One of the best podcasts around is Greentech Media’s “The Energy Gang,” “weekly debates and discussions on the fast-changing world of energy” with Stephen Lacey of Greentech Media, Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum‘s Future of Energy Global Future Council Katherine Hamilton, and Jigar Shah of Generate Capital. Given that it’s the end of the year and the decade, this past week’s episode not surprisingly “look[ed] back over the last decade and look[ed] forward to the next decade.”
The entire discussion was interesting, and I encourage you to listen (the audio is available here and embedded below), but one part in particular jumped out at me as relevant to Virginia, and specifically Dominion Energy. Check it out, starting at 41:25:
“I think that what we’ve gotten out of this last decade and we’re going into the next decade with is the ‘four d’s’ of modern infrastructure…going forward [it] will be decentralized – from big, monolithic, inflexible to small, distributed and resilient. I think it’s going to be decarbonized, because I think we’ll have solutions for most infrastructure that’s getting deployed. I think we’re going digital…moving away from analog, and we’re going to be monitoring stuff with 5G, etc. And I think it’s going to be largely democratized, away from regulated monopolies to customer choice. And so, what that enables it allowing smaller and smaller democratic jurisdictions to make decisions…where people just start to do this directly…I think it will actually unlock the largest business trend of the next 10 years.”
Now, compare that “four d’s” view of modern infrastructure, including major utilities’ power generation and transmission infrastructure, to where Dominion Energy is at right now and where it could/should be moving over the next decade.
- Is Dominion Energy decentralized? Hell no. To the contrary, Dominion is basically a big, plodding dinosaur from an era – the 20th century – when power utilities were all about being “monopoly providers of a whole bundle of electricity services in a given geographic area,” running a “‘hub and spoke’ grid [that] was built to be big, dumb, and one-way only, producing electricity at central-station power plants and spilling it through lines into consumer homes and businesses.” Clearly, Dominion needs to change – in a big way. But will it? Right now, it doesn’t seem like Dominion “gets it.” Or maybe it *does* “get it,” but simply has decided to dig in its well-entrenched heels and fight to delay the inevitable for as many years as possible. That, in theory, is where our state’s legislature should come in, telling Dominion that that’s not going to cut it, and that they either will change on their own or they’ll be forced to change. Of course, the fact that Dominion largely *controls* that very legislature means that the people who are supposed to be doing that important job quite possibly won’t do it for years to come, if ever. And that situation, obviously, is unacceptable.
- Is Dominion Energy decarbonized and/or rapidly decarbonizing? Again, hell no! Instead of moving as rapidly as possible towards energy efficiency, wind and solar, instead Dominion has doubled down (two more “d”s) on destructive, dirty fracked gas, including the multi-billion-dollar Atlantic Coast Pipeline boondoggle, which is basically the polar opposite of what Dominion should be doing and what we all *need* Dominion to be doing. So why even stick with Dominion at this point, given its clear unwillingness to necessary change? There’s frankly no good reason, but there are a bunch of bad reasons, starting with – as noted above – Dominion’s corrupt control of the very people who should be telling IT what to do and holding ITS corporate feet to the proverbial fire.
- Is Dominion Energy digital? Somewhat, but overall it doesn’t seem to be going very well. For instance, see Virginia rejects majority of Dominion’s $6B grid modernization plan, smart meter rollout from January 2019, when the Virginia State Corporation Commission “rejected large portions of Dominion Energy’s grid transformation proposal, including smart meter deployment and other modernization efforts,” basically because Dominion’s plan was “significantly lacking in detail,” “expensive,” and basically a case of “[s]pending money first and hoping it works out is not prudent planning.” So…yeah, long way to go on this front.
- Is Dominion Energy democratized? Hahahaha, that’s very funny. But seriously? No. No. No. No. No. To the contrary, Dominion’s about as non-democratized as a company can get, and it appears to have zero desire to become more democratized in the future. Thus, far from being seen by Tom Farrell et al as a positive thing, “customer choice” in providing for their homes’ and businesses’ power needs is viewed at Dominion HQ as a dire threat to the company’s cushy, profitable, protected gravy train. Thus, Dominion’s hostility to distributed power – rooftop solar, community solar – anyone but Dominion controlling anything, opening Virginia up to real competition in power markets, etc. Also note Dominion’s hostility to campaign finance and/or ethics reforms that might reduce its deleterious influence on our state’s politics. So…nope, Dominion is not interested in any democratization, as it is enjoying the current, anti-democratic/quasi-authoritarian (when it comes to the Virginia power sector) system just fine, thank you very much.
In sum, Dominion starts with the letter “d,” but in terms of the “four d’s” laid out by Jigar Shah, it’s the diametric opposite. And that situation has to change, ASAP.