Dominion proposes ending its South Carolina coal generation by 2030

Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club

Iulia Gheorghiu, Feb. 24, 2021

  • Dominion Energy South Carolina filed its modified integrated resource plan (IRP) on Friday, including a “preferred” scenario that would retire its coal generation fleet by 2030, and convert its Cope Station coal plant to natural gas. 
  • The majority of Dominion’s scenarios included large blocks of solar and solar-plus-battery-storage added between 2030 and 2048, with the potential to add 2,000 MW of solar from 2026 to 2048, up from the 973 MW of utility-scale solar already contracted, as well as 700 to 900 MW of battery storage.
  • Dominion submitted 14 different generation resource plans after regulators unanimously rejected its 2020 filing in December finding that the utility had misrepresented its fuel costs, and lacked demand side management resource options. The South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) specifically asked the utility to model an early retirement of its coal fleet, and three of Dominion’s plans assume that scenario.

The utility favored a long-term resource plan that would retire large coal plants within a decade and add solar and battery storage resources, taking 1,709 MW of coal offline among three different plants.

Dominion Energy aims to have net zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions across all of its service territories by 2050.

“The modified 2020 Integrated Resource Plan presents alternative plans that provide customers a path to clean, renewable energy while allowing technologies to mature,” Dominion spokesperson Paul Fischer said in an e-mail. “This modified 2020 IRP highlights details about how in recent years Dominion Energy South Carolina has reduced our dependence on coal generation, increased our percentage of solar generation, and created a cleaner generation fleet as a result.”

Regulators knocked Dominion’s original IRP for delaying storage additions and under-projecting the growth of renewable resources.

The preferred resource plan would add 100