It is a delicate situation, trying to serve the power needs of some of the nation’s most powerful and well-connected people, but that’s the job that Dominion Power has in serving load in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and surrounding areas.
Population is growing in Northern Virginia, as is the size of the typical house, as is the median income, as is commercial activity, and all of these factors are contributing to a growing demand for electric power. The area is already “generation poor” according to the company — a 2006 peak load around 6,700 MW and a generating capacity of 2,900 MW — and the situation will only worsen without action. Dominion Power has announced two related actions — a powerline running from near the West Virginia border into Loudon County, and a request for proposals to build a 300 MW peaking generator or equivalent demand side resource.
The powerline has attracted the opposition of many landowners, county officials, and conservationists along the route. Opposition has been spearheaded by the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), a regional powerhouse in its own right, which has been active and successful in promoting use of conservation easements and land-use regulations in an effort to promote and protect the “Virginia Piedmont’s rural economy, natural resources, history and beauty” (as they say on their website). Their website has much information on their anti-powerline efforts.
PEC asserts that the powerline isn’t needed to serve customers in Northern Virginia, but rather is just a tool for Dominion to ship cheap Midwestern power to customers elsewhere in the eastern grid. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) PEC further says that Dominion should focus on reducing demand for energy. The Dominion RFP for a peaking generator or demand-side program provides PEC with a great opportunity to, in effect, put their money where their mouth is.
If PEC spearheaded a demand side proposal offering more than the 300 MW, it could mitigate much of the need for a powerline. Timing on the RFP is short — bids are due January 3, 2007 — but no doubt many demand-side program specialists would jump at the opportunity to work on such a high profile project and could deliver an adequate proposal in time. Dominion’s position is probably that it needs both the powerline and the new peaking resource, and that is why PEC should offer a more-than-300 MW demand side proposal. But if PEC put together, say, a 600 MW demand-side program in Northern Virginia, Dominion would either have to admit that the powerline is intended to serve customers outside of the region or concede that they can delay the powerline proposal for several years.
As a further benefit, if PEC can deliver a big demand-side resource success story in Northern Virginia, the fast growing home to many of the nation’s political and media elites, then surely the news will be spread far and wide.