Dominion’s power decision leaves Virginia with questions
Earlier this year, America watched in shock as the Texas electrical grid all but collapsed in the midst of an historic winter storm. With power plants and pipelines hobbled by cold weather, Texans were left to huddle in their homes for days without light, heat and, in many cases, running water. Could that happen in Virginia?
On its face, this nightmare scenario seems far less likely here. Virginia is connected to an expansive regional grid known as PJM, which stretches from our southern border north to New York and west to Chicago. This makes Virginia very different from Texas, which has its grid isolated from other states. Our grid’s interconnectedness gives us backup when it is needed and allows us to share resources with our neighbors to reduce costs and improve reliability.
Unfortunately, Dominion Energy appears to be pulling out of PJM’s regional market in important ways, and moving toward an insular, “go it alone” approach, raising questions about what that means for customers in Virginia.
In January, Dominion quietly informed PJM that it would be opting out of the regional capacity market, instead submitting its own plan for maintaining sufficient generating capacity under a little-used mechanism called the Fixed Resource Requirement (FRR). Under FRR, the utility takes sole responsibility for meeting its reliability needs, forfeiting the savings and reliability benefits of shared regional power plant capacity that the PJM market provides. “Don’t worry about us,” the company is telling federal regulators, in effect. “Winter Storms? Heat waves? We got this.”
Do they? Honestly, we don’t know. Until this month, when an enterprising reporter asked, Dominion had never publicly stated it would opt for FRR. There were no regulatory proceedings, no legislative hearings, not even a press release.