Climate Change

Renewable energy, conservation and energy efficiency help minimize our environmental footprint.

Dominion's balanced fleet of generating stations positions us well to meet the paramount environmental challenge of the 21st century — climate change.

A recent study by an environmental organization found that Dominion was in the top third of U.S. utilities in minimizing "carbon intensity" — the amount of carbon dioxide discharged for each megawatt-hour of electricity produced. And a report by a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality advisory committee underscores that finding: the Commonwealth's per-capita carbon emissions are 16 percent below the national average.

Dominion's two nuclear power stations in Virginia — Surry and North Anna — play a crucial role in minimizing greenhouse gas emissions for the company, and indeed for the whole state. Both have won worldwide recognition for safety and efficiency — while producing approximately 40 percent of the electricity we supply to our customers.

And we have filed for federal permits to build and operate a third, advanced-design reactor at North Anna. We have made no final decision on whether to proceed with construction, but we think it is important to keep this zero-emissions option open for the commonwealth.

We are moving forward on the renewable energy, evaluating wind projects in Southwest Virginia and operating one of the largest biomass-powered facilities in the eastern U.S. in Mecklenburg County. Our Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center in Wise County will also use biomass as a significant part of its fuel supply. And we are committed to meeting Virginia's renewable generation target of 15 percent by 2025.

On other fronts, we're partnering with Virginia Tech on a project to store power plant carbon dioxide emissions in underground coal seams. Promising tests of this technology are now underway.

And we are ramping up our investments in energy efficiency programs, including investment in digital "smart" meters. This will allow us to offer many more energy-saving options to our customers — and enable us to save even more energy by better managing power flows.

We also recognize that climate change legislation — and carbon regulation — are probable in the relatively near future.

American Clean Energy and Security Act

In May 2009, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454, commonly known as the Waxman-Markey bill). While the bill needs improvement, we recognize that it lays the framework for what could be our nation's most far-reaching environmental legislation. It makes use of a proven cap-and-trade system for regulating carbon — an approach that has been successful for other emissions. It takes steps to prevent massive spikes in the cost of power — and in the carbon-based fuels that are the foundation of our economy. And it provides strong incentives for development of an array of new, cleaner energy and renewable technologies.

Whatever the final form of the bill, we believe climate change legislation should include these principles.

  • It should set realistic goals. The Waxman-Markey bill's goal of reducing carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 will be extremely difficult to achieve. The target should be revised.
  • It must include uniform national standards. A patchwork of regional solutions would be unfair and confusing, with different standards applied in different parts of the country.
  • It should not single out electric utilities — and their customers — for a disproportionate treatment. Nationally, only one-third of all carbon emissions are produced by electric generating stations. In Virginia, the largest share comes from transportation — including cars and trucks.
  • It must take strong steps to keep electric rates stable. The Waxman-Markey bill attempts to do this by allocating allowances — essentially, permits for the discharge of one ton of carbon dioxide — for free to utilities until 2030. This time period needs to be extended — to provide more certainty for customers and businesses and to give low-carbon technology more time to mature.
  • And adequate funding for development of this technology is crucial. The technology needed to implement this legislation fully simply does not yet exist. We applaud the House bill for allocating an additional $1 billion for research into this technology; we encourage Congress to look for further ways to support these efforts.

Carbon regulation will not come without costs — to the economy, to producers of electric power, and to consumers. But as Congress acts, we believe it is important that any climate change bill do all it can to minimize shocks to the economy — and to hold down the rate increases that are almost certain to accompany carbon control.

Powering Virginia

NYSE : (April 24, 2014) D 71.55 0.49