Groups push Dominion toward more renewables, efficiency in Va.

Within ten years, energy efficiency, solar and wind could power about a million Virginia homes—likely at a lower cost than building new fossil fuel-fired power plants—according to an analysis released Aug. 27 by groups including the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Bringing new clean energy sources online would cost between $633m and $1.78bn less than a plan by Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power to build two large natural gas-fired power plants, the report found. A coalition of environmental groups released the 30-page analysis in advance of Dominion’s 2013 integrated resource plan (IRP), which the company is required to file by Sept. 1 at the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The groups said they will encourage policymakers and the public to evaluate Dominion’s plan through the lens of this analysis.

To conduct the analysis, entitled “Changing Course: A Clean Energy Investment Plan for Dominion Virginia Power,” a team of three independent research firms – the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Optimal Energy, and Sommer Energy – examined options for increasing investments in clean energy sources at a level that is economically competitive, technologically feasible and currently viable under Virginia’s regulatory structure.

“Dominion is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and with its preferred resource plan, will continue to remain so for the indefinite future,” said David Schlissel, Director of Resource Planning Analysis for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and lead author for the report. “Our report shows that there is significant potential for energy efficiency and low-cost renewable solar and wind energy in Virginia, and that a less expensive, less risky clean energy alternative can be developed that would help protect Dominion’s customers from future fossil fuel cost increases and the costs of greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Virginia’s potential to save electricity through efficiency measures could be its biggest energy resource,” said Jeff Loiter, Managing Consultant with Optimal Energy. “Dominion’s current plan would achieve less than half of the 10 percent energy savings goal set by the Virginia General Assembly, and it pales in comparison to the potential we found in our analysis.”

Energy coalition launches p.r. campaign for cleaner alternatives

The report was commissioned by the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition, which released the findings in conjunction with the launch of a statewide campaign, “New Power for the Old Dominion.”

Highlights from the report include:

  • A clean energy plan that adds 3,810 MW of emissions-free renewable energy (2,450 MW solar, 360 MW land-based wind, and 1,000 offshore wind)  and conserves nearly 3,000 MW through energy efficiency would cost between $633m and $1.78bn less than Dominion’s current plan to build two large gas-fired power plants, including the recently-approved, 1,358-MW Brunswick County project.
  • According to the 2010 Virginia Energy Report, Virginia has the potential to generate over 41,000 MW of emissions-free solar and wind energy. The groups said Dominion has significant room for improvement, as its 2012 plan proposed adding just 282 MW (34 MW solar, 248 MW onshore wind, and 0 MW offshore wind), less than 1% of Virginia’s potential.
  • At a moderate energy savings rate of 1.3% a year, a clean energy plan could yield nearly 3,000 MW by 2027. Yet Dominion’s current plan yields only 821 MW of savings by then, less than one-third of the company’s modest potential and less than half of the states’ voluntary 10% goal, the groups said.
  • A clean energy plan that replaces Dominion’s current plan to build two fossil-fired power plants would reduce the company’s CO2 emissions by 31 million tons between 2014 and 2027, and by another 121 million tons between 2027 and 2037.

Dominion Virginia Power, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D), on Aug. 2 received permission from the Virginia commission to construct a 1,358-MW, natural gas-fueled station near Lawrenceville in Brunswick County. The combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power station will serve growing customer demand and replace electricity from aging coal-fired power stations that are being retired for economic and environmental reasons.

The Brunswick County plant will in part replace 918-MW of coal-fired capacity that the utility plans to shut over the next couple of years at the Yorktown and Chesapeake plants due to the age of that capacity and a need for clean-air compliance.

Dominion Resources said April 25 that turbines and generators have been installed at its 1,300-MW Warren County combined-cycle natural gas plant under construction near Front Royal, Va. That project is expected to come online in late 2014, Richmond-based Dominion said.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.