Home Dominion Power Sorry Dominion: Natural Gas is Not Clean or Cheap Energy

Sorry Dominion: Natural Gas is Not Clean or Cheap Energy

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by Todd Smyth

Natural gas is not clean, renewable or cheap and Dominion is dooming Virginia to a third-world future of dirty fracked gas pipelines and much higher energy rates than the rest of the world. Dominion’s plan to “modernize” our grid is to build gas “peaker” plants to meet peak demand, which means more fracked gas pipelines to feed those plants. The “gas peaker plants” can be located closer to where the energy is used, so the transmission lines can be shorter and that will be used to justify this approach.

The biggest problem with this plan is that “gas peaking” is nearly the most expensive option for energy. Wind, solar, hydro and geothermal are all less expensive, cleaner and renewable. So why is Dominion doing this? Because supplying gas to peaker plants is the most profitable option for Dominion. But that doesn’t mean it will benefit Virginia ratepayers in any way.

Even worse, fracked gas pipelines also poison our water and destroy our environment. There are no pipelines that are 100% immune to leaking. Natural gas was thought to be a cleaner transition fuel to move away from coal, but that turns out not to be true.

Why natural gas makes global warming worse
https://www.greenbiz.com/article/why-natural-gas-makes-global-warming-worse

Regardless, that transition ended two years ago when the cost of utility-scale solar dropped below “baseload,” gas-fired power plants. Please take a look at the various unsubsidized costs of energy sources at the link below and notice how expensive “gas peaking” is.

Lazard’s Levelized (unsubsidized) Cost of Energy 2017
https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-2017/

The above costs do not take into account the latest drop in clean and renewable sources. Currently, Virginia residents pay 11.47¢/kWh, while wind and solar have dropped to as low as 1.77¢/kWh and 1.79¢/kWh in Mexico and elsewhere. Combined with energy storage, prices for wind and solar have dropped to as low as 4.5¢/kWh.

Virginia pays 11.47¢/kWh. Source: EIA Electric Power Monthly
https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_5_6_a

NOTE: Dominion tells people that Virginia’s electricity rates are lower compared to other mid-Atlantic states. According to the U.S. Census and EIA (see link above), Virginia is not a “mid-Atlantic” state. New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the mid-Atlantic” states. We are a South Atlantic state, where North Carolina and Georgia have lower electricity rates. Dominion is relying on people’s understanding of NCAA regions to fool people.

Cheapest electricity on the planet is Mexican wind power at 1.77¢/kWh
https://electrek.co/2017/11/16/cheapest-electricity-on-the-planet-mexican-solar-power/

Saudi Arabia setting solar pricing records at 1.79¢/kWh
https://electrek.co/2017/11/16/cheapest-electricity-on-the-planet-mexican-solar-power/

How can Tucson Electric (Arizona) get solar + storage for 4.5¢/kWh?
https://www.utilitydive.com/news/how-can-tucson-electric-get-solar-storage-for-45kwh/443715/

Dominion is using ratepayer money to build fracked-gas pipelines that already are, or soon will be, obsolete. Plus, they are less secure than renewable energy and completely unnecessary for Virginia customers. Of course, there is no risk to Dominion, because they are playing with our money. So why would a monopoly utility like Dominion Energy do this? For starters, monopolies hate competition.

if you’re used to being a monopoly, like most utilities are, then it comes as a shock when customers start to cut you out of the action.” — Bloomberg

A Little Fear and Loathing for Utilities — Bloomberg
https://www.bloomberg.com/gadfly/articles/2016-06-13/mgm-wynn-ditch-nv-energy-as-utility-fear-and-loathing-grows

Gas fired power plants risk becoming stranded assets
https://www.consultancy.uk/news/13780/gas-fired-power-plants-risk-becoming-stranded-assets

The market Dominion planned on selling the gas to is quickly disappearing, which means they will need to sell that gas in Virginia. This will mean killing off or slow rolling the competition like wind, solar and energy storage. It also means that Virginia will fall further behind the rest of the world in clean, renewable energy — and the many jobs that a clean energy transition would create.

California Targets PG&E Natural Gas Plants With Storage
https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/natural-gas-under-threat-california-pge-gas-plants-energy-storage#gs.K6TkKPE

New York sets bigger energy storage target than California
https://www.energy-storage.news/news/new-york-sets-bigger-energy-storage-target-than-california

The Energy Revolution of 2018: Electricity Storage – Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/baininsights/2018/02/01/the-energy-revolution-of-2018-electricity-storage/#4ff5c5c06208

As more companies, cities, counties and people figure out they don’t need monopoly utilities, Dominion’s desperation will get more intense. Dominion needs a closed market, with a large centralized grid – one it can control – in order to survive. This is what natural gas pipelines provide. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving to decentralized, renewable power generation for economic, environmental and national security reasons.

After the nuclear power plant accident at Fukushima exposed Japan’s old, centralized grid (similar to Virginia’s), Japan was forced to rethink and rebuild the way it produces power. Japan’s solution? Local generation and transmission. Dozens of Japanese cities will have their own micro-grids and decentralized renewable power generation to create self-sustaining systems, capable of producing an average of 25% of needed electricity. This is the right way to rebuild a modern smart grid – as opposed to Dominion Energy’s wrong but profitable way.

Quiet energy revolution underway in Japan as dozens of towns go off the grid
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-energy-revolution/quiet-energy-revolution-underway-in-japan-as-dozens-of-towns-go-off-the-grid-idUSKCN1BU0UT

Whoever wins the clean energy race will be the strongest country in the world. The same is true of U.S. states, and Dominion is holding Virginia and America back. Germany, the UK, and China are already way ahead of us and are moving faster than we are. France, Australia and Japan are moving past us like we are standing still. Many smaller countries like Iceland, Sweden, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Denmark are already beyond the U.S. in terms of current installed percentage of clean energy used, incentives and future investments.

China cementing global dominance of renewable energy and technology
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/06/china-cementing-global-dominance-of-renewable-energy-and-technology

Virginia is ranked 38th in solar energy, with a “D” rating, and next-to-last in energy efficiency.  Meanwhile, our neighbors, Maryland and DC, are leaving Virginia in the dust. Maryland is already ranked 6th in solar, with an “A” rating. Maryland is planning to become number one, with a new, expanded tax credit for storage that makes almost every residential solar project affordable. Meanwhile here in Virginia, thanks to Dominion, we have no tax credits, mandates, rebates, or exemptions for renewable energy to help us climb out of the hole we are already in.

Virginia is ranked 38th in Solar with a “D” Rating
https://solarpowerrocks.com/2017-state-solar-power-rankings/#VA

Dominion Ranked Second-Worst in US on Energy Efficiency
https://bluevirginia.us/2017/07/dominion-ranked-second-worst-us-energy-efficiency

Maryland ranked 6th in Solar, DC 9th, both with “A” ratings
https://solarpowerrocks.com/2017-state-solar-power-rankings/#MD

Maryland opens energy-storage tax credit program
https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2018/02/15/maryland-opens-energy-storage-tax-credit-program/

Please don’t let Dominion doom us to a third-world future of dirty, fracked-gas pipelines and higher energy rates than the rest of the world. Please do what you can to push for an independent commission to rebuild our energy grid. We have to break Dominion’s grip on our democracy and stop them from ripping us all off. Talk to your legislators and make sure they understand what Dominion is not telling them.