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RTO Insider: Virginia SCC Gives IOUs a Pass on RPS Plans — for Now

Posted by K. Kaufman on May 5, 2021

RTO Insider examined Dominion Energy’s plan for three solar projects, quoting Virginia AEE’s Harry Godfrey on the need for diverse least-cost resources to meet VCEA requirements. Read snippets below and the full article here.

Utility Request to Combine RPS and IRP Plans Rejected

The Virginia State Corporation Commission on April 30 gave Dominion Energy the go-ahead to spend $10.4 million to build three solar projects totaling 82 MW, saying the company had submitted a “reasonable and prudent” plan for complying with the renewable portfolio standards of Virginia’s landmark Clean Economy Act (VCEA).

The commission also approved Appalachian Power’s RPS plan, which did not request any immediate spending.

But, acknowledging criticisms of the plans from clean energy advocates, the commission set more rigorous requirements for the utilities going forward while leaving some issues open for further debate, for example, a VCEA carve-out for distributed generation in low-income communities…

Critics complained the plan did not provide a “least-cost” option for reaching the VCEA’s 100% mandate, saying Dominion was using a too narrow reading of the VCEA, that focused only on one section of the law, requiring the SCC to approve new projects, advocates said. The company said the proceeding was limited to meeting the development targets in the VCEA, “not cost-effective compliance with the RPS program.” The commission disagreed, ordering a least-cost plan in future filings.

“The central issue in the case, from where we stand, was whether the Clean Economy Act that was passed in 2020 mandates that Dominion, and APCo build a bunch of solar, wind and energy storage projects, regardless of need or costs,” said Will Cleveland, senior attorney for the nonprofit Southern Environmental Law Center. “And we argued that the Clean Economy Act does not mandate that; it mandates a transition to zero-carbon energy.”

The utilities “were cherry-picking out the provisions that they liked, that fit with their business model … but it does not result in the optimal mix of resources, and it doesn’t result in the least-cost implementation,” said Harrison Godfrey, executive director of Virginia Advanced Energy Economy, a clean energy business association. “We care about a diversity of resources, and we care about that diversity in no small part because it [affects] reliability and affordability, fundamental things that are at the core of everything.”

Still, both Cleveland and Godfrey were encouraged by the requirements the SCC laid out for Dominion and Appalachian Power’s future RPS plans. The detailed list includes providing least-cost options for complying with the VCEA, updating the data used for fundamental load and business forecasting and commodity pricing, and detailed charts on how each utility has complied with the law’s RPS mandate.

Renewable power procured by “accelerated renewable energy buyers” — that is, large corporations, such as Walmart and Amazon — will not be counted toward the utilities’ RPS compliance, the rulings say.

Read the full article here.

Topics: State Policy, AEE In The News