Dominion has filed requests for declaratory judgment alleging that Direct Energy and Calpine Energy Solutions, two competitive service providers (“CSPs”), are not providing full renewable energy service to their customers. Dominion’s argument is based on a claim that these CSPs do not have “control” of sufficient renewable energy resources in order to provide lawful renewable energy service. Dominion’s pleadings do not define “control” or the standards that Dominion believes should be imposed on competitive suppliers. Direct Energy and Calpine are attempting to serve customers pursuant to Va. Code § 56-577 A 5, which allows CSPs to provide 100% renewable energy service to customers if the incumbent utility does not offer an approved 100% renewable energy tariff. (Dominion has filed a request for approval of what it characterizes as a 100% renewable tariff, which is currently pending before the SCC. The CSPs have alleged that Dominion’s pleadings in this case are part of an effort to “run out the clock,” to prevent customers from enrolling with CSPs before Dominion’s tariff is approved and forecloses customer choice for renewable energy.)
On August 22, the SCC entered an Order requiring Dominion “to immediately resume processing enrollment requests under Section A 5 for customers who wish to purchase” renewable energy from the CSPs. The SCC’s Order, however, did not rule on the merits of Dominion’s Petitions. A final ruling on whether or not Dominion’s proposed conditions should be imposed on CSPs is still pending. The transcript from the August 20 hearing is now posted online.
(2) Dominion files direct testimony supporting approval of battery storage pilot program – Case No. PUR-2019-00124
Dominion has requested approval to implement three battery storage projects, including one storage project at an existing utility scale solar facility. Dominion proposes to deploy two 2 MW batteries at existing substations and a 10 MW system at the company’s Scott solar facility. The total cost of the facilities is approximately $33 million. The 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act directed the SCC to conduct a battery storage pilot program, and for Dominion to file an application proposing new storage resources. The legislation also provided that the costs of the battery storage pilot program shall be recovered through Dominion’s rates. This means that customers will not see a separate rate adjustment clause rider on their electric bills. The SCC will hold an evidentiary hearing on January 14, 2020. Interested parties may intervene on or before October 15.
(3) SCC establishes new rulemaking to evaluate changes to net metering regulations – Case No. PUR-2019-00119
The SCC has established a rulemaking docket to consider changes to Virginia’s net metering regulations for customers of cooperative utilities. The SCC noted that in 2019, the General Assembly amended the net metering statute for customers of Virginia’s electric cooperatives. These amendments added new Code sections to “(1) introduce new caps on participation in net metering by customers of electric cooperatives; (2) authorize electric cooperatives to vote to increase these caps up to a cumulative total of seven percent of their system peak; (3) permit third-party partial requirements power purchase agreements for those retail customers and nonjurisdictional customers of an electric cooperative that are exempt from federal income taxation; and (4) establish registration requirements for third-party partial requirements power purchase agreements, including a self-certification system whereby such providers would be added to a registry maintained by the Commission's Division of Public Utility Regulation.”
The SCC is permitted by law promulgate regulations when necessary to implement utility laws passed by the General Assembly. The Commission’s order establishing the proceeding included draft rules; interested parties may comment on the draft rules or request a hearing on or before October 11.
(4) Dominion continues to propose 10 new gas plants in update to its Integrated Resource Plan – Case No. PUR-2019-00141
On August 30, Dominion filed its 2019 IRP update. The purpose of IRP “update” filings is to notify the Commission of any major changes in the utility’s planning that occur between the years when full IRPs are filed. Dominion stated that its objective in its 2019 IRP update “is to provide a discussion of significant events requiring a major revision to the [2018 IRP].” Dominion notes that “the regulation of electric sector carbon dioxide emissions remains the most significant uncertainty,” but Dominion believes that carbon regulation is now “imminent.” Dominion also notes that it recently “committed to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050” and also put forth a five-year plan that includes development of offshore wind, a new pumped hydroelectric storage facility, additional solar photovoltaic resources, and distribution system modernization.” Nonetheless, the IRP update still includes 2,400 MW of new gas-fired combustion turbine generating facilities between 2019 and 2044. The IRP update does not address Dominion Energy’s continued investment in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which Dominion Energy has said will supply existing and new natural gas generation facilities.
Natural gas cases
(1) Dominion seeks approval of new affiliate agreement for natural gas and fuel oil purchases – Case No. PUR-2019-00137
Dominion is seeking SCC approval of a revised fuel procurement agreement between two subsidiaries of Dominion Energy. The two affiliated companies buy and sell natural gas and fuel oil and manage Dominion’s fuel procurement activities. Dominion is requesting approval of the agreement under Virginia’s Affiliates Act (Chapter 4 of Title 56). The Affiliates Act requires the SCC to approve agreements between regulated utilities and affiliated companies.
(2) Hearing transcript posted from Roanoke Gas rate case hearing – Case No. PUR-2018-00013
Roanoke Gas, a gas distribution company with 61,000 customers in western Virginia, is seeking a $10.5 million rate increase. One issue in dispute concerns the utility’s proposal to recover a portion of MVP-related costs from its general ratepayers. An affiliate of Roanoke Gas owns a 1% stake in the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. Roanoke Gas has already entered into a 20-year purchase agreement with MVP. The SCC Staff has questioned the need for the capacity provided by the MVP, and Sierra Club has argued that investments in new MVP-related infrastructure are imprudent.
Roanoke Gas is also requesting to recover additional attorneys’ fees and rate case expenses from customers due to this issue, “given [the] additional expense that the Company anticipates incurring related to litigating the Staff’s unprecedented and unsupported recommendation to disallow the Company’s expenses related to the MVP.” The transcript from the August 14 evidentiary hearing is now posted online.
(3) SCC approves VNG request to update its SAVE Rider – Case No. PUR-2019-00095
On August 29, the SCC approved Virginia Natural Gas’s (“VNG”) request to update its Steps to Advance Virginia’s Energy Plan (“SAVE”) rider. The SAVE statute, § 56-603, allows gas distribution companies to seek rider recovery for costs to replace aging infrastructure, increase safety and efficiency, and decrease emissions.