of the world works already).

    We just replaced a water heater with a much smaller one and the next time, we are considering an on-demand one. We already time-shift our dish/clothes washing…

    but to the point of this subject overall – for the grid – it’s diurnal energy use illustrated by the graph below:

    ?itok=a-BwwW8Q

    these peaks are driven by weather and by human daily habits… the latter could be changed/shifted, etc but the former will be much more difficult to “fix” just by using more efficient equipment. For instance,with HVAC – a more efficient unit would work that way – all day every time it came on but it’s the varying temperature during the day that makes the unit come on more often … so no matter how efficient HVAC becomes – across the grid – all HVAC will come on more often when the weather temps increase (or decrease in winter). This IS changing as more and more “smart” thermostats are installed and heating/cooling are reduced when the home is not occupied – and then it cycles on when folks are headed home.

    I’m skeptical that we’re ever going to see “flat” grid demand . I’m more convinced, we’re always going to have peaks driven by weather and peaks from that.

    Then this gets back to the use of gas peakers to meet the increased demand during the peaks. It does not have much to do with wind/solar renewables in my view even though they are not dispatchable .. we just “harvest” them when they are available but we still have to have a way to respond to varying demand and peaks.

  6. Another way to think about peak demand and the use of gas – is to think what did 50 years ago when 80% or more of generation was coal and nukes coming online.

    Both are base-load and do not vary- i.e. cannot dynamically respond to peak demand.

    So what did we do at those peak demands if we did not have gas peakers?

    The answer is that we ran the baseload at max loads and wasted fuel when demand was lower.. we just burned the coal 24/7 …. and we had serious air pollution problems and acid rain… China actually has this same problem right now because of it’s reliance on coal for electricity.

    So the gas peakers and gas baseload (that is more flexible) basically allowed us to reduce burning coal 24/7 and to use gas to fill in and meet demand when it exceeded what coal (and nukes) were generating 24/7.

    We could do the same thing with solar by building way more solar than we normally need – and have the excess as “standby” – available when demand increases… as long as there is sunlight. The days when there is not and all the nightime… we’d have to meet demand over baseload some other way – and to this point – it’s gas …and batteries …. which are an advancing technology – but last time I checked – batteries on a levelized-cost basis .

    The chart below is especially interesting… not only in showing the levelized costs of battery storage compared to other generated electricity but especially diesel generation, which is what most islands in the world that do not have native fossil fuels – use for electricity – even those islands that do use some solar – at night – they use diesel.

    I continue to believe that the truth model for solar and renewables (and batteries) in terms of actual adoption for grid electricity – will be the islands. When we start to see islands retiring their diesel and adopting solar/wind/battery-powered grids, we’ll know that major changes are upon us on the mainlands…

  7. Looks like we’ll get a real-world test of Jane’s theories. California has passed legislation requiring a 100% renewable grid by 2045.

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board is skeptical that the experiment will end well. As they write today:

    “In South Australia, wind and solar account for nearly 40% of power, which has caused rates to soar. South Australians pay more than three times as much for power than the average American. After storms felled transmission lines and caused power outages, the South Australian government tapped Tesla to build a battery the size of a football field capable of powering 30,000 homes for an hour to provide backup power in emergencies.

    “Tesla and the South Australian government have declined to disclose the battery cost. But the Electrek news site reported in January that Australia’s battery owners were paid 79 cents per kilowatt-hour—about 10 times the wholesale cost of power in the U.S.—to absorb surplus energy from the grid. That power can later be sold at a premium during shortages. Customers get charged twice—once for storing the excess power and then for discharging it.

    “California’s low-income residents will suffer the most since they spend more of their income on energy and live in hotter inland areas where more electricity is required for cooling. Workers in energy-intensive industries like manufacturing would be especially hard hit. Manufacturing employment has grown half as fast in California as nationwide since 2010.”

    Without electricity, modern civilization collapses. This is not an area to monkey around with. Clearly, the electric system needs to be adaptable enough to accommodate promising new technologies. But the precautionary principle truly applies here: Proceed cautiously.

