Five Things to Look for as Dominion Virginia Power Lays out Long-Range Energy Plan
Dominion Virginia Power is required to file its 2013 long-range energy plan with the Virginia State Corporation Commission by September 1. Critical decisions about how a utility will meet its customer’s electricity needs over the next 15 years are typically laid out in these “Integrated Resource Plan” (IRP) filings.
A report released earlier this week by a team of independent research firms showed that accelerating investments in clean energy resources would be less expensive and less risky for Dominion and its customers compared to the company’s business-as-usual approach. The report, “Changing Course: A Clean Energy Investment Plan for Dominion Virginia Power,” which was commissioned by the Wise Energy for Virginia coalition, uses concrete data to show how Dominion can meet its energy needs by increasing investments in solar, wind, and energy efficiency at a cost between $633 million and $1.78 billion less than Dominion’s current plans.
The issue now is whether Dominion is moving away from an outdated energy plan and pursuing these clean energy options. To gauge this, here are five things to look for when reviewing Dominion’s forthcoming IRP:
1. Does Dominion commit to at least 700 megawatts (MW) of solar energy over first half of the IRP timeline?
Dominion is currently building 30 MW of solar energy in Virginia – enough to power almost 2,900 homes. Its 2012 IRP predicted a paltry 10 MW of increased commitment to solar energy over the next 15 years and did not evaluate how customer-owned rooftop solar would benefit the grid. Compare this to Georgia, where state regulators, after reviewing Georgia Power’s IRP this summer, are requiring the utility to add 525 MW of new solar capacity (in addition to 210 MW previously approved in 2012) by the end 2016 without increasing rates. The Changing Course report estimates that Dominion-owned and customer-owned solar could increase by at least 200 MW a year.
2. Has Dominion planned to fully take advantage of 2000 MW of offshore wind potential in the Virginia Offshore Wind Energy Area located about 23 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach?
While Dominion’s 2012 IRP did not select a plan with any offshore wind investments over the next 15 years, the company has publicly stated that it will bid in the federal government’s September 4th competitive lease auction of the approximately 113,000 acre Virginia Offshore Wind Energy Area. The area could supply at least 2,000 MW of offshore wind power. Dominion’s next IRP should include plans to build out this resource and to have significant generation (at least 1,000 MW) in operation within the next ten years.
3. Does Dominion plan to establish energy efficiency programs to reach, at a minimum, Virginia’s modest, voluntary 10% energy conservation goal by 2022?
Dominion’s current trajectory includes a level of energy efficiency that fails to reach even half of Virginia’s 10% goal. The 2012 IRP did not include any increase in efficiency programs beyond those already in place, even though energy efficiency is Dominion’s lowest-cost resource option. However, the Changing Course report revealed that Dominion could implement programs that would cost-effectively conserve 1.3% of energy sales each year going forward, for a total of almost 3,000 MW by 2027.
4. Will Dominion move forward with plans to retire some of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired units in its Virginia fleet?
Dominion’s 2012 IRP included plans to retire four units at Chesapeake Energy Center and two units at Yorktown Power Station, all of which were constructed in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Not only are these units old and heavily-polluting, they are extremely expensive to operate and retiring them is of great economic benefit to ratepayers.
5. Will Dominion continue to increase emissions of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change and lead to substantial costs that all Virginians must bear?
The Changing Course report notes that under Dominion’s 2012 IRP, annual carbon dioxide emissions would increase by more than 50 percent between 2013 and 2037. Accelerating investments in clean energy options like wind, solar, and efficiency would begin to slow the company’s contribution to climate change pollution and would reduce the risk of rate increases from carbon costs and higher fossil fuel prices.
The above release was distributed by the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition, of which SELC is a member.