Category Archives: Clean Energy

Dominion Energy’s Power Grab

On November 15, 2018, Food and Water Watch released a report on Dominion Energy’s Power Grab, detailing the company’s long history of entrenching itself politically to smooth the way for its pollution-for-profit agenda – at great cost to consumers and the environment. Major points from the report:

  • Dominion has spent at least $59 million since 1998 on campaign contributions, lobbying and gifts to influence Virginia legislators and officials, the U S Congress and other states across the country where it has operated.
  • Dominion has repeatedly successfully crafted — and recrafted — Virginia’s electric utility rules to benefit Dominion while driving up electric bills.
  • Dominion’s legacy of pollution continues to threaten communities.
  • Despite Dominion’s slow shedding of dirty coal-fired power plants, its carbon dioxide emissions from its current coal, gas, oil and biomass power plants have been trending upward.

Read the full report here.

Tom Farrell’s Op Ed vs Reality

Thomas F. Farrell, Dominion CEO, has an op ed column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch for October 20, 2018, Powering Virginia’s future with clean, affordable, and reliable energy. As one might expect, it is filled with misleading and erroneous statements. For a reality check, read Blue Virginia’s detailed commentary on and corrections of the op ed column.  Here are three of Blue Virginia’s multiple corrections to Farrell’s piece:

  • “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a great example of the type of investment it takes to affordably and reliably power Virginia’s homes and businesses, while also making our energy cleaner.” (This is utter rubbish. In fact, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a massive, multi-billion-dollar boondoggle that is not needed, will likely end up “stranded” in a few years, and which absolutely will NOT make “our energy cleaner,” as fracked natural gas must have “methane losses…kept below 3.2 percent for natural gas power plants to have lower life cycle emissions than new coal plants over short time frames of 20 years or fewer,” and that “methane leaks offset much of the climate change benefit of natural gas.”)
  • “While the project is overwhelmingly supported by the communities where it’s being built, it has encountered opposition.” (Any serious evidence that this project is “overwhelmingly supported by the communities where it’s being built?”)
  • “The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will save consumers money on their natural gas and electricity bills” (In fact, according to Will Cleveland of the Southern Environmental Law Center,the pipeline contract that Dominion has signed on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will actually increase customer costs by about two billion dollars”)

FERC Commissioner LaFleur Speaks on Natural Gas

Natural Gas Intelligence reported on October 16, 2018, that FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur’s, in her speech to North American Gas Forum hosted by Energy Dialogues, discussed the natural gas industry’s “complicated relationship” with climate change. LaFleur has dissented on several recent pipeline decisions and “has critiqued FERC’s approach to assessing climate change impacts from gas projects.”

She spoke of the need for “more in-depth climate assessments as part of a broader desire to see FERC incorporate more information into the record when it analyzes project need, including the anticipated end-uses of the gas.”

She also “called for FERC to go beyond precedent agreements in evaluating the need for a pipeline project. She said basing FERC’s certificate decisions solely on precedent agreements could lead to pipeline overbuild.”

Read the full article here.

Northam’s Energy Plan: High Points and Missed Opportunities

Writing in the Virginia Mercury on October 15, 2018, Ivy Main analyzes Governor Northam’s new Virginia Energy Plan, especially in light of the recently released report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “that makes it clear we need ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Main says, “There’s a lot to like in Northam’s energy plan, but missed opportunities abound,” and notes that “Perhaps no Virginia politician today has the courage to rise to the challenge the IPCC describes. Certainly, Gov. Northam shows no signs of transforming into a rapid-change kind of leader. But as we celebrate the proposals in his energy plan that would begin moving us away from our fossil-fuel past, we also have to recognize that none of them go nearly far enough.”

She discusses in detail some of the high points of the administration’s plan as well as the missed opportunities.

Ivy Main and Rick Cornelius Speak at Public Meeting

The September 30, 2018, Friends of Nelson public meeting featured two excellent speakers, Ivy Main (Sierra Club and Power for the People) and Rick Cornelius (environmental lawyer).

Photo by Kathy Versluys

Ivy gave us an update on Virginia’s energy future and the effort to move toward renewable energy that would decrease the need for fossil fuels, including the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, which most economic studies show are not needed to meet either current or future energy needs. See her PowerPoint presentation here. She also discussed how to remove barriers to customer solar by supporting 8 reforms to open the market, create jobs, and save money:

Virginia law contains numerous restrictions on the ability of local governments, residents and businesses to install solar facilities for their own use. Legislation is required to remove barriers and create a stronger market for distributed solar.

The 2018 “grid mod” legislation supported utility solar, but did not address the barriers that hold back private investment in the distributed solar market.

Local governments and residents are coming together around legislation in 2019 that will support customer solar.

The “Easy 8” reforms include:

  • Lifting the 1% cap on the total amount of solar that can be net metered in a utility territory
  • Making third-party financing using power purchase agreements (PPAs) legal statewide for all customer classes
  • Allowing local government entities to install solar facilities of up to 5 MW on government-owned property and use the electricity for schools or other government-owned buildings located on nearby property, even if not contiguous
  • Allowing all customers to attribute output from a single solar array to multiple meters on the same or adjacent property of the same customer
  • Allowing the owner of a multi-family residential building to install a solar facility on the building or surrounding property and sell the electricity to tenants
  • Removing the restriction on customers installing a net-metered solar facility larger than required to meet their previous 12 months’ demand
  • Raising the size cap for net metered non-residential solar facilities from 1 MW to 2 MW
  • Removing standby charges on residential facilities sized between 10-20 kW

Enacting these reforms will give local governments more opportunities to install solar on government property as well as help residents and businesses invest in solar. This can create savings for taxpayers, decrease the need for fossil fuels, help meet local sustainability goals, and support local jobs and economic development.


Rick reviewed the salient points of a number of current cases before the Fourth

Photo by Kathy Versluys

Circuit Court of Appeals, including:

  • the challenge to the December 13, 2017, decision by the Virginia State Water Control Board to grant a water quality certificate for the ACP (pursuant to requirements of Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act)
  • the challenge to the decisions of the U.S. Forest Service to amend the Forest Plans of the Monongahela National Forest and the George Washington National Forest and to accordingly issue a Special Use Permit for the ACP to cross the two forests
  • the challenge brought by landowners in Virginia and West Virginia to both the “quick-take” authority federal regulators granted to Mountain valley Pipeline and a lower court ruling saying MVP could go forward even though property owners have not been compensated
  • SELC’s recent challenge to the new permits issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service re: the “incidental take” of endangered species and the crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway, respectively
  • the challenge in West Virginia brought on July 3, 2018, by Appalachian Mountain Advocates for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and others regarding the time frame for crossing the Greenbrier River not following the stipulations of section 404 of the Clean Water Act re: discharges of sedimentation into waterways at stream crossings
  • the challenge recently filed by Appalachian Voices arguing that FERC didn’t adequately adhere to stipulations in the Natural Gas Act (including addressing the need for the project)

News coverage of the meeting and of the unveiling of The Defenders sculpture earlier in the afternoon:

Why Utilities Shouldn’t Build New Gas Plants

And shouldn’t build pipelines either?

A May 21, 2018, press release from Rocky Mountain Institute says, “US electricity generators may be committing their customers and investors to as much as $1 trillion in future investment and fuel costs through 2030 as they rush to build new gas-fired power plants. Yet advances in renewable energy and distributed energy resources (DERs) offer lower rates and emissions-free energy while delivering all the grid reliability services that new power plants can, according to a new Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) report, The Economics of Clean Energy Portfolios. According to the analysis, in addition to beating proposed gas-fired power plants on a levelized cost basis, ‘clean energy portfolios’ of renewables and DERs will also increasingly threaten the profitability of existing gas plants.”

Writing in Power for the People VA on June 5, 2018, Ivy Main asks, “Dominion won’t build new baseload gas plants. So why is it still building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?” She points out that, “Utility giant Dominion Energy and gas turbine maker General Electric reportedly agree on a startling fact: there is no market for new baseload gas plants,” and notes that new combined cycle plants are noticeably absent from Dominion Energy Virginia’s Integrated Resource Plan this year. She discusses RMI’s report, and says that, “as early as 2026, cost declines for wind and solar will make it more expensive to operate natural gas infrastructure than to abandon it and replace it with new wind and solar facilities. When that happens, gas plant owners will be left with stranded assets. Even in today’s market, RMI concludes gas is a risky investment.” The RMI report’s conclusions are “very bad news for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.”

She concludes, “The problem for Dominion Energy is that the ACP is the only big trick it has now, after the failure of its own ambitions for new nuclear. Dominion doubled down on natural gas in 2016 when it paid 4.4 billion dollars for natural gas distribution company Questar, paying a 23% premium on the deal. It can’t back down from gas now. Either it has to spend 6 billion dollars (and rising) on this new pipeline, or admit its entire growth plan was based on a serious mistake. Abandoning the ACP could make Dominion’s stock price tumble, giving it something else in common with GE. But as the saying goes, if you find yourself in a hole, you should really stop digging. In this case, literally.”

Read Ivy Main’s Power for the People VA article (article was reproduced in The Daily Kos and in Blue Virginia)

Read Utility Dive’s article commenting on the Rocky Mountain Institute report.

Read the Rocky Mountain Institute press release on the report .

Report: The Economics of Clean Energy Portfolios.