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Dominion Energy Appears to Be Circulating an Alternative to the Virginia Clean Economy Act…and It Doesn’t Look Good

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The following bill (click here and/or see below the bullet points) was sent to me by a source, who said this is “Dominion’s alternative to the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), that it “would be an amendment to another bill in committee, so it is not anywhere on the Legislative Information System, but is being quietly shopped around to legislators.” After a quick glance at this, a few key phrases jump out at me, such as:

  • “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the Commonwealth that each Phase II Utility, as defined in subdivision A1 of §56-585.1 of the Code of Virginia (Phase II Utility), and each competitive service provider operating within the certificated service territory in the Commonwealth of a Phase II Utility, be net zero by 2045 with respect to emissions of carbon dioxide resulting from the generation of electricity.
  • By 2030, not less than 55 percent of the electricity generated by a Phase II Utility or provided by a competitive service provider operating within the certificated service territory in the Commonwealth of a Phase II Utility shall be produced from carbon-free sources, including in-state nuclear, wind, solar, storage including pump storage, and wind-powered facilities sited off the coast of the Commonwealth;
  • By 2036, not less than 65 percent of the electricity generated by a Phase II Utility or provided by a competitive service provider operating within the certificated service territory in the Commonwealth of a Phase II Utility shall be produced from carbon-free sources, including in-state nuclear, wind, solar, storage including pump storage, and wind generated off the coast of the Commonwealth.”
  • What’s weird about this bill is it only appears to cover a “Phase II Utility,” which as far as I’m aware, is only Dominion Energy! So this bill, apparently, wouldn’t apply to Appalachian Power (a “Phase I Utility”) or any other “competitive service provider” (see here for a list) in Appalachian Power’s service territory, but *would* apparently apply to Dominion and to other “competitive service providers” (e.g., NOT co-ops or municipal utilities) within Dominion’s service territory? It’s confusing…also a big deal. And also very weird, IMHO. I mean, why on earth would we want a major bill like this, on such an important area, to only cover parts of the state and not others, certain utilities and not others, etc.?
  • I definitely don’t think it’s an “apples to apples” comparison, but just a reminder that the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) calls for “somewhat under 30%” from renewable electricity (not counting nuclear power, which makes up around 30% of Virginia’s electricity generation) by 2030, and somewhere around 40% from renewable energy (again, not counting nuclear power) by 2036.
  • In terms of Virginia being “net zero” (however that’s defined, and it’s not clear in this bill – does it include “REC”s, for instance?) regarding carbon pollution from electricity generation, this proposed substitute bill is talking about 2045 – but again, only for Dominion and other “competitive service providers” (e.g., NOT co-ops or municipal utilities) in its territory – whereas the VCEA seems to be talking about 2050, but…for the entire state. And again, we definitely don’t appear to be comparing “apples to apples” here.
  • By the way, if I’ve learned *anything* the past few weeks, it’s that the devil’s *really* in the details – somewhat by the nature of the subject material, and somewhat by design, I cynically suspect, so that nobody understands this fully other than the corporate interests, lobbyists, etc. behind the legislation – with power utility regulation bills!
  • Bottom line: Dominion seems to want to extend its gravy train from the “Grid Transformation and Security Act” (GTSA, aka the “Dominion Bill”) well into the future, but I’m not sure I’m seeing any new commitments from them. Plus, this bill doesn’t seem to cover the entire state or define “net zero” or do much for energy efficiency (which is absolutely crucial) beyond GTSA, or… Also, there doesn’t appear to be anything for customer solar/”distributed generation” in here. All of which makes this bill seem like a red herring, not a real plan, and really more a way for Dominion to de facto oppose the VCEA, while appearing to do something good.  
  • Finally, a side note: it’s interesting to see that the last edits on this bill were by veteran senior Legislative Services attorney Frank Munyan on January 16 at 9:35 am. Why that’s interesting is that, a bit later that day, Munyan basically pulled a “take this job and shove it” move, gathering up his papers and walking out, never to return.

P.S. Also note the inclusion of pumped storage (written here, oddly, as “pump storage”) – which is not necessarily carbon free.