The Virginia Attorney General’s Office in a new filing says Dominion Energy’s proposal for a large offshore wind farm is not needed for the utility’s capacity, costs two to three times more than solar energy, and that the company has overstated the project’s economic benefits.
The Friday filing was made at the Virginia State Corporation Commission by the Attorney General’s Division of Consumer Counsel, which represents consumer interests before the commission. The commission is considering Dominion’s plan for a $9.8 billion wind farm with about 180 turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach.
The plan needs approval from the commission, which will hold hearings in the case starting May 16; public comment is open until then.
The attorney general filed written testimony from Scott Norwood, an energy consultant in Austin, Texas, who has testified before the commission previously on behalf of the Virginia attorney general.
Dominion’s plan is the largest energy project ever undertaken in Virginia, and the wind farm would be the largest in the country and one of the largest in the world.
The General Assembly, through a 2020 state law called the Virginia Clean Economy Act, directed the commission to approve the utility-owned wind farm at a customer cost of up to $9.8 billion.
The attorney general’s testimony acknowledged that the law “establishes a presumption of prudence for the costs.”
The law’s language takes risk for the project off of Dominion and its investors.
But because of the high fixed costs and “significant risks posed to customers,” the testimony said, the state’s largest electric utility should be required to file status reports on the performance and cost of the project through construction and its first year of operation.
Norwood also recommended that the commission require Dominion to commit to dates the project will be ready to generate electricity, and immediately notify the commission of delays or cost increases.
Dominion has raised the estimated cost to its Virginia customers for the wind farm from $7.8 billion to $9.8 billion.
Company spokesman Jeremy Slayton said in a statement that “offshore wind is good for energy security and the Virginia economy and environment. … The zero fuel costs of Virginia offshore wind are more valuable than ever given today’s rising fuel costs.
“The jobs and economic development benefits are transformative for Hampton Roads, including for diverse communities.”
The company owns a test project operating with two wind turbines; construction on the large project is scheduled to be finished in 2026, and its estimated life is 30 years.
The cost to a typical residential customer in the first year is an additional $1.45 on a monthly bill, but the attorney general testimony notes that Dominion’s numbers project that will reach more than $20 by 2027.
But Slayton said that $20 figure assumes the company builds a second phase of the wind farm that’s not currently before the SCC.
Other participants have also filed testimony in the case.
The Sierra Club filed testimony from Mark Little, the executive director of an economic development center based at the University of North Carolina, related to Dominion’s economic plan for the wind farm.
He concluded that Dominion’s plan does not meet the diversity, equity and inclusion targets outlined in state law and that the commission should direct the company to file a new economic plan that expresses a clearer vision, identifies specific metrics and explains how targets will be met.
Walmart submitted a letter saying that while it supports renewable energy, the company has concerns about the price of the wind farm and wants the commission to protect customers from possible cost overruns.
A representative of the Nansemond Indian Nation headquartered in Suffolk filed testimony saying the tribe wants to be consulted on the project because it affects ancestral lands.
“The potential for the discovery and disturbance of Indigenous sites in any new development in this area is high,” the tribe’s testimony said.
And the Charlottesville-based organization Clean Virginia filed testimony arguing that Dominion has limited experience developing offshore wind and that if the project’s costs end up exceeding the $9.8 billion estimate, Dominion, and not its customers, should then be at risk.
Slayton said Dominion was pleased none of the participants in the case opposed SCC approval of the project.
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