Category Archives: Clean Energy

Internet Giants Reject Dominion Plan

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.

Dominion Keeps Trying to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes

Writing in the Virginia Mercury on May 5, 2019, Ivy Main outlines the ways Dominion is currently trying to pull the wool over our eyes. She muses on “the series of full-page ads Dominion Energy has taken out in newspapers over the past few weeks bragging about the company’s investments in solar energy. The ads are misleading — I’ll get to that in a minute—but the more interesting question is what the company is up to that it hopes we’re too busy looking at solar panels to notice.”

A few of the things Main says Dominion wants to distract us from:

  • Dominion Energy paid no federal income tax for 2018, in spite of earning over $3 billion in U.S. income.
  • Most of that untaxed income comes from customers here in Virginia, but not all of it is earned (she explains why).
  • After getting authority to spend all that customer money, one of Dominion’s first moves was to interpret “spending” as “keeping.”
  • Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline could shape up to be a huge profit center for the company, but also a huge financial burden for utility customers.
  • In March, Dominion boasted customer-funded spending numbers at least $3 billion higher than it gave its regulators at the State Corporation Commission just two weeks before.
  • And so on.

She notes, “Yet at least some Dominion leaders seem to be aware that other people think the company should be ashamed of its greed, and that some of these people are voters who may eject its friendly legislators from office this fall. Their answer is to run an ad about solar panels to distract us and change the conversation. But the ad just starts its own conversation — and not in the intended way.” She enumerates the errors and faulty implications in the ads e.g. boasting about 2 million added solar panels (which, at an average of 300-watt panels “comes out to 600 MW, which is a pitifully small amount compared to Dominion’s fossil fuel investments”), and the fact that all of that solar is for data centers and other large customers rather than ordinary customers.

Read the full article here.

Dominion Backs Down on Energy Efficiency Spending

On March 28, 2019, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that “Dominion Energy has bowed to pressure from Gov. Ralph Northam and others and has agreed to spend $870 million on energy efficiency programs over the next decade. Dominion President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell II told Northam about the company’s plans in a letter sent Tuesday, reversing the Richmond-based company’s previous position that its energy efficiency spending should be significantly less. Dominion pushed through a major overhaul of electric utilities in 2018 that could lead to substantial increases in customers’ bills. Those changes also gave the company new flexibility in accounting for costs that virtually guarantee its rates can’t go down. To get some skeptical groups and lawmakers to support or at least drop opposition to the legislation, Dominion also committed to submitting $870 million in proposed energy efficiency programs to state regulators over the next decade.”

The article reminds us that “at a recent hearing before state regulators, Dominion argued that the $870 million should include any lost revenue it would incur because of decreased electric usage. If approved, that could have effectively reduced actual spending on energy efficiency programs by about 40 percent or more. Dominion’s position faced pushback from the Northam administration, lawmakers and others who said the company was not living up to a deal it struck last year. …. Farrell said in his letter to Northam that Dominion views lost revenues ‘as an important provision for energy efficiency at the greater scale contemplated and note that this concept has long been recognized’ in state law. ‘However, we commit to an aggregate total of $870 million in regulated energy efficiency filings through 2028 exclusive of any lost revenues,’ Farrell said.”

Read the full Richmond Times-Dispatch article here.

Three Fine Letters

Three fine letters in the January 31, 2019, Nelson County Times address a January 24 article (an article not a letter) supporting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, saying “saying it will bring jobs to younger generations and create revenue to ensure the county continues.”

In Dominion’s job-creation myths, Joe Madison points out that by Dominion’s own admission there will be no meaningful post-construction pipeline jobs in the county, and almost all of the construction jobs will be held by out-of-state workers who travel the length of the line.

In Pipeline a thing of the past, Jane Twitmyer cites Bloomberg data to show the ways that the ACP will keep Virginia in the past rather than allowing the commonwealth to move forward into a future with a modern energy system.

Finally, in ACP can’t deliver on promises, Helen Kimble, President of Friends of Nelson, says, “Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents and our neighbors who support the project share at least some of the same goals. Like the proponents, those who oppose the project also want a healthy county economy that provides good jobs and enables the young people who want to stay in Nelson to do so. However, we differ strongly about how to achieve those goals. We view the ACP as a threat to one of the state’s fastest growing rural economies.”

Kimble quotes Dominion data saying there would be 271 jobs spread over three states during the planned six-year development and construction phase, and many of those, as well as all of the construction jobs, would go to out-of-state contractors with special skills. If the ACP is built, Wintergreen will not build its planned hotel and conference center, nor would developers build Spruce Creek Resort and Market – immediate proximity of the ACP to both projects would kill them. “Taken together, the Wintergreen hotel and Spruce Creek resort represent $75 million in investments, $23.5 million to $32 million in annual revenue and at least 250 new full-time tourism jobs, according to Friends of Wintergreen. For Nelson’s younger generation, those jobs could help them develop their business skills and gain entry into the worldwide, multi-billion dollar tourism industry.”  During construction, “some motels, gas stations, speedy marts, dollar stores and fast food places would get a temporary boost in their businesses, but that boost is small compared to the revenue from a single week during a good ski season.”

Kimble notes the expensive damage to roads by construction vehicles (who would pay to repair?) and the ever-present danger of pipeline failure. “In 2018 alone, 12 gas pipelines ruptured nationwide. In at least two cases, brand new pipelines failed because of soil movement following heavy rains. With the ACP route traversing Nelson’s steep slopes, there is a good chance that something similar could happen here.”

She concludes, “Building the ACP is not the right way to reach the goals its proponents seek. The ACP is an economic loser and environmental threat for Nelson County.”

Read all three letters here.

“Leaking Serious Oil”

“Forgive the imagery (and the irony), but the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is increasingly looking like an old automobile in need of a valve job – it is leaking serious oil, suffers by comparison to newer, more advanced models, and even if it can be made roadworthy, you and I will pay the bill for decades.” So says State Representative David Toscano in his blog post on January 2, 2019.

He goes on to describe how what “was first presented about future energy needs requiring the building of this massive new pipeline has been undercut by developments over and over again.” Specifically:

  • “recent testimony before the State Corporation Commission (SCC), critics utilized Dominion Energy’s own data to show that the ACP could increase ratepayer bills as much as $2.3 billion over the life of the project”
  • legal challenges continue, leading to several stays and lawsuits
  • “the energy landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years. Renewables are increasingly competitive with fossil fuel generation”
  • “As costs of renewables have declined, electricity usage remains relatively flat, thereby raising questions about the need for larger pipelines. Though not related exclusively to the pipeline, the SCC recently directed Dominion to refile its Integrated Resources Plan (IRP), largely because the company’s projections of ‘peak load and sales forecasts’ were unjustified by the data, and ‘have been consistently overstated.'”
  • “we now know that Dominion’s existing long term pipeline contracts, mostly with the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline (Transco), can deliver enough gas to existing power plants and even those that may be built in the future”

He concludes that, “there is a need to replace our aging and increasingly decrepit thermal generation fleet (coal, gas, and nuclear power plants), and natural gas remains cheaper and certainly less toxic than coal.” BUT – “As we transition to a carbon-free future, the Commonwealth obviously wants to avoid unacceptable disruptions or major rate spikes. Consequently, there may be a need for some small gas interconnectors (particularly in the Tidewater region) to overcome regional pipeline congestion, and likely some hard choices about pipelines and transmission lines will remain for some time. But those choices do not mean we need to embrace a pipeline as massive as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This behemoth is ‘leaking oil’ and, like that old car, is no longer worth the investment needed to keep it going.”

Read Toscano’s full statement here.

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.