As you probably know, Blue Virginia – and RK before it – has not exactly been a big fan of Dominion Virginia Power. In fact, we’re the ones who coined the slogan, “Dominion: Global Warming Starts Here.” In general, I think it’s fair to say that we look at anything and everything Dominion does with skepticism at best. Still, there are times when it’s important to give credit where credit is due.
In this case, as you can see from the graphic, Dominion Virginia Power’s emissions of major pollutants – SO2, NOx, and Mercury (Hg) have been plummeting, and are forecast to continue plummeting in coming years. Now, obviously, a lot of that is due to Dominion simply complying with what the law makes them do, while another part is due to Dominion switching away from dirty coal to cheaper – and also cleaner – natural gas. In addition, I’d really like to see a similar graph for what’s arguably the most important emission of all – carbon dioxide, which is contributing to potentially catastrophic global warming. Still, what this graph displays is progress, and I think it’s fair to give Dominion at least some credit for that.
Since we’re giving Dominion credit today, we might as well mention this program, which Dominion says will allow “utilities to deploy incremental grid-side energy management that requires no behavioral changes or purchases by end customers.” My understanding is that this program, where it has been tested, has resulted in a 4% reduction in energy use. That’s not huge, but it’s something at least, and Dominion deserves at least a positive mention for moving ahead with this.
On the other hand, we simultaneously have this situation, in which a 450-KW solar power project at Washington & Lee University, and specifically Secure Futures – the company helping put together the “complex deal for [the] project” – “received cease and desist letters from Dominion Virginia Power demanding the project be halted.” Believe it or not, Del. Terry Kilgore of all people has legislation that could fix this problem, but it faces a major obstacle — Dominion opposes the bill. Not cool.
So, the bottom line here is this: Dominion Virginia Power deserves credit when it does the right thing – even if it’s because the law requires it, or the economics are compelling – and it deserves criticism when it does the wrong thing. Having said that, we all have to realize that Dominion’s far from the only player here. The fact is, the Virginia General Assembly could, if it wanted to, pass any number of laws affecting Dominion, such as a strong, mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard; “decoupling;” or whatever else it wanted to do. If the General Assembly did so, then Dominion would have no choice but to comply.
So why haven’t our fine leaders in the GA done so? In part, I’d argue it’s because of all the money pouring in there from companies like…well, Dominion, among others. But it’s definitely not clearcut, no absolute “villains” in this and no “heroes” on white horses. In the future, we will be looking at what all these actors – Dominion, the State Corporation Commission, the General Assembly, etc. – do (or don’t do), and judging them accordingly.