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Virginia State Corporation Commission Should Require Dominion to Substitute Clean Energy for New, Costly Nuclear Plants


From the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council:


Having Already Zapped Ratepayers for $600 Million, Unbuilt Nuclear Reactor Could Rack Up Even Higher Bills; VCCC Economist: Suspension “Welcome, But … Not As Decisive As It Should Be”.

RICHMOND, VA//September 20, 2017/////Dominion Energy took a step in the right direction when it hit the pause button on its controversial $19.2 billion plans for the North Anna-3 nuclear reactor, but it should now fully withdraw the plan, stop billing ratepayers for the doomed project, and shift its focus to renewables, according to a filing by Dr. Mark Cooper, a nationally recognized expert on nuclear power financing for the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council (VCCC).

Having forecast in 2016 the failure of the North Anna-3 project, Dr. Cooper said that if Dominion fails to act on its own, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) should force the utility to fully withdraw its plans for North Anna-3 and spare the state’s consumer from further billings for a reactor that will never be built.

Dr. Cooper submitted his statement to the SCC on behalf of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council in the matter of Dominion Energy’s Virginia Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). A hearing on the Dominion IRP in scheduled for 1 p.m. on September 25, 2017. The comments by Dr. Cooper are available online at http://bit.ly/VirginiaNuclear.

In his statement, Dr. Cooper wrote: “Dominion’s recently announced decision to suspend development of North Anna 3 is welcome, but long overdue and not as decisive as it should be. For the reasons below, the Commission should order North Anna 3 removed from the IRP and refuse to allow any cost recovery associated with the development of North Anna 3 other than through the normal ratemaking process, in which the utility demonstrates that it is the least cost option and used and useful to ratepayers.”

The Cooper statement continues: “I am confident that North Anna 3 will never be constructed.  The SCC should order Dominion to remove North Anna 3 from the IRP and thereby restore and ensure the fundamental consumer protections that have governed utility cost recovery for over a century.  It should allow no cost recovery for North Anna 3, beyond what the legislature has approved …”

VCCC President Irene Leech said: “The Cooper analysis reconfirms some very bad news for Virginia consumers. If Dominion proceeds on this ruinous path it will add to the $600 million in charges it already has imposed for a nuclear reactor that never will be built. As if that assault on ratepayers is not bad enough, Dominion also is crowding out renewables, substantially undercutting what solar and other clean energy could do for the state.  The numbers don’t lie: Renewables and energy efficiency would be faster, safer, and a lot easier on the pocketbooks of Virginia consumers than more renewables.”

In a July 2016 filing to the SCC, Dr. Cooper warned that the failure of the North Anna-3 project was inevitable, that renewable energy should be encouraged instead, and that advance billing for the failing nuclear project should cease. In July of this year, Dr. Cooper forecast the imminent demise of V.C. Summer nuclear construction in a report that was issued about a week before the South Carolina utility there killed the over-budget and behind-schedule project.

The Virginia Citizens Consumer Council is a nonprofit, statewide grassroots membership organization. Its members are individual consumers, community and public interest organizations and others committed to the interest of Virginia consumers. By bringing together people and organizations from various parts of the Commonwealth, VCCC gives consumers a way to unite their voices to promote consumer issues and educate consumers. VCCC works with other organizations in Virginia and with consumer groups in other states as a member of the Consumer Federation of America. For more information go to:  https://www.facebook.com/Virginia-Citizens-Consumer-Council-236174056404968/?fref=ts.

Dr. Mark Cooper is senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.  He has appeared more than 300 times before public utility commissions, federal agencies, and state and federal legislatures in more than 40 jurisdictions in the United States and Canada. Dr. Cooper is the author of The Political Economy of Electricity: Progressive Capitalism and the Struggle to Build a Sustainable Electric Power Sector (Praeger, 2017) and Power Shift: The Deployment of a 21st Century Electricity Sector and the Nuclear War to Stop It” (Vermont Law School, 2015).

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