I hope that Coy Barefoot is wrong in the following analysis, but I fear that he could right. The question is, who (if anyone) in the Virginia General Assembly will stand up to Dominion, its bought-and-paid-for/”captured” “regulatory” agency the State Corporation Commission, the fossil fuel companies, etc? The other question is whether Dominion, by digging its heels into the ground, will hasten/ensure its own demise, as distributed power (e.g., rooftop solar, storage) gets cheaper and cheaper and the entire state-regulated-monopoly utility model collapses? Let’s hope. With that, here’s Coy Barefoot’s (pessimistic? realistic?) analysis.
Radio IQ/WVTF Public Radio’s Sandy Hausman has been reporting a terrific, must-listen series this week about Dominion Power and the future of energy here in Virginia (more podcast links on the jump).
My takeaways: It’s quite clear that Dominion has no real interest or plans to abandon fossil fuels. It’s almost like their meager spending on wind or solar is more of a public relations investment than anything else; like they’re buying cover. Under a best-case scenario, even by 2030 they’re saying they will still provide more than 90% of the energy in Virginia from coal and gas. That’s it.
And it actually makes sense— from Dominion’s perspective. As long as profit alone guides how we get our power, and the real costs of our choices remain hidden, the heavily subsidized coal and natural gas industry will continue to be the default choice. The decision is baked in. That’s not all— Dominion wants more nukes as well. They plan to ask the General Assembly for permission to keep using the 45-year old Surry Plant near Williamsburg (designed in the 1960s) and they want to build an additional nuclear reactor at North Anna (about 40 miles from Charlottesville).
Sounds like a plan, huh? New mega-pipelines through the mountains and across the state (thanks to eminent domain), increased fracking for natural gas (which scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have linked to an increase in earthquakes in every region where that kind of drilling takes place), and more nuclear power plants. If the past is any guide, Dominion will get whatever they want from the government of Virginia.
Oh, we’ll see some theatrics, some token opposition perhaps, maybe even some real questions raised about this strategy.
But in the end, the political leadership in Virginia knows what “Dominion Power” really means. The decisions have already been made. They’re baked in.