  8. So, here’s a problem with the WSJ article:

    ” The electricity sector in Australia is historically dominated by coal-fired power stations, but renewables are forming a growing fraction of supply.

    Due to its large size and the location of its population, Australia lacks a single grid.[1]

    ….

    As of 2011, electricity producers in Australia were not building gas-fired power stations,[3] while the four major banks were unwilling to make loans for coal-fired power stations, according to EnergyAustralia (formerly TRUenergy).[4] In 2014, an oversupply of generation was expected to persist until 2024.[5] However, a report published in 2017 by the Australian Energy Market Operator projected that energy supply in 2018 and 2019 is expected to meet demands, with a risk of supply falling short at peak demand times.[6]

    From 2003 to 2013 real electric prices for households increased by an average of 72%. Much of this increase in price has been attributed to over-investment in increasing distribution networks and capacity, and environmental policy impacts. Further price increases are predicted to be moderate over the next few years (2017 on) due to changes in the regulation of transmission and distribution networks as well as increased competition in electricity wholesale markets as supply and demand merge.[7]”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Australia

    so that seems to be a totally different perspective and the referenced sources seem credible…

    Here’s the problem. Coal is baseload – it does not dynamically vary according to demand. If you run your grid off of coal and have little or no gas – there is no practical way to accommodate/harvest non-dispatchable renewables when they are available and then switch back to coal when it’s not. Even Diesel turbines are more compatible than coal because they can ramp up and down fairly quickly when coal cannot.

    So how does the WSJ article actually get to these issues? Well.. it doesn’t… it presents a very different picture than what other facts say.

  9. First … The price of lithium ion batteries has dropped 20% a year for the past 3 years, so while the price is still not competitive here in VA it is in CA and other places with high electricity costs. Where? Hawaii has the most storage per customer with 415 watts per customer on Kauai and 36+ on Maui. American Samoa is on the top ten list. So is Green Mountain Power.

    Before battery talk … rooftop solar plus offshore wind can meet ALL of our peak power.

    The interesting variety of battery projects is compiled by SEPA with the help of The Brattle Group in a report … “2018 Utility Energy Storage Market Snapshot.” One I particularly like … by Irvine Co. and Advanced Microgrid Solutions – “a fleet of batteries at 21 buildings across Southern California. Each is capable of reducing building peak demand by 25 percent, and shaving about 10 percent from energy expenses and operating costs by up to 10 percent. Together, they’re capable of providing up to 10 megawatts of instantaneous load reduction for up to four hours at a time, to help utility Southern California Edison balance the grid. “

    Not sure where the doomsday predictions for California come from but … An intriguing collection of indexes produced by The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia tracks relative economic performances among the states by using data that mimics growth and contraction in regional business output. “By this math, California’s economy grew 4.7 percent in the 12 months ended in February, a pace topped only by No. 1 Tennessee then Alabama, Nevada and Arizona. The U.S. economy, by this measure, grew at 2.8 percent. ” CA’s growth has been at or near the top for quite a few years.

    Nice to note that California’s low carbon diet is working. The state has achieved a 13% reduction in emissions from their peak in 2004 even as the economy has done so well.

    Re TMT and curtailment … there are meters now do this automatically … Do you have one? Not having to require cut back is the point of the Green Mountain Power installations of batteries. Green Mountain is continuing to install more distributed batteries that will serve both the customers and the utility when peak requires their energy.

    Finally, I read a very different picture of Tesla’s 2 projects in South Australia from MacKinsey whose report is more recent. RE the big project; “A new report now shows that it reduced the cost of the grid service that it performs by 90% and it has already taken a majority share of the market.” Concerning the smaller project; “The deployment has already started and 100 homes have received a Powerwall and a 5 kW solar array. It is already having a great impact. Local news station 9 Adelaide featured a public housing tenant in the city who was spending over $500 every quarter for electricity and she has now seen her bill reduced to $175 since the installation of the system.”

  10. If you build ENOUGH solar – so that you have more than you need at some times – then you can utilize the extra to meet peak loads.. I agree but what do we do when nightime comes?

