Dominion offers a gas-heavy plan, and a GHG-avoidance alternative

Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power filed an updated integrated resource plan (IRP) on Aug. 30 in Virginia that shows a range of future options, all of which have less coal generation in common.

Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion North Carolina Power has also filed this IRP with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The utility is a unit of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D). This story uses the version filed at the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

The utility said its Base Plan and the Fuel Diversity Plan have much in common. For example:

  • Both plans invest in new natural gas generation, including the Warren and Brunswick power stations, now under construction using advanced combined-cycle technology, and natural gas peaking units. “Natural gas prices continue to be near historic lows and the fuel produces significantly fewer emissions than other fossil fuel generation,” the utility noted.
  • Both plans continue to use the PJM Interconnection capacity and energy markets when it is in the best interests of the company’s customers to do so.
  • Both plans include demand-side management (DSM) programs that will reduce the system’s peak summer demand for electricity by 544 MW by 2028.
  • Both plans take major steps to comply with increasingly stringent environmental regulations and permitting requirements through the closure of six coal-fired units at the Chesapeake and Yorktown plants by 2015; by installation of advanced environmental controls on large oil-powered units at Yorktown and Possum Point by 2018; and by conversion of the two coal units at the Bremo Power Station to natural gas by 2014.
  • Both plans call for new facilities powered by renewable energy. This includes building on the company’s extensive use of wood biomass through the addition of a facility operated by a non-utility generator (NUG); another NUG facility powered by solid waste; and a third using solar energy.
  • Both plans include implementation of the company’s Solar Partnership Program (formerly called the Community Solar Program), which calls for installation of company-owned solar arrays on rooftops and other space leased from customers.

However, in some respects, especially over the longer term, the plans diverge. The Base Plan outlines a least-cost path forward for meeting future needs through the almost exclusive use of one resource, natural gas, for major future generation projects. For example, the Base Plan calls for two additional combined cycle facilities beyond the ones now under construction, with the first operational by 2019 and the second by 2027.

The Fuel Diversity Plan calls for only one additional gas-fired combined cycle facility, to be operational by 2019. The Fuel Diversity Plan also places a greater reliance on generation sources with little or no greenhouse (GHG) emissions, a characteristic that could become extremely important in a low-carbon future.

“Therefore, while following the resource expansion scenario of the Base Plan, the Company will concurrently move forward with continued evaluation and reasonable development efforts of the additional resources identified in the Fuel Diversity Plan,” said the IRP. These include:

  • Additional reliance on renewable energy, including new company-owned solar-powered generation facilities; development of three onshore wind facilities in western Virginia; and an Offshore Wind Demonstration Project off the coast of Virginia.
  • Continued development activities associated with constructing a third nuclear reactor at North Anna Power Station using economic simplified boiling water (ESBWR) technology from GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas LLC. “It must be emphasized that the Company has made no commitment to build this unit, and will make a final decision once it receives a Combined Operating License (COL) from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC),” the utility added. If the company decides to proceed, the unit would have a generating capacity of approximately 1,453 MW and reach commercial operation no earlier than October 2024.

The Base Plan, under current conditions, represents the least-cost option for dealing with increasing power demand but relies almost exclusively on gas for major future sources of generation. As an alternative, the Fuel Diversity Plan presents several other options, primarily over the longer term, including the potential for the expanded use of renewable and nuclear energy.

Utility drills down into the details of its future plans

Each plan calls for the addition of a 20-MW biomass facility operated by a NUG, Economic Power & Steam Generation LLC by 2015. This unit would join four company-operated facilities using wood waste, including the 83-MW Pittsylvania County Power Station and three coal-to-wood waste conversions, 51 MW each in size, at the Altavista, Southampton County and Hopewell plants. Also, the company’s new Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center (VCHEC) coal plant is equipped to co-fire with wood waste biomass, and will gradually increase its use of that resource. By 2020, 10%, or 60 MW, of the plant’s capacity is expected to be derived from biomass fuel.

Both plans also include a 15 MW project by a NUG, Energy Extraction Partners LLC, powered by solid waste. Both plans include 50 MW of solar generation to be provided by one or more NUGs by 2015, as well as 24 MW from the first phase of the Solar Partnership Program.

The Base Plan:

  • calls for the company to continue to take advantage of the economical supplies of power available to it in the wholesale market operated by PJM, with net market purchases averaging 127 MW of capacity and 12% of energy supplied to
  • customers annually during the planning period (2014-2028).
  • includes two major combined-cycle (CC) natural gas generation projects approved by the Virginia commission, including the 1,337 MW Warren County Power Station,
  • scheduled to be operational by 2015, and the 1,375 MW Brunswick County Power
  • Station, scheduled to be operational by 2016. It also includes the repowering of both units at Bremo from coal to natural gas, with a combined output of 227 MW, to be available by 2014. The Bremo conversion project plan is still pending before the SCC.
  • incorporates the effect of the retirements of 918 MW of coal-fired capacity at Chesapeake and Yorktown. The six units are scheduled for shutdown by 2015.
  • calls for installation of advanced environmental controls on two large oil-fired units at Yorktown and Possum Point, with a combined capacity of more than 1,600 MW. The retrofits will be completed by 2018. These units operate primarily during periods of peak demand, such as extremely hot summer days.
  • makes almost exclusive use of one fuel source: natural gas. It includes two additional CCs, with a total capacity of 2,750 MW, and three additional banks of combustion turbines (CTs), with a total capacity of 1,371 MW. These facilities would begin operation from 2019 to 2027.

Virginia Electric and Power’s regulated electric portfolio consists of 19,453 MW of generation capacity, including approximately 1,747 MW of NUG resources, over 6,400 miles of transmission lines at voltages ranging from 69 kV to 500 kV, and more than 56,919 miles of distribution lines at voltages ranging from 4 kV to 46 kV in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia.

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.