Let’s put aside for a minute the environmental harm caused by natural gas fracking, pipeline infrastructure, burning of natural gas, etc, etc. Now, a new study by the highly respected Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) finds that, from a purely economic point of view, Dominion Energy’s monomaniacal, myopic “the answer to every problem is more gas” approach might benefit Dominion Energy itself, but not Dominion’s ratepayers or Virginia as a whole. First off, check out how much natural gas we could be locking in, foolishly, through 2030 if we let utilities like Dominion proceed along their (not-so) merry way.
So yeah, as PV Magazine puts it, “Rush to gas risks hundreds of billions in stranded assets.” Brilliant, huh? Not!
Also note how much more carbon pollution a natural-gas-heavy approach will mean: another 5 BILLION TONS of CO2 emissions through 2030 and “up to 16 billion tons through 2050.” That’s literally insane, given that basically every climate scientist says – emphatically – that we need to start slashing our CO2 emissions now, and basically eliminate them as quickly as possible, to avoid climate catastrophe.
But what, you ask, is the alternative to more natural gas, especially if we slash or even eliminate coal-fired power generation in this country? That’s where the RMI study comes in.
- Energy efficiency, wind, solar, distributed power: “Natural gas-fired power plants are not the only resource options capable of replacing retiring capacity. Renewable energy, including wind and solar, and distributed energy resources, including batteries, have fallen precipitously in price in the last 10 years.” Also note that energy efficiency reduces consumption, reduces peak load and helps flatten “ramps.”
- “Clean energy portfolios are cost-competitive with
proposed natural gas-fired power plants in four diverse
case studies from across the US.”
- “Clean energy portfolios are now able to provide the
same set of grid services as thermal power plants. Experience across the country suggests that clean energy portfolios can provide all of the same technical services as thermal power plants.”
- Check out the following tweet, which sums it all up nicely:
Within the next 10–20 years, it will likely be less expensive to build entirely new #cleanenergy portfolios that can perform the same #grid services as a gas plant than it will be to run existing gas plants. https://t.co/C8RAccnGF0 pic.twitter.com/PeastcfSRC
— Rocky Mountain Inst (@RockyMtnInst) May 22, 2018
I’d also point out that RMI’s study has a case study specifically looking at our region, the mid-Atlantic. The key findings in this case are that: 1) “The clean energy portfolio represents a potential 60% net-present cost reduction versus the proposed [simple-cycle natural gas combustion turbine] plant“; 2) “The clean energy portfolio avoids 1.3 million tons of CO2 over 20 years of the proposed plant’s operation”; and 3) “The clean energy portfolio resource mix is dominated by efficiency, demand response, and storage resources to provide peak savings and flexibility.”
Just to show how wildly different Dominion Energy’s thinking is from RMI’s, someone forwarded me an email from the “Dominion Energy Action Team” (lol, alrighty) earlier today. The subject line of this Dominion propaganda kind of says it all: “More pipelines needed to meet environmental goals.” Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and…did I mention wrong? Dominion’s bull**** continues:
Contrary to what anti-pipeline activists say, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and other major natural gas infrastructure projects will help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions while supplementing renewable energy. When necessary projects like these are delayed, it can result in far worse impacts when other, more carbon-intensive alternatives are used to meet demand.
Your action is needed today to overcome the final hurdle for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Virginia State Water Control Board (SWCB) is currently seeking written public comment until May 30 to decide whether individual stream crossings are adequately addressed by the Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12 program—even though the environmental professionals at the state Department of Environmental Quality authorized the use of that permit program more than a year ago—and even though the Corps already approved the permit for ACP months ago.
So yeah, that’s utter nonsense. The question is, why is Dominion so hell bent on moving in the wrong direction (natural gas) instead of the right direction (a cheaper, cleaner energy portfolio, as laid out by RMI)? For more on that subject, see Seeking Alpha’s recent article on Dominion, which finds that Dominion:
“…has also diversified into the midstream business to take advantage of America’s shale gas boom and the fast growing global liquefied natural gas or LNG export industry. The midstream business is also a good fit with Dominion’s plans to eventually shift entirely to cleaner energy sources, and away from dirtier and less economical coal power plants. That’s why today Dominion owns: 15,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering, storage, and distribution pipeline 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas storage capacity…
…The final growth catalyst for Dominion is in midstream growth opportunities designed to take advantage of America’s shale gas boom while also serving the needs of its regulated customers.
…In 2014, Dominion Energy launched an MLP, Dominion Midstream Partners. This was designed as a funding vehicle for monetizing and providing additional funding for its ambitious midstream expansion plans. The way it works is that Dominion Midstream raises debt and equity capital from investors looking for safe, generous, and fast growing income…
…the $4 billion Cove Point LNG facility is now complete, and began shipping LNG in April. Cove Point is 100% fully contracted for the next 20 years with inflation adjusted fixed rate contracts…
…Next, there’s Dominion’s 1.6 GW duel cycle natural gas power plant in Greensville, VA. That $1.3 billion project is 84% complete and expected to first fire up in late Q2 2018.”
In sum, Dominion is betting its company’s future HEAVILY on natural gas (e.g., the company plans to go from 39% natural gas in 2017 to 59% in 2033), and clearly they are hell bent on not letting anything stand in the way of that strategy. Hence, the barrage of advertising we’re all seeing on TV, social media, etc. in favor of their supposedly wondrous Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The question is, why would anyone who is NOT a Dominion Energy executive or shareholder buy Dominion’s propaganda? And why do the people of Virginia put up with Dominion’s crap, and not force them to move in the direction laid out by RMI? Can we say “climate of capitulation?” How about the slimy, corrupt “Virginia Way?” That largely sums up the problem; the big question is, what is the solution?