Ratepayer advocates seek protections in offshore wind case

May 17, 2022, 4:19 PM | Updated: 4:40 pm
Joseph Reid, of McGuireWoods, representing Dominion, right, speaks as commissioners, Jehmal Hudson,...

Joseph Reid, of McGuireWoods, representing Dominion, right, speaks as commissioners, Jehmal Hudson, top left, and Judith Williams Jagdmann, top center, listen during a meeting of the State Corporations Commission Tuesday May 17, 2022, in Richmond, Va. The commission was reviewing an application for Dominion's offshore wind project. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — State regulators considering whether to approve Dominion Energy Virginia’s plans for a nearly $10 billion offshore wind farm should implement protections to shield customers from possible cost overruns and other project risks, ratepayer advocates testified Tuesday.

No party to the proceeding is asking that the State Corporation Commission reject outright the planned 176-turbine project off the coast of Virginia Beach, which the company says will be the country’s largest. But attorneys representing the utility’s customers and environmental groups have sought to make the case that because of the project’s enormous cost and complexity, commissioners should consider protections like a cost cap or independent monitor.

“Let’s be honest — this is a $9.65B construction project where we will be digging 176 holes in the middle of the ocean. There are risks,” said Carrie Grundmann, an attorney representing Walmart in the proceedings.

The SCC heard hours of testimony and cross-examination Tuesday at the start of a multiday evidentiary hearing. Dominion, which already has a two-turbine pilot project up and running, filed an application with the commission in November seeking approval and cost recovery for the commercial-scale project. It’s part of an ongoing shift in the company’s generation mix toward a greater proportion of renewables.

Attorneys representing Dominion said Tuesday that the utility has met all statutory requirements for approval of the project, which has drawn broad support from local officials, policymakers, business groups and trade unions.

The project will “propel Virginia to the head of the race towards a clean energy future,” creating jobs and positioning the state as a leader in the burgeoning offshore wind industry, said Vishwa Link, an attorney from the law firm McGuireWoods representing the company.

Dominion is urging the commission to approve a proposed agreement it reached with several other parties to the proceeding — the Sierra Club, Nansemond Indian Nation and corporation commission staff — which was unveiled in a recent filing.

The proposed stipulation agreement says no construction costs in excess of $9.65 billion would be approved in connection with the pending proceeding; anything above that would require separate approval. It includes reporting requirements about the project’s performance and reporting requirements should the project’s timeline or cost estimates change.

But attorneys for several parties that have not signed on to the proposed agreement urged the commissioners Tuesday to consider other protections.

Meade Browder, from the Office of the Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Counsel, said the proposed agreement offered little more than Dominion’s initial position.

The wind farm, he said, will be the most costly single project undertaken by any regulated utility in the country, with the exception of Southern Company’s Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, which has faced lengthy delays and cost overruns.

Dominion’s offshore wind project is also the country’s only one in development that’s owned and operated by a vertically integrated monopoly utility, he said, putting Dominion’s captive ratepayers uniquely at risk.

In previously filed testimony, an expert witness for the AG’s office has recommended required periodic status reports and a cost cap.

Clean Virginia, a clean energy and campaign finance reform advocacy group founded to counter Dominion’s influence at the statehouse, has also recommended a cost cap in previously filed testimony. And an expert for the group called for an independent monitor to provide additional oversight.

William Reisinger, an attorney representing Clean Virginia, said Tuesday that evidence in the case shows the project would result in one of the largest rate increases in recent history — at least $14.21 a month for a typical residential customer once the project begins commercial operation.

“And this estimate is a best-case scenario. It assumes no cost overruns, no delays, no accidents, no force majeure-triggering events,” he said.

Attorneys raised questions during cross-examination of Dominion executives that highlighted other projects of the utility or its holding company, Dominion Energy, that faced delays or cost overruns, including the now-canceled Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The price tag of that natural gas pipeline swelled by several billion dollars before it was scrapped in July 2020.

About $300-$400 million has been spent on the wind farm so far, according to testimony Tuesday from Mark Mitchell, Dominion Energy’s senior vice president for project construction.

The wind farm would help Dominion meet the goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a sweeping overhaul of the state’s energy policy enacted by Democrats that included a number of renewable energy mandates intended to help address the threats of climate change. The project will also help the company meet its own pledge to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Commissioners Jehmal Hudson and Judith Williams Jagdmann heard Tuesday’s testimony. The commission is down one member since the GOP-controlled House let ex-commissioner Angela Navarro’s appointment expire earlier this year. The divided General Assembly has not filled the spot.

Testimony is to continue Wednesday. A commission ruling is expected by August. A separate federal review process for the project is also underway.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Climate activists and others hold banners and signs as they march during a demonstration ahe...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Why Germany is pushing for a ‘climate club’

BERLIN (AP) — Germany is hosting this year’s meeting of leaders from the Group of Seven leading economies in the Bavarian resort of Elmau. Before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia triggered a cascade of crises over food, energy and international security, the main focus of the meeting was meant to be on climate change. […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Doja Cat performs at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on Sunday, ...
Associated Press

BET Awards return Sunday with Doja Cat as leading nominee

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The BET Awards return Sunday with a live show that could see Doja Cat, Drake and Ari Lennox snag some trophies. Doja Cat enters the show as the leading nominee with six. The chart-topping performer is up for best female R&B-pop artist, best female hip-hop artist, album of the year for […]
23 hours ago
U.S. President Joe Biden, right, waves as he walks past Bavarian mountain riflemen and traditional ...
Associated Press

Biden, G-7 leaders huddle on energy, inflation, Ukraine war

ELMAU, Germany (AP) — President Joe Biden and his Group of Seven allies will huddle Sunday on strategies to secure energy supplies and tackle inflation, aiming to keep the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from splintering the global coalition working to punish Moscow. Biden arrived in Germany’s picturesque Bavarian alps early Sunday morning for […]
23 hours ago
A staff member works at the Yuet Tung China Works, Hong Kong's porcelain factory, in Hong Kong, Wed...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Hong Kong’s last hand-painted porcelain factory

HONG KONG (AP) — Step into Yuet Tung China Works, Hong Kong’s last remaining hand-painted porcelain factory, and you find yourself surrounded by stacks of dinnerware, each piece painstakingly decorated by hand with vibrant motifs of flowers, fruits and animals. Joseph Tso, the third-generation owner of the factory, and his small team are among the […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: June 26, first Harry Potter book published

Today in History Today is Sunday, June 26, the 177th day of 2022. There are 188 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On June 26, 1945, the charter of the United Nations was signed by 50 countries in San Francisco. On this date: In 1917, the first troops of the American Expeditionary […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Rep. Mary Miller calls Roe decision ‘victory for white life’

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, speaking at a rally Saturday night with former President Donald Trump, called the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade a “victory for white life.” Miller’s spokesman said the Illinois Republican had intended to say the decision was a victory for a “right to life.” […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Canvas Annuity

The secret to guaranteed retirement income

Annuities aren’t really a secret, but they are so misunderstood that they might as well be. Once you understand what an annuity is and how it can benefit you, you could decide this “secret” is the perfect supplement to your retirement plan.
Ratepayer advocates seek protections in offshore wind case