    I don’t think people are going to want to pay 50 cents KWH for electricity from battery.. and I don’t think folks like TMT are going to agree to pay higher rates overall so some folks can run off of utility batteries at night.

    I don’t even think they’re doing that in Hawaii or Samoa on a 24/7 – whole island basis… it’s more of a pilot … than it is an entire island 24/7 system.

    Even then – many of those homes are not like typical American homes with whole-house HVAC systems …etc..

    We’re getting there.. and I’m all in favor of utilizing as much wind/solar as we can harvest… AND I’m in favor of smart meters where all of us actually do pay the actual costs for gas peakers – but the same should be true of batteries…

    The thing about batteries that is a reality is that if batteries were really ready for prime time – people would be installing them as part of a solar system – and not needing grid power..except on rare occasions and . and we’re just not there yet… some day yes… right now, no.

  11. Jane – no, we don’t have a curtailment meter. I don’t see any significant economic benefit and my better half does not do well with hot houses. We do, however, keep the thermostat between 78-79 in the summer with lots of fans.

    Let’s look at telecom. Competition and deregulation brought us better services and lower prices. Back in the 1980s, I handled a case before the then Iowa Commerce Commission to introduced measured local service. Now we have all distance calling.

    When cellular service first hit the market bigtime in the 1990s, you might have gotten a limited number of minutes. When texting came out you paid a nickel or a dime for each message received or sent.

    I expect to see electric power competition deliver more for less. I’m more than happy to use renewable sources of electricity. But I want to pay less per kwh than I do for mainly fossil fuel generated power. If I have backup batteries to help at night, I expect the net price (power plus depreciation of the battery) to be comparable to daytime power. I expect payback to be in not much over a year. I don’t think I’m alone.

    “Local news station 9 Adelaide featured a public housing tenant in the city who was spending over $500 every quarter for electricity and she has now seen her bill reduced to $175 since the installation of the system.” When do we see this in the United States? Northern Virginia? All I see so far is sad marketing attempts to make me feel guilty (won’t work) enough to pay more for supposedly cheaper green power.

  12. re: ” But I want to pay less per kwh than I do for mainly fossil fuel generated power. If I have backup batteries to help at night, I expect the net price (power plus depreciation of the battery) to be comparable to daytime power. I expect payback to be in not much over a year. I don’t think I’m alone.”

    I don’t often agree wholeheartedly with TMT when he just opposes changes for fear that they will end up costing him more than less.. and I attribute this to a “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” political philosophy!

    In this case, I agree with him. When we try to make the case than wind/solar are cheaper than fossil fuels – and cleaner – then it leaves an impression in many folks minds that if that is the case – it’s a no brainer to build more and more renewables.

    But then it turns out that it will actually cost more to upgrade the grid AND people need to conserve more… and pay more.

    That’s a messed up message in my view – and because it is – it actually generates opposition to solar and renewables.. and lends support to those who call renewables a “scam”.

    It’s exceptionally important that we be brutally honest about the real-world economic cost-effective issues associated with solar/wind and not promote it in a way that actually allows critics to totally undermine it – and in doing so, convince a good number of folks that it should not only not be supported but opposed.

    I’m a supporter of wind/solar – as well as getting rid of coal plants but it’s got to be a cost-effective approach.. it’s got to directly address that issue.

    • Larry ..It’s all in the situation .. not just the cost. Here is a piece of my 2012 testimony at the EPA .. “a surprising quote from a major investment bank: ‘EPA policy action could help basically all of our (power) companies. By culling the herd of bad plants, the good plants can more than offset the losses’. Their conclusion is not based solely on the outcome of your rulemaking. Industry investment is required regardless of your actions. 70% of our coal plants and all of our nuclear facilities are more than 30 years old. Actually 30% of our coal plants are more than 40 years old and generally less efficient. Retrofitting or replacing them will cost $70-100 Billion over the next 10 years. 50-69 GW of the fleet cannot justify additional investment” and must be replaced.

      “The message is … rules or no, our energy future requires major new investment. The only question is: where will those investment dollars go? One choice is fossil energy. (NYT11/30)”

      So what was then and remains true today for replacing generation, or doing something else to meet electricity needs, is also true for our current grid which the engineers tell us is in very bad shape. Think I read it got a D. The timing of what we are building makes a difference.

