Regulators say Dominion’s long-range plan doesn’t meet statutory standards

A sign outside of a Dominion Energy office building in downtown Richmond. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

The State Corporation Commission on Monday said it couldn’t conclude that Dominion Energy’s 15-year plan met statutory standards but did not ask the utility to refile the non-binding roadmap.

Instead, regulators asked Dominion to make a series of changes to its long-range planning when it files required updates in 2021 and 2022. 

“The commission recognizes that Dominion did not have an extended opportunity to conform its 2020 IRP to address all the interrelated aspects of recent legislation,” the commissioners wrote, referring to the Integrated Resource Plan the utility is required to file. “The commission, however, cannot conclude … that Dominion’s 2020 IRP, as filed, is reasonable and in the public interest for purposes of a planning document.” 

Judge Angela Navarro, who was appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam to the SCC this December and whose appointment was confirmed by the General Assembly last week, did not participate in the order. 

Dominion spokesman Rayhan Daudani said the utility “will carefully review the commission’s order and incorporate its direction in our next IRP filing. We appreciate the commission’s acknowledgement of the vital role electric reliability plays and look forward to working with our regulator to make our strong record of reliability even better.”

Under state law, both Dominion and Appalachian Power must file a plan every three years for how they intend to meet electric demand over the next 15 years. While the document doesn’t bind the utilities to any particular commitments, it is viewed as a detailed picture of expected electrical demand and how it will be met. Like many utility plans, the IRP is also extensively litigated, with environmental and consumer protection groups debating — and often criticizing — the document before the commission. 

Among the key points regulators flagged was the IRP’s lack of a “least-cost” plan. During the case, Dominion offered to include that option in future updates, which would outline the least expensive way to meet new carbon emissions regulations and specific targets for how much of the utility’s portfolio should be renewables. In its Monday order, the SCC called this suggestion “reasonable at this time.” 

Notably absent from the order was a ruling on whether mandates in the Virginia Clean Economy Act require regulators to approve any solar, wind or energy storage project the utilities propose, or whether the commission has discretion to deny such a project if it finds the costs aren’t reasonable and prudent. This issue, which sparked considerable debate before the commission this November, is expected to be a point of contention at hearings this week on both Dominion and Appalachian’s plans to meet their renewable portfolio targets.