In the past week there have been multiple news stories on the continuing demand by corporations for renewable energy and the ongoing unwillingness of utility companies, with Dominion singled out in particular, to provide it. Meanwhile, Dominion continues to insist the ACP is necessary to meet energy demands. Given the frequent insistence by utility companies that gas is needed to provide reliable and consistent energy supply, the statement in the first article below is particularly noteworthy: businesses consider renewables more stable and reliable than fossil fuels.
- 7-20-19 Clean Technica. Speakers At DCD-San Francisco Ask, “Why Won’t Utility Companies Give Us The Renewable Energy We Want?” “At this year’s Data Center Dynamics conference in San Francisco, speaker after speaker took to the stage to lament how utility companies refuse to provide even the largest corporations with the renewable energy they want. Utility companies are accustomed to having things pretty much their own way. Their attitude is ‘It’s our electricity, damn it. We will decide how it is made, how it is distributed, and how much you will pay for it!’ The tech industry and its data centers want renewable energy for two reasons. First, there will be no need of data if a warming planet leads to the extinction of humans. Second, businesses crave predictability. Renewable energy power purchase agreements mean stable long term electricity costs with no fluctuations if a hurricane shuts down refineries in Houston (as happened last week) or Iran seizes a tanker in the Straits of Hormuz (as happened yesterday). …. The DCD – San Francisco panelists agreed that changes are coming — albeit slowly — in the utility business. But there’s one utility company — Dominion in Virginia — that has been particularly stubborn. The company is a strong proponent of the highly controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, which has drawn the ire of residents and businesses along its proposed route.”
- 7-22-19 Virginia Mercury. Dominion Energy’s new programs are really about limiting choices. “[H]ere in Virginia, Dominion Energy expects to reduce carbon emissions less in the future than in the past, and it has no plan to produce 100% of its electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2050. For all the talk here of solar, Virginia still had one-seventh the amount of solar installed as North Carolina at the end of 2018 and no wind energy. Dominion has developed a few solar projects and new tariffs to serve tech companies and other large customers, but ordinary residents still lack meaningful choices. So this spring, Dominion decided to do something about that. The wrong thing, of course.”
- 7-23-19 GreenTechMedia. The Battle for Virginia’s Corporate Renewables Market Heats Up. ” Tensions are escalating in Virginia between Dominion Energy, rival electricity suppliers and the state’s growing list of big corporations demanding renewable power. Direct Energy and Calpine, two competitive service providers (CSPs) working in utility Dominion’s Virginia territory, alleged in separate motions filed Monday that Dominion has stopped processing their 100 percent renewable electricity enrollment requests for large customers in recent months. The two companies asked state regulators to swiftly intervene to restart enrollment. Virginia allows competitive service providers to offer 100 percent renewables to large customers as long as the regulated utility does not provide that option itself, which Dominion currently does not.”
- 7-25-19. Bacon’s Rebellion. New Front In Dominion’s War Against Competition. “So to review the three fronts: 1) Dominion has cut off transfers of its customers to two competitive suppliers offering a renewable product and asserts to the SCC they are operating illegally, 2) continues to contest efforts by medium size retail customers to aggregate enough load to depart the monopoly, and 3) is working hard to offer a lower-priced alternative to those customer who already have enough load to leave. One question common to all of the cases is whether customers who choose to remain with Dominion, or who have no choice under the law, end up hit with additional costs because the others have left or because the large users will have this new, lower-cost rate alternative. That is the reason the SCC has cited for denying most petitions by retailers for aggregation of their load.”
A June 15, 2019 article in Forbes discusses a new International Monetary Fund study showing that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, an increase of a half-trillion dollars over 2015. The increase is despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, and despite renewable energy production becoming cheaper.
“The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.”
The article notes that “analysis of the inefficiency of fossil fuel subsidies is illustrated best by the United States’ own expenditure: the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education. When read in conjunction with a recent study showing that up to 80% of the United States could in principle be powered by renewables, the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies seems even more indefensible.”
Read the full article here.
Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos is a new report from Food and Water Watch. It focuses on three key industries that are both benefiting from and helping to drive the fracking boom in the US: “the petrochemical and plastics industries that use natural gas liquids as a key feedstock for their manufacturing; gas exporters building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to ship gas overseas; and natural gas-fired power plants.” The report discusses the expanding and “symbiotically profitable business alliance with the fracking industry”:
- Proliferation of plastics plants to capitalize on fracking
- Pushing natural gas exports to raise domestic prices
- Wave of new fracked gas-fired power plants
The report’s covering letter from Food and Water Watch’s Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, notes, “But perhaps most alarming was the mounting evidence of fracking’s impact on our climate. Natural gas, touted as a ‘bridge fuel’ to a clean energy future, was actually helping to tip the scales of climate stability past the point of no return. Fracked gas was found to be a climate killer.”
A new report released by Oil Change International makes the case that gas is not a ‘bridge fuel’ to a safe climate. As the global climate crisis intensifies and gas production and consumption soars, it is clearer than ever that gas is not a climate solution. Leaking methane along the gas supply chain has been at the center of the debate around the climate impact of gas, but it’s far from the only issue at stake. There are five additional reasons why gas cannot form a bridge to a clean energy future, even if methane leakage is addressed.
Five key points from the report:
- Gas Breaks the Carbon Budget
- Coal-to-Gas Switching Doesn’t Cut It
- Low-Cost Renewables Can Displace Coal and Gas
- Gas Is Not Essential for Grid Reliability
- New Gas Infrastructure Locks In Emissions
Read the announcement here.
Download the full report.
Download the 2-page summary.
Download key figures.
A recent article makes some of the same points: 5-30-19 Vox. More natural gas isn’t a “middle ground” — it’s a climate disaster.
And an article in Forbes emphasizes the increasingly high costs of fossil fuels compared to renewables: 5-28-19 Forbes. Renewable Energy Costs Take Another Tumble, Making Fossil Fuels Look More Expensive Than Ever.
Writing in the Virginia Mercury on May 20, 2019, Ivy Main says Dominion’s “investments in greenwashing are transparent and heartfelt. Dominion has had several bad months here in Virginia and would very much like to change the conversation.” She writes that “Dominion just joined a corporate coalition calling for a price on carbon. This must have been in the works about the same time Dominion was criticizing Virginia’s proposed entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which actually puts a price on carbon.”
She notes a claim that recently appeared in Dominion’s Twitter feed: “The future of our planet depends on clean energy, which is why more than 85% of our generation comes from clean energy sources such as solar.”
How in the world does Dominion come up with 85%? Main says, “Let us pause for a moment to reflect that this tweet comes from a company whose solar generation amounts to a rounding error.” She cites the pie chart from Dominion’s latest Integrated Resource Plan that shows:
- Nuclear: 33%
- Natural gas: 32%
- Coal: 18%
- Purchased (wholesale) power: 10% (that’s coal and gas)
- Non-Utility Generation (purchased under contract): 5% (more coal)
- Renewable: 2% (almost all hydro and biomass, plus a smidgen of solar)
- Oil: 0%
Maybe Dominion considers everything except coal to be “clean”? That would add up to about 85%. Main concludes, “Nobody looking at these figures could find a basis in reality for a claim of 85% clean energy,” and wonders why, “if you have traveled this far into the realm of fantasy, why not claim 100%? Or heck, with a nod to Spinal Tap, why not 110%?”
Read the full article here.
Virginia Mercury added an editorial comment to Ivy Main’s article: “Editor’s note: Dominion says it has developed 1,200 megawatts of solar in nine states since 2013, with an estimated 5,200 megawatts that ‘could be added’ in the next 25 years.” Notice Dominion says could be added….
At Dominion Energy’s integrated resource plan hearings on May 8, 2019, cloud computing and internet giants delivered a letter demanding the company shift away from its plan to meet their energy needs with fracked gas through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and demanded the utility focus instead on renewable energy solutions.
The Clicking Clean Virginia report issued by Greenpeace in February documented Dominion’s reliance on growing electricity demand from Virginia’s “Data Center Alley” to justify further fossil fuel investments, including the construction of the $7B Atlantic Coast Pipeline. But some of the largest tech companies have stated unequivocally they do not want their demand to be met with more fossil fuel projects. In response to the letter, Greenpeace Senior IT Sector Analyst Gary Cook said, “These tech companies and their customers are demanding the utility focus instead on renewable energy solutions. This pipeline has been rejected by the public, the courts, and now the very customers Dominion claimed it was for.”
Read the letter from the tech companies here.
Additional press coverage here.