Over the last two weeks, four experienced CFACT analysts – David Wojick, Paul Driessen, Charles Battig, and myself – have reviewed the Virginia Clean Energy Act (VCEA), passed in April of this year, and commented both on the legal framework it provides for electric energy production in the Commonwealth and also on the required mandates it imposes on Dominion Energy, the regulated monopoly authorized by law to provide electric energy for Virginia.
The reason for this enhanced attention to the VCEA is that it is one of the first pieces of energy legislation in the US, formulated by a Democratic controlled Legislature and signed by a Democrat Governor, Ralph Northam, which purports to provide electricity under a mandate of “net zero” carbon dioxide “emission” by 2050. In other words, it is legislation crafted by “green” activists to fulfill their belief that the release of manmade CO2 during the production of energy should be cut to zero.
This radical philosophy, which is embodied perfectly in the “Green New Deal”, is a doctrine fervently embraced by the far-left wing of the environmental movement.
What kind of electric energy world would this philosophy, when put into actual practice, impose on Virginia consumers? What would it cost? What would it do to the Virginia countryside? Would it be reliable? How would the State Corporation Commission – the body which historically has been responsible for regulating Dominion’s electricity monopoly – implement the novel directives contained in the VCEA?
The answers to these questions – confirmed by the veteran observers noted above – are shocking and appalling. Never before in Virginia’s history has there been a legislative mandate of such sweeping and radical proportions for electrical generation.
CFACT’s comprehensive analysis confirms that the VCEA will result in:
– a massive increase in the yearly electricity bill for the average Virginia family of $500 per year, a 40% increase over levels without the VCEA;
– a blighting of the Virginia landscape with hundreds of thousands of acres of new solar panel farms and high-tension transmission lines;
– over $30 billion in increased capital costs for electrical infrastructure, which does not even include the new engineering expense embedded in such novel distribution facilities; and
– a blend of electricity sources which will severely undermine the reliability of electricity production, especially when (spoiler alert) the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.
So radical are these mandates that, for the first time in history, the State Corporation Commission has effectively been entirely stripped of its authority to regulate electricity generation in Virginia, thereby jettisoning the SCC’s historical responsibility to assure Virginians of both the lowest possible cost of electricity coupled with the highest reliability.
The CFACT analysis also discovered a number of other dangerous consequences which will be levied on the average Virginia family by the VCEA:
- The increase in average annual electricity prices extracted from Virginia electricity rate payers will amount to an additional $2,250,000,000 annually in order to finance the pipe dreams of the eco-left;
- The construction of massive offshore wind facilities that will require significantly elevated levels of cement, steel, and rare earth metals because they will lie in the path of Atlantic hurricanes. Just think of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy on New York City, and then imagine what would have happened to the VA offshore wind farms, which would have been located directly in its path. And to make matters worse, the wind farms will be subject to the annual “Bermuda High”, which sits off the VA coast for weeks at a time during the summer, meaning that no wind will be activating the turbine blades, and thus no electricity will be generated for the air conditioners of Virginians who will be broiling in the summer heat. Because wind is so unreliable, every similar wind farm in the United States requires backup generation capability powered by diesel or natural gas, an expense not even included in the Dominion plan.
And don’t forget – because Dominion is a regulated monopoly – every expense which it incurs as a result of the VCEA will be paid for, one way or the other, by VA ratepayers, in order to assure that Dominion shareholders earn a legally required return on capital.
As CFACT analyst Paul Driessen points out, the VCEA requires – like the famous quote from the Vietnam war – that the Virginia countryside must be destroyed in order to save it. The new solar fields coerced by the VCEA will blanket 490 square miles of Virginia farm and forest land – an area nearly half the size of the State of Rhode Island and eight times the size of the District of Columbia – in order to generate the solar power required by the VCEA.
In addition, Dominion will need to construct four massive interstate transmission lines at a cost of $8.4 billion to carry electricity from these solar fields to consumers. Let’s just see what the county zoning commissions – much less the voters – of each impacted county have to say about the placement of these transmission lines and solar fields in their backyards. Better yet, let’s just see what the voters have to say to the politicians who voted for the VCEA when they come up for re-election. As one of the CFACT analysts concluded, “There is nothing clean, green, renewable or sustainable about the VCEA”.
And then the question becomes: All of this cost, unreliability, and environmental degradation is required exactly for ……… what? Certainly not cheaper or more reliable energy.
As I pointed out in my previous article on this subject:
The VCEA has absolutely zero positive impact on climate, and a devastating negative impact on the environment. Under the VCEA, Virginia will not have cleaner air, purer water, or a more beautiful countryside. Fifteen years from now, not a single Virginian will be able to feel, touch, or smell any difference or improvement in the environment resulting from the VCEA. But they will be able to see a landscape ruined by solar panel eyesores and ugly transmission towers.
In summary, the VCEA will result in:
- an annual additional electricity cost of $500 per household.
- an additional $30 billion in capital cost for electrical infrastructure.
- the ruination of hundreds of thousands of acres of Virginia countryside and wildlife habitat by solar farms, electric transmission line, and ugly towers.
- the degradation of electrical system reliability, such that there will be no capability of power restoration, to quote Dominion, “in the event of a large-scale blackout”.
In short, for the Virginia consumer, it is all pocketbook pain, and no climate gain.
By embracing radical environmentalism, Virginia seems to be vying with California for the title of the creator of the most destructive and unreliable energy policy at the highest cost to its citizens in the country. When these consequences become known to Virginia voters – and they will – the VCEA may ultimately become known as the “Political Career-Ending Energy Act of 2019”.
Predictably, Virginia politicians who voted for this catastrophic piece of legislation will try to blame Dominion Energy for its disastrous consequences.
Good luck with that. Virginia voters are smart enough to see through that smokescreen.
Are you listening Governor Ralph Northam, Senate Majority Leader Dick Daskaw, Attorney General Mark Herring, and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn?