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As offshore wind power approaches, some call for more competition

Two turbines stand off the coast of Virginia Beach.
Two turbines stand off the coast of Virginia Beach. (File photo: Sam Turken/WHRO)

Dominion Energy called a consumer protection performance guarantee on its Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project "untenable," and said it would have to pull the plug on the project if state regulators don't shift risk to ratepayers for unexpected fuel costs. 

The project will increase monthly electric bills for Dominion customers starting this month — and without the performance guarantee, costs could increase beyond state and Dominion projections if the wind farm doesn’t produce energy as consistently as expected. 

Chris Ercoli, of the Retail Energy Advancement League, said Virginians need competition to bring costs down. 

“When you have multiple suppliers in the marketplace, and you create options for consumers, they’re gonna go out and shop,” Ercoli said.  

Under state law, a competitive service provider can lure Dominion customers away with a 100% renewable plan — but only if Dominion doesn’t have a plan of its own. And it does. Large nonresidential customers have the option of contracting with competitive service providers in Dominion’s service area, but residential customers don’t currently have the choice. 

Ercoli argued an open marketplace is more accessible to a greater number of people. 

Advocates for shared solar have raised concerns over a $55 minimum bill that would apply to anyone participating in Dominion’s shared-solar project who isn’t considered low-income as defined by the company. Shared-solar arrangements generally allow groups of consumers to purchase energy from small solar farms, often undercutting the cost of traditional fuels. 

Will Cleveland, of the Southern Environmental Law Center, noted that while Dominion has power in the state legislature, adjusting the regulatory landscape isn’t out of the question. 

“I think that there has certainly been a growing awareness that the regulatory regime in Virginia is tilted against customers,” Cleveland said, adding that the House of Delegates has passed regulatory reform bills in recent years. Each has been rejected by the Senate.  

CVOW is slated to be a 176-turbine farm off the coast of Virginia Beach with the ability to power 660,000 homes. It’s expected to cost about $10 billion, and Dominion plans to finish construction by February 2027. 

During the approval process for CVOW, Dominion projected the installation would produce at least 42% of the power that it would be capable of generating under ideal conditions. 

In its filing with the commission, Dominion argued that the commission’s projection, which was proposed by the Attorney General’s office, is a misuse of the figure. Dominion said it had pitched the number as a lifetime metric, but the commission used a 3-year rolling basis. 

The company also argued that the performance guarantee is too vague and would make Dominion liable for issues arising from problems it wouldn’t normally be responsible for: “acts of war or terror, catastrophic weather events or changes in weather patterns, system operating constraints unrelated to the generator, such as curtailments from the grid operator or economic curtailments, and a host of other circumstances.”  

In a comment to VPM News, a Dominion representative simply said that the company looks forward to completing the project.

Editor's note: This story's been updated to better reflect the options Dominion customers have in the marketplace.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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