    • Glad we find common ground. If a company were pitching renewable energy to consumers in this manner or a renewable energy company were raising capital with this message, both would run afoul of laws designed to protect the public against fraud.

      Businesses selling goods and services must not mislead consumers or they will be chased by the FTC or state consumer protection agencies. They would probably be given a big fine and prohibited from engaging in this conduct or maybe even barred from operating a similar business. A company selling stock must make all necessary disclosures of material facts and not providing misleading information. Violators would be heavily fined and could even serve time in prison. If moving to renewables isn’t

      But I guess it’s fine to lie and mislead people when one wants a change in public policy or laws and regulations. It’s the Washington Post mentality. Lie to people to get into office by telling them government must live within its means and then raise taxes once you get into office. Or touting the economic benefits illegal immigrants generate but ignoring the costs, especially to taxpayers. But this is wrong.

      If moving to renewables will cost consumers more, then be honest enough to say so. If moving to renewables will decrease the quality of life for many people because it is not cost effective, say so.

      And yes, it’s pretty hard to have lived in America and watched the public policy debates without subscribing to “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

      • TMT … Please tell me how in the world what I wrote says that renewable energy ie solar panels … will cost you more. Over the whole time frame you will be saving a lot of money but as I said ..you are basically prepaying for the energy that will allow you to cut your monthly bill.. The reduction in the bill, over the life of the panels, will be lots less than just paying the bill from your utility.

      • Maybe you were talking about the utility costs … Paying for new will have to happen … those old plants are living on borrowed time. /should be go out and buy 20th century technology because it is cheaper? Or should we replace the old plants with something that will prove to be the best for the next whole time frame?
        Like my Granny used to say … no point in being “pennywise and pound foolish”.

        • Jane – thanks for the additional information. It is quite helpful. But, yes, I am looking for cheaper electric costs based on the hype about renewable energy.

          Given our retirement plans, which include moving to North Carolina over the next few years, I’d be very hesitant to make a major, long-term investment in solar, which I don’t think would necessarily add significantly to the sales price for our house. At most, I’d get the present value of a 25-year investment if I understand you correctly. I think we could spend money on other house projects that would produce a better return when we sell.

          I support the movement from fossil fuels to renewables if done on a cost-effective basis, something I’m starting to doubt again. I also think we need to be careful over whatever we emit into the air. I also believe that human action can affect climate but don’t believe we as a society truly know much about climate.

          But I also think that many ardent champions of climate change are charlatans. I remember the arguments from the 70s that we were facing a new mini-ice age. And there are lots of predictions about global warming and climate change that haven’t come true. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/08/07/failed-prognostications-of-climate-alarm/ And no one discusses earlier changes in climate that occurred and their causes. Let’s start talking about the misses as well as the new predictions. Let’s stop the panic talk and see how to find common ground.

          As I said, I believe that many people involved in “climate science” are charlatans ever as much as people peddling penny stocks. I am not a climate change denier but I can see and smell a scam. People are trying to get rich on climate change just as they tried to get rich shorting the market in 2007 and 2008. Is this an important environmental and economic issue or the latest Wall Street-Washington scheme to transfer wealth from the middle class to the charlatans.

          If the United States adopts carbon taxes or carbon trading you will see a huge shift of wealth from the middle class to those who will manipulate the system.

          And if we are truly worried about rising ocean levels, why don’t we prohibit all future development in the expected areas to be underwater? Why don’t we implement a special tax on existing waterfront property that helps paying for remedial measures? Why don’t we prohibit any individual from deducting as a business expense or otherwise the cost of private jets? Their carbon footprint is huge. Why don’t we prohibit trading in energy futures or carbon emission credits now? We don’t do those things because the powers that be want to protect the powers that be and their friends. It’s no different than Gerry Connolly when he was both chairman of the Fairfax County BoS and a SAIC vice president voting to add a new Silver Line station right in front of the SAIC campus in Tysons. It’s no different than the Teapot Dome Scandal.

      • TMT .. If you are planning to move I wouldn’t recommend a solar roof unless PACE loans for residential were available. PACE loans travel with the house … meaning the loan isn’t paid off with equity when a house is sold. The remaining balance is transferred to the buyer like a tax assessment, along with the future lower electricity bills.

        “People are trying to get rich on climate change just as they tried to get rich shorting the market in 2007 and 2008.” …. Well there are lots of opportunists out there taking advantage of what and whom ever they can. Some of them are corporations. Here is quick run down on ‘shale’.

        Shale oil and gas companies have never made a profit. They are now $280+ billion in debt and those loans start coming due this year. Unlike conventional wells, the output of shale wells declines by 70-90% in the first three years of operation. Continued rising production numbers are based on drilling more and more wells … wells that are financed with borrowed money. “Low interest rates make it easy for shale firms to borrow, and fee-hungry banks cheer on the spectacle.”

        Inaccurate analysis from the EIA helped the drilling companies, and Wall Street’s, cause. EIA projections would mean producing more than three times the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) mean estimate of recoverable resources. They were called “extremely optimistic”.

        When the replacement of old fossil plants with renewable generation is compared only on price that is apples and oranges. Oil Change International has a good paper on the tax-based subsidies that go to fossil companies. It is $20 billion annually. Let’s get rid of those, some of which were put in place to develop the oil industry in PA and are still there.

        I absolutely agree we need to start talking about incentives and about how to solve the problems that are on their way. To do that we will have to agree to respect the overwhelming scientific opinion that we have to stop emitting all the destructive gases and pollutants we have thrown into our air and water, and talk about how to make the changes.

        • Jane – I don’t disagree with your contention that the fossil fuel side is far from innocent. I also hate crony capitalism across the board. I’ve complained about it many times on this blog. But that does not justify the bad actors on the environmentalist-renewable energy side. Nor does misleading information coming from the fossil fuel side permit misleading information from the non-fossil fuel side.

          It’s like when my wife tells me how terrible Trump is. I tend to agree but that doesn’t change the fact that Bill Clinton committed sexual abuse and Hillary Clinton destroyed evidence. See Ken Starr’s new book. I don’t understand why the self-proclaimed elite feel only the former is appropriate for discussion and purposely cover up the latter.

          The United States needs an honest discussion of energy, environment and economics issues. All sides have positive attributes and warts. But all I see is a coverup of the many failed sky-is-falling predictions and, unfortunately, doctored data from the professional climate change industry. Hence, I have no more trust in the environmental movement or academics than I would of the PR gal or guy for an oil or coal mining company.

  13. This article refers to New England projects for renewable energy. But of course there can be small projects like that. For the most part New England commits importing elec from Canada etc. and paying high elec bills. New England/RGGI are not models of self-sufficient clean, electric generation. Those models are saying if you import a lot of your electric from outisde, you can dabble in renewables and import the rest, and pay the higher price.

    • TBill … “Those models are saying if you import a lot of your electric from outside, you can dabble in renewables and import the rest, and pay the higher price.” Here are a few quotes from The Analysis Groups review of RGGI 2015-2017 results. Results analysis, not predictive models.

      “Since 2009, the RGGI states have received virtually all of the nearly $2.8 billion in proceeds from CO2-allowance auctions and disbursed them back into the economy in various ways, including through expenditures on: energy efficiency (“EE”) measures and programs; renewable energy (“RE”) projects; GHG-emission reduction measures; direct electricity consumer bill assistance, including for low-income households; and education and job training programs. These local investments keep more of the RGGI states’ energy dollars in their region, and reduce the amount of dollars that leave the region to pay for fossil fuel resources produced outside the RGGI states.”

      “Over the last three years (2015-2017), the RGGI program led to $1.4 billion (net present value (“NPV”)) of net positive economic activity in the nine-state region. … Use of auction proceeds to invest in energy efficiency produces the biggest economic bang per buck, in terms of net positive benefits to consumers and to the economy.”

      That is all in addition to the large reduction of GHG emissions.

  14. TMT … There are lots of pieces that go into a residential solar calculation … and it has been 4-5 years since I have been active in the market, so I can’t give you any general numbers that you can’t find on the internet. That said … First, there is your roof. It has to be facing the right direction and with no shade trees in the way. I have a friend who put his solar on the ground where he installed panels that rotate with the moving sun and therefore produce more. Next; the price of the system. The total cost must include VA tax and the cost of installation. The total is eligible for a 30% tax credit. That is a credit, not a deduction.

    How to calculate whether the purchase is worth it? If you require standard payback within a year … don’t bother. It won’t ever happen because the purchase is really a prepayment for the 25 years of the electricity the panels will produce, reducing your utility bill.

    Calculating that avoided cost means measuring your monthly payments against the output of the panels for each month. In VA solar production reaches its highest level in June. Not so good in Dec and Jan. That said, avoided cost matters in the calculation and is what most people look at to see how much they will spend for a loan that allows them to have a cash flow positive number. If ownership doesn’t look good there are companies that put the panels on your roof for a lease charge.

    Then there is net metering. You will have production that you do not use and that production goes onto the grid running your meter backwards for your contribution. Where that law sits today .. I do not know, but it was restricted in the past.

    So add it all up for your particular circumstances and if you care about what we are doing to the climate as we continue to burn fossil fuels, then you will find that the most compelling reason to make the purchase and you can do that and reduce your annual utility bill too.

  15. I just returned from a trip out of state. I was intrigued by this discussion. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about our grid and how it might change in the future. I don’t have time to respond to all of the individual issues, but let me point out some major items, as I see them.

    1. Demand in Virginia is relatively flat. The only source of growth is for new data centers.

    2. There is an excess of generation available in PJM.

    3. There is no need to build any new generation in Virginia for the foreseeable future. New generation is being proposed only to gain a new source of profits.

    4. With our energy needs met for the next 15 years, what we are talking about is how we transition into a modern energy system and retire dirty, inefficient, and expensive current generating sources. And determine what to replace them with.

    5. The cheapest source of new energy is by using energy efficiency. We could replace all of our 60-year old nuclear plants through a 20+ year program of energy efficiency. This would provide 24-hour energy at 100% reliability that would cost us $0. The projects would be paid for by customers, not ratepayers, and the customers would be repaid in savings that are many times more than their investment (thus costing $0). This is a much better option than paying the multiple billions that Dominion would require to operate those inflexible generating units for another 20 years.

    6. Solar is currently the cheapest form of new generation in Virginia. Having the utility build solar costs us many times more than having it built by third-parties (because it is put in the rate base).

    7. Solar is the cheapest way to meet our daytime energy needs. More solar would displace the older, dirtier, less efficient units that are used during the daytime. When the sun doesn’t shine, those existing units, that we will pay for anyway, can be used to continue to provide a reliable supply of energy.

    8. Batteries (and pumped storage) can be used to store excess solar generation for use during the evening peaks reducing the need to use the existing oil and gas-fired peakers, or building new ones. Battery costs are falling by 50% every 4-5 years. Fossil-fired peakers will only go up in price as fuel prices increase.

    9. Offshore wind in the northeast is being bid at a price equal to gas-fired combined cycle units in Virginia. Wind is a good complement to solar because it is usually most abundant at night.

    10. As lower cost renewables displace the increasingly costly fossil-fired plants, the old plants can be put into various levels of ready reserve. The least expensive and easiest to activate plants can be put into an active reserve status to be put into service whenever the output from renewables is not available for a prolonged period. This can be accurately forecast well in advance and would continue a reliable supply of energy. Virginia ratepayers will still be required to pay for those plants for the next 10-40 years whether they are used or not, so why not make them reliable backup units?

    This is a simple, less costly, and much cleaner solution than the path we are on. And it provides a highly reliable supply of energy for Virginia and PJM.

    It would also require a different way of paying our utilities so that they do not have to build more unnecessary units to have the revenues they need.

  16. Pingback: News Roundup: New Solar Projects in Store for Virginia, the Changing Electric Grid, and Virginia’s Potential to be a Leader in the Offshore Wind Industry

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