Utility’s resource plan includes major new gas plant
COLUMBIA, S.C. — This week, in a 6-1 vote, the South Carolina Public Service Commission approved Dominion Energy South Carolina’s long range power plans (its Integrated Resource Plan, or “IRP”) without incorporating any changes suggested by the public or intervening parties to the case. Dominion’s plan includes a large new gas-fired power plant that would be jointly financed by Santee Cooper and would create harmful environmental and health impacts with its pollution. At an August hearing, 35 public witnesses raised numerous concerns that building the gas plant would increase rates and pollute the state, all while forgoing clean and abundant innovative technologies. No public witnesses supported the Dominion plan.
“South Carolinians know that our utilities have a history of taking immense risks to build large, expensive power plants, with ratepayers on the hook when things go wrong,” said Forest Bradley-Wright, SACE Energy Efficiency Director. “Extreme weather like Winter Storm Elliott poses a dire threat to reliability, and consistently in these storms throughout the country, large gas-fired power plants have been prone to fail when most needed.”
The commission decision did not acknowledge alternative portfolios submitted by intervening parties, including the Southern Environmental Law Center representing the Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, showing that a balanced plan including more solar, batteries, and around 40% natural gas generation would be less costly, less risky, and less polluting. In contrast, Dominion’s plan would leave customers dependent on highly volatile and expensive gas supplies for 60% of all power generated.
“We brought an alternative plan to the commission that addressed ratepayer concerns by integrating more clean energy alongside gas in Dominion’s power supply, and with such strong public opposition to Dominion’s proposal, we hoped for a more balanced decision. There are more steps in the process, so hopefully a better outcome is still possible that reflects the public’s view,” said Eddy Moore, CCL Energy Program Director.
The commission will issue a final written order in the coming months explaining how Dominion’s plan meets the requirement in South Carolina law that long term utility plans are “the most reasonable and prudent” path for captive ratepayers.
“Gas prices have driven up rates about 18% in the past year, so it’s beyond us why the commission would approve Dominion’s plan to get more than half its future energy from heat trapping fossil fuels,” said Kate Mixson, SELC Senior Attorney. “We look forward to reviewing the final written order and remain committed to ensuring that the Dominion does not wed its customers to unnecessary risk.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 200, including more than 100 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. southernenvironment.org
Since 1989, the Coastal Conservation League has worked to protect the health of the natural resources of the South Carolina coastal plain and ensure a high quality of life for all of the people who live in and love this special place. The Coastal Conservation League is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Learn more and get involved at www.coastalconservationleague.org.
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible and equitable energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.