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Audio: Top National CleanTech Podcast Rips Dominion Energy, Dick Saslaw, Other Elected Officials for Holding Virginia Back on Renewable Power Development

Dominion's "abuse of power is just really really extraordinary"; "the most egregious person is Dick Saslaw"


For those of us who are energy geeks, we turn every week – or most  weeks, anyway – to the “Energy Gang” podcast, one of the best podcasts in the world for anyone who cares about clean energy scaling, “cleantech” more broadly, and combating climate change by switching off of fossil fuels as rapidly as possible. The hosts of the show, by the way, are Stephen Lacey (@Stphn_Lacey), editor-in-chief of Greentech Media; Jigar Shah (@JIgarShahDC), founder of Sun Edison & president of Generate Capital; and Katherine Hamilton (@CleanGridView), Chair of 38 North Solutions.

A segment of the April 12 edition particularly caught my attention, as it dealt with topics near and (not-so-)dear to my heart: Dominion Energy, Dick Saslaw, and the corruption of Virginia’s political system. Check it out, below, starting at 27:20 in the program. Also, see below the audio for a few highlights…

  • Katherine Hamilton noted that a lot of rural coops “don’t even have broadband,” which is unfortunate for a bunch of reasons, including that broadband’s “really really important to get clean energy and solar installed.”
  • Hamilton pointed out that “one of the big problems is that Virginia customers pay a lot more on their electric bills than North Carolina because they have not invested as much as they should have in energy efficiency…”
  • On a relatively positive note, Hamilton explained, “There are 17,000 megawatts of solar in the PJM queue just in Dominion’s service territory. So it’s starting…” [note by Lowell: that 17,000 MW number seems very high to me…]
  • But “Virginia’s still kind of on the starting block…We need to get a lot more done, and Dominion has a huge amount of influence over both the General Assembly and the Virginia [State] Corporation Commission.”
  • Hamilton said, correctly, that Dominion wants “to control what happens in the Commonwealth…dictate how much of everything is built…they would rather not have a lot of third parties…Dominion is really loathe to collaborate…[Dominion believes]…we control everything in the state…as electricity is concerned and we don’t need anybody else…That’s going to have to start to change.”
  • Jigar Shah argued that Virginia is called the “Dominion State” because “Dominion runs that place with an iron fist…Dominion has every single politician under its thumb.”
  • Shah argued that “the most egregious person is Dick Saslaw, who’s…the head of the Democrats in the [Senate], won’t let anything through that Dominion doesn’t want…the solar industry had to hire a mediator…to try to get stuff done…Without the Rubin Group at the table they just couldn’t figure out a way to even have a coherent conversation between the legislature, the governor’s office and Dominion.”
  • Shah: “There’s a lot of people who deserve a huge amount of criticism in Virginia, including all of their elected officials, like Sen. Mark Warner…who was also in the pocket of Dominion [when he was governor].”
  • Shah: Dominion’s “abuse of power is just really really extraordinary…I think it’s great that they’re building 17,000 MW of solar…but I just think some of their practices have really been terrible.”
  • Hamilton: Virginia is one of the major hubs in the world for data centers “and all these corporations are saying we need renewable energy,” but Virginia is “being overshadowed in renewable energy development…even when they are training [solar workers] in the community colleges…in Virginia, they’re hired in North Carolina, because they can’t get jobs in Virginia.”
  • Hamilton: “There’s potential for a lot more; it’s one of those states that you feel like SHOULD be much farther along than it is, but because there are so many entrenched interests it’s not. And yet there’s just a surge of interest from developers and now from the citizens of the Commonwealth to try to change it.”
  • Hamilton: People in Appalachia, including her brother, “are desperate to try to change the way people in that area live…and to try to do things differently, and if that means they have to do something outside of Dominion or find some work-arounds, they will.
  • Shah: “Amazon is desperate to…be 100% renewable energy, but Dominion has been so slow to install solar in the state, that they haven’t been able to keep up with the data centers that they’ve promised to power with solar…70% of all the internet traffic in…the world flows through the Dulles corridor.”


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