(1) SCC enters final order regarding Dominion’s coal plant environmental rider case – Case No. PUR-2018-00195
Dominion applied for SCC approval for a new RAC to recover the costs for new coal ash ponds and treatment facilities. Dominion is requesting recovery of $302 million in capital expenditures, $247 million of which is for investments made at Chesterfield units 3-6. The Attorney General filed expert witness testimony stating that most, if not all, of the spending on the Chesterfield units was imprudent due to the likely retirement dates of the facilities. Sierra Club filed similar testimony, arguing that Dominion should have known that the Chesterfield units were uneconomic and likely to be retired in the near future. Instead of expanding facilities to handle future waste, Dominion’s focus should have been on closing the existing coal ash ponds.
On August 5, the SCC entered a final order approving most of the request, but disallowing $18.4 million worth of investments made at Chesterfield Units 3 and 4. These units are now retired and “are not being used to serve customers.” The Commission noted that Dominion decided to make these investments in June of 2015, recently after the Clean Power Plan carbon regulation was announced; therefore it was not reasonable to make continued investments in units that Dominion should have known would soon be retired. In contrast to Units 3 and 4, the Commission did not disallow the investments made in Units 5 and 6, finding that these units are still being used to serve customers.
Dominion has filed requests for a 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 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 this option.) The SCC has requested the parties to file legal briefs on these issues on August 16.
While this case is pending, Dominion is refusing to enroll customers of Direct Energy and Calpine. The two CSPs filed motions for injunctions asking the SCC to compel Dominion to enroll customers. A hearing on the injunctions was held on August 7.
Natural gas cases
(1) SCC Staff files report regarding VNG request to update its SAVE Rider – Case No.PUR-2019-00095
Virginia Natural Gas (“VNG”) is seeking SCC approval 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. On August 6, the SCC Staff filed a Report including accounting recommendations.
(2) SCC approves Roanoke Gas request to incur debt and issue securities – Case No. PUR-2019-00100
On August 8, the SCC approved a request by Roanoke Gas to incur up to $40 million in short term debt and issue up to $100 million in securities. Roanoke Gas says this is necessary to finance capital spending forecasted over the next five years.