Dominion Power caught off-guard
During the four years since Dominion Energy announced its intention to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, one key regulatory agency, the State Corporation Commission, has been notably silent. Now, the commission’s reticence appears to be lifting. On Dec. 7, the SCC rejected Dominion’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), an annual report in which the company lays out investments it intends to make over the next 15 years. The regulators sent the plan back to Dominion with instructions to correct specific shortcomings and re-file within 90 days. This action is unprecedented and may signal a new era of heightened scrutiny over Dominion’s actions.
Dominion’s IRP’s shortcomings are numerous and serious. Of particular interest here in Central Virginia, the SCC found that Dominion’s load growth figures were much higher than the figures of PJM Interconnection, the regional body that sets Dominion’s capacity obligation. The SCC ordered Dominion to use PJM’s figures in their revised IRP. Using lower demand projections is likely to call into question the case for the ACP.
Dominion appears to have approached the IRP with a “business as usual” attitude, confident the SCC would approve the plan, like it always has.
That same overconfidence contributed to the many problems dogging Dominion’s ACP. They were confident the rubber-stamp Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would grant the needed permit; they had strong support from then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the General Assembly; and they had extensive legal and public relations resources. Given this scenario, they may have felt comfortable that any challenges to the pipeline proposal could easily be brushed aside.
But Dominion has apparently been caught off guard. Four years after Dominion announced its plan, the pipeline is at least a year behind schedule, a minimum of $2 billion over cost and faces court challenges and adverse rulings on numerous fronts.
It’s time for Dominion to reconsider its outmoded business model and follow the lead of forward-looking utilities like Xcel Energy, which just announced its goal of 80 percent clean energy by 2030 rising to 100 percent by 2040. If Dominion had committed as much money and effort to pursuing clean energy as it has to pushing the ACP, they could have vaulted into the top ranks of progressive utilities. Instead, as they slog ahead on the deeply flawed ACP, they are cementing their reputation as a company that relies on political power to plump its profits while giving their customers larger bills instead of 21st century service.
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