Dominion and its customers beat the wet heat in Q3 2016

Virginia Electric and Power d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power said Oct. 24 that its strong electricity demand in the third quarter of this year was supported in part by two coal-fired units at its Yorktown plant that will need to be shut next April under EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).

The persistent hot and humid weather in July, August and September led to customers in the area served by Dominion Virginia Power and other interconnected utilities setting several all-time monthly records for electricity usage. Customers established monthly, consecutive month and quarterly usage records this past summer.

In the third quarter, electricity usage was 28,204,283 megawatt hours for Dominion Virginia Power customers and electric cooperative customers served by Dominion’s transmission system. The previous quarterly high was 27,306,147 megawatt hours for the third quarter in 2010.

Along with hot, humid weather, the company had an increase of 126,000 customers since the previous quarterly record was set. Dominion Virginia Power serves 2.5 million customers in its service territory.

“It was not a summer of extreme high temperatures, but it was very hot and humid for days on end and that drove demand,” said Robert M. Blue, president of Dominion Virginia Power. “Our integrated system of power stations and transmission lines were able to meet the increased demands reliably and effectively. We also worked with customers on conservation efforts, including declaring 10 ‘Smart Cooling’ days where customers enrolled in the voluntary program allow their air-conditioning units to cycle on and off to reduce energy demand at peak times.”

July and August usage set a two-month record. Customers used 20,009,612 MWh. The previous two-month record was 19,376,313 MWh in July and August 2010.

August set a record for most electricity used in a month. From Aug. 1 to Aug. 31, electricity usage was 10,016,899 MWh. The previous monthly record was 10,009,858 MWh set in January 2014 as a result of the polar vortex driving temperatures to record lows. 

July of this year was the third highest usage month on record at 9,992,713 MWh.

Across Dominion’s service area, power stations and transmission lines were up to the task of providing electricity to meet the public’s need for air conditioning to beat the heat, the utility added. Blue noted that in the last two years Dominion Virginia Power has completed two highly efficient natural gas-fueled power stations in Warren and Brunswick counties, Va., and is constructing a third in Greensville Count, Va. It also is adding solar generation at multiple sites to help reduce power imports from other states and lessen the reliance on coal.

While the Hampton Roads area fared well generation-wise this summer, the heat wave foretold potential problems for similar weather next year. On 20 different days over the July-August timeframe, Dominion was forced to rely on two aging coal-fueled generators to meet the demand. Yorktown Units 1 and 2 were pressed into action by PJM Interconnection. The Yorktown units do not meet current limits on environmental emissions. An Administrative Order issued by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows Units 1 and 2 to continue to operate only to ensure reliability as determined by PJM. Dominion will retire the two coal units next April when the EPA Administrative Order expires.

Dominion has proposed the Skiffes Creek transmission line that will run from Surry Nuclear Power Station to the Peninsula to alleviate the problem, but the project has been delayed by permitting processes and will not be completed by the time Yorktown Units 1 and 2 are retired.

Dominion on Oct. 18 told the Virginia State Corporation Commission that it is bracing for a series of grid fixes to compensate for the April 2017 retirement of the two coal units at Yorktown. The area around the plant in the Newport News/Hampton Roads area is cut through with major rivers, somewhat isolating the region due to the limited numbers of transmission lines crossing those rivers. The commission has approved the utility to build the Surry-Skiffes Creek Line, Skiffes Creek Switching Station, Skiffes Creek-Whealton Line and additional transmission facilities (collectively called the “Certificated Project”). But those projects are tied up in a long series of regulatory approvals that have been stalled by environmental and citizens group opposition.

Said Dominion’s Oct. 18 update: “In order to ensure reliability for the Peninsula while the Surry-Skiffes Creek Line is being constructed in anticipation of the Yorktown Unit 1 and 2 retirements, the Company is conducting a rigorous inspection and maintenance program (‘Inspection Program’). The focus of the Inspection Program is transmission lines and stations for assets that directly serve the Peninsula. This includes, but is not limited to, the lines and stations from Chickahominy east to Newport News, as well as lines from Surry and Chuckatuck that feed into the southern end of the Peninsula.”

The utility added: “If the Certificated Project is not in-service by the time that Yorktown Units 1 and 2 must retire to be in compliance with effective environmental regulations, then the plan for maintaining system reliability for the Peninsula will include careful planning of transmission outages and minimum work on assets on the Peninsula while the planned outages to support the construction of the Certificated Project outages are underway. Under some unplanned event scenarios, the reliability plan must include shedding of load in the amounts necessary to reduce stress on the system below critical demand levels. The shedding of load could occur in some instances at system load levels well below peak demand levels, on the order of 16,000 MW or higher. The exact system load level, load shed amounts and locations will be dependent on the circumstances that exist on the system at the time.”

The planned Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line, which would cross the James River between Surry County and James City County, has stirred opposition from historic preservation and environmental groups. They say the power line would mar a historic view of the James River as the first settlers of Jamestown saw it and would interfere with wildlife around the river. Yorktown’s three units are: Unit 1, coal, 159 MW; Unit 2, coal, 164 MW; and Unit 3, oil, 818 MW. The station is located on the York River near the Yorktown battlefield.

Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D), one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy. Dominion serves more than 6 million utility and retail energy customers. It has a portfolio of approximately 25,700 megawatts of generation, 14,400 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline, and 6,500 miles of electric transmission lines.

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.