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The Virginia Pilot (Opinion): Dominion’s Power Decision Leaves Virginia with Questions

Posted by Harry Godfrey on May 26, 2021

The Virginia Pilot ran Virginia Advanced Energy Economy Director, Harry Godfrey’s opinion piece on Dominion’s exit from the PJM capacity market. Read snippets below and the full article here.

Earlier this year, America watched in shock as the Texas electrical grid all but collapsed in the midst of an historic winter storm. With power plants and pipelines hobbled by cold weather, Texans were left to huddle in their homes for days without light, heat and, in many cases, running water. Could that happen in Virginia?

On its face, this nightmare scenario seems far less likely here. Virginia is connected to an expansive regional grid known as PJM, which stretches from our southern border north to New York and west to Chicago. This makes Virginia very different from Texas, which has its grid isolated from other states. Our grid’s interconnectedness gives us backup when it is needed and allows us to share resources with our neighbors to reduce costs and improve reliability.

Unfortunately, Dominion Energy appears to be pulling out of PJM’s regional market in important ways, and moving toward an insular, “go it alone” approach, raising questions about what that means for customers in Virginia.

In January, Dominion quietly informed PJM that it would be opting out of the regional capacity market, instead submitting its own plan for maintaining sufficient generating capacity under a little-used mechanism called the Fixed Resource Requirement (FRR). Under FRR, the utility takes sole responsibility for meeting its reliability needs, forfeiting the savings and reliability benefits of shared regional power plant capacity that the PJM market provides. “Don’t worry about us,” the company is telling federal regulators, in effect. “Winter Storms? Heat waves? We got this.”… 

Dominion’s decision to go FRR raises questions around reliability. Will the utility have enough reserve capacity to keep the lights on during times of peak demand — today and tomorrow? The utility’s own projections point to rising demand for electricity due in large part to the proliferation of data centers and the increasing electrification of transportation...

Dominion's move [also] raises questions that can't be answered without a public process. Lawmakers and regulators need to hold hearings, compel the utility to explain why it's made this decision, and uncover the cost of this decision to consumers...

This action raises a fundamental question: How could our largest public utility make such a significant decision without a public process, let alone the approval of those who provide oversight? Clearly there is the need for reform of the system that oversees Dominion to ensure they're serving us - and not the other way around.

Read the full article here.

Topics: Virginia, AEE In The News