Category Archives: Clean Energy

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.

New Videos from BXE

In preparation for their annual three day sharing/training, art-build and action in Washington DC, Beyond Extreme Energy has produced a series of educational videos on FERC, fracking, and extreme energy, created by Maren Poitras and Andrew Geller. (For information about the BXE weekend event, Crack FERC Open, June 23-25, 2018, go to the BXE Web page.)

Video 1: Are Oil and Gas Pipelines for the Public Good? Through the voices of those directly harmed, this video introduces eminent domain abuses and the growing movement of people from many regions fighting back.  View on YouTube.  View on Facebook.

Video 2: Is Natural Gas a Clean Alternative? The notion that fracked gas is a clean transition fuel is widespread. This video debunks the lie.  View on YouTube.  View on Facebook.

Video 3: Greed Pays: Pipelines and Profits, about how greed and profit are baked into the system.  View on YouTube.  View on Facebook.

Video 4: What is FERC? The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the most dangerous federal agency many Americans have never heard of. We care about FERC because it is in charge of approving–or not–interstate gas pipelines and infrastructure projects. FERC has turned down only 2 gas pipeline projects out of over 500 submitted over the past 30 years. In a world where the impacts of fossil-fuel induced climate change are so clear, and so devastating, it’s absolutely necessary that FERC be replaced with an agency dedicated to an active and just transition off fossil fuels.  View on YouTube.  View on Facebook.

New Poll Shows Virginians Overwhelmingly Support Clean Energy

Blue Virginia reported on March 20, 2018, on a new poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosser Research, Virginia Voters Support Moving to 100% Clean Energy. The poll, in addition to showing that Virginians overwhelmingly (67%-27%) support moving towards 100% clean energy by 2030, also demonstrates how wildly out of touch the Virginia GOP, Dominion Energy, and the fossil fuel folks are. How about our elected officials instead listen to the 67%-27% majority of Virginians who want 100% solar, wind and energy efficiency – and soon?

Read the Blue Virginia article here, and read the poll details here.

Gas Generation Declines

Dominion says we need more fracked gas infrastructure.  BUT….

Utility Dive for March 20, 2018, reported on major shifts in the US energy generation, including the battle between coal and natural gas and the rise of renewables. The decline in gas generation was three times as steep as coal’s:

  • Changes to the United States’ power generation mix last year reflected fuel price fluctuations and the growth of renewable energy, though overall demand fell. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, total U.S. net generation fell by 1.5% in 2017, compared with the year before.
  • Natural gas generation fell most steeply by 105,443 Gwh, or 7.7%, and coal generation declined 31,248 GWh, or 2.5%. More than 11 GW of capacity retired last year, with most of that being coal.
  • Both wind and utility-scale solar cracked new records, according to EIA’s Electric Power Monthly. Wind accounted for 6.3% of total net generation, and utility-scale solar made up 1.3%.

Virginia Is a Solar Straggler


Former Governor McAuliffe touted Virginia’s leadership in solar, speaking of “the great work we’re doing to build the new Virginia economy, one that is less reliant on federal spending and focuses on growth in innovative sectors like the solar industry,” and he and Todd Haymore, Secretary of Commerce and Trade, boasted in March 2017 that “Virginia now ranks in the top twenty in the nation for solar jobs.”

But…

Due in no small part to Dominion’s coolness to solar and emphasis on fossil fuels, Virginia dropped in 2017 to 20th in use of solar – from 17th in 2016. Yes, McAuliffe and Haymore were boasting about a drop in ranking! A February 15, 2018, Blue Virginia article discusses the drop, citing a January 2018 report called Solar in Virginia, produced by Powered by Facts.

“Virginia now has 290.89 megawatts (MW) of solar installed, which represents approximately .037% of its total electricity generated. This is an increase from last year’s total of 192.4 MW, and represents the state moving more than half of the way towards Dominion’s goal of building facilities to generate 400 MW of solar energy by 2020. Despite the increase in MW, Virginia’s national ranking for solar and renewable energy slipped from 17th in 2016 to 20th in 2017. This indicates that other states have embraced this highly competitive industry and are reaping its rewards, while Virginia has lagged behind.”

The report points out part of Virginia’s difficulty: “Our largest utility – Dominion Energy – also falls short. In a recent annual benchmark review of clean energy published by the non-profit Ceres, Dominion consistently ranked last among 30 utility companies in the areas of Annual Energy Efficiency and Lifecycle Energy Efficiency. The latest numbers also show that Dominion Energy was ranked 24th out of 30 in renewable energy sales as a percentage of retail sales, 30 out of 30 in incremental energy efficiency and 29th out of 30 in life cycle energy efficiency, which are the estimated savings of all energy efficiency.”

The Blue Virginia article also discusses Virginia’s 2018 ranking by Solar Power Rocks, “a firm that focuses on helping homeowners and small businesses go solar, analyzes those 51 [states] as to solar attractiveness for those potential customers. “Virginia’s grade? A big fat D. “‘Solar in Virginia: about as bad as you might think!’ The state’s big utility company, Dominion Power, offers an anemic performance payments program, which will help homeowners now but isn’t guaranteed to be there in a few years. All in all, the “D” grade is earned.”