An independent review of Dominion Power's proposal to install a 500-kV powerline corridor between Frederick County and Loudoun County finds the plan is designed primarily for needs outside Virginia.

Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc (E3) conducted the review that was commissioned by Virginia's Commitment, a group opposing Dominion Power's proposal.

Virginia's Commitment is a coalition of concerned citizens, homeowners, landowners, consumers and business people, which "seeks modern approaches to promote Virginia's growth and prosperity."

While Dominion Power claims it must build a new transmission line by 2011 to avoid peak overloads in Northern Virginia, E3 concluded that the proposed line would carry more than six times the power that Dominion Power itself says is needed to satisfy the region's growth.

E3 reviewed Dominion Power's filing with the State Corporation Commission (SCC) and found that the proposed line has the capability to carry 3250 MW. E3 said Dominion Power quantified the size of Northern Virginia's overloading problem at 514 MW, if the line is not constructed by 2011.

"This review shows that Dominion Power's filing is incomplete," said David Jeffers, executive director of Virginia's Commitment. "E3's review raises serious questions about where Dominion Power really intends to send the electricity transported over this proposed line."

According to Virginia's Commitment, E3 concluded that the driving force behind the proposal is that it enables the utility to transport power from generating plants in the Ohio River Valley to states north of Virginia. E3 determined that Northern Virginia households and businesses would use only a small portion of the power transmitted by the new line.

The E3 review supports the suspicion among opponents that Dominion Power's primary purpose for the new powerline is to purchase electricity from coal-fired generators in West Virginia and Ohio, transport it across Virginia and then sell it to customers in New Jersey, New York and urban areas outside Virginia.

"E3's review demonstrates that Dominion Power's public statements that a new 81-mile line is needed to maintain power reliability for Northern Virginia's growth are misleading," Jeffers said.

At public hearings held this past summer, opposition to Dominion Power's proposal has been intense. Public comment and protest is expected to continue through the fall and early winter.

The SCC will hold hearings in Richmond in early 2008 before deciding whether to allow the company to build the transmission line. The proposal submitted to the SCC calls for a new 65-mile line. It would connect to another new line that would extend an additional 16 miles across the Shenandoah Valley to the West Virginia border. That stretch would be built by Dominion Power in partnership with Allegheny Power.

Dominion Power proposes to transmit electricity along industrial-scale transmission towers that would be up to 150-feet high, almost twice as high as existing transmission structures in the region. The route would cross through the Blue Ridge, Shenandoah and Piedmont areas of Virginia and work its way through suburban neighborhoods of Prince William County and Loudoun counties.

Virginia's Commitment supports steps that assure Virginia citizens and businesses a reliable supply of power as the state continues to grow. "We are enormously proud of the jobs and prosperity that the Commonwealth has achieved. Virginia's Commitment will work hard to see that the international success story of Virginia continues well into the future," said Jeffers.

The organization maintains that the state's economy can continue to prosper while adopting modern energy policies that protect both the investment climate and the environment. "We advocate for innovative methods that other large utilities have utilized to serve their business and residential customers' energy needs," said Jeffers.

According to Virginia's Commitment, the E3 review indicates that Virginia citizens and businesses should be asking Dominion Power and state officials whether the overload that the company predicts is a real threat and whether the state's true energy needs can be better met through what Virginia's Commitment calls an "integrated resource portfolio" approach. The organization cites a combination of alternative solutions, including:

  • Upgrading Dominion Power's existing lines to increase capacity.
  • Developing a more diverse mix of Virginia-based power, including natural gas and cleaner coal sources.
  • Investing in energy efficiency and conservation.
  • Burying the lines in locations along the way, especially in places of scenic, historic, environmental and community importance.
  • Incorporate cost-effective levels of demand-side management.
  • Building a "distributed generation" network powered by wind, solar, natural gas and other sources of energy.

"Dominion Power's solution is to first buy dirty power from coal-fired generators and transmit that power across 12-story high monster towers that would scar Virginia landscapes and communities," said Jeffers. "Then the power company would sell a small portion of the electricity to Northern Virginia and ship the rest to urban areas north of Virginia.

"They want to use Virginia as an extension cord to connect the Ohio River Valley with New Jersey and New York," he said.

Virginia's Commitment is urging Dominion Power to withdraw its application to the SCC, until the company has made a new assessment of Virginia energy needs and considered all alternatives.

Last month, the SCC staff asked the commission for more time to study the Dominion Power proposal. The staff asked the arguments that have been scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 14 be delayed until Feb. 25. In addition, the staff request said that more time was needed to consider whether a high-voltage line proposed for Maryland would affect whether the Virginia power line is necessary.

"Dominion Power wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of rate-payers' money on outmoded and environmentally damaging methods of generation, transmission and distribution, borrowed from the last century, to serve customers outside Virginia," said Jeffers. "Why would a forward-thinking Virginia, a state so committed to modern economic and environmental policies, permit such a backward approach?

"Until Dominion Power can demonstrate exactly who will benefit from the new line and prove that it has examined all potential solutions, it should not be allowed by the SCC to move forward," he said.