SELC: Dominion proposes to gold plate Virginia’s energy grid

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The Southern Environmental Law Center submitted expert testimony on behalf of Appalachian Voices in Dominion Energy’s third attempt to receive approval for projects that it claims will modernize its grid distribution system.

Dominion initiated a proceeding in front of Virginia’s State Corporation Commission earlier this year, seeking approval of a proposal to spend $778 million dollars on projects that will raise customers’ bills, but with little evidence that service will improve for customers. This request is for just the first two years of a 10-year, $3.2 billion plan.

The expert testimony submitted today recommends that the SCC reject Dominion’s proposal, which not only departs significantly from standard industry practice, but is predicated on a flawed analysis that exaggerates benefits and fails to consider numerous other options likely to deliver the same or similar benefits at a fraction of the cost.

“Dominion is yet again asking to spend hundreds of millions of customer dollars on unnecessary and unproven projects,” said SELC Senior Attorney Nate Benforado. “What Dominion hasn’t shown is how these projects will benefit customers and help Virginia transition to carbon-free electricity. This massive proposal would produce a more expensive grid that works for Dominion’s shareholders, not Virginians.”

Dominion has made two previous attempts to secure SCC approval of its grid plans pursuant to the 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act. The SCC, however, has rejected the vast majority of these prior proposals, finding that Dominion had not proven its projects would sufficiently benefit customers.

The SCC’s regulatory authority over business and economic interests in Virginia is critical to protecting Virginians from monopoly utility overreach, and it is critical to achieving a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2045, as mandated by the Virginia Clean Economy Act.

“If Dominion wants to collect money from its customers, it has to prove that customers will be better off,” said Appalachian Voices Virginia Policy Director Peter Anderson. “This seems like another attempt at gold-plating our electricity grid instead of focusing on a least-cost transition to a zero-carbon grid.”

SELC is recommending that the SCC reject Dominion’s plan. Before committing the entire grid to costly and unproven projects, the expert testimony notes that the Commission could alternatively choose to convert a select few of Dominion’s proposed projects into pilot studies to determine whether their benefits are commensurate with their costs. SELC will participate in a hearing before the SCC beginning on Oct. 12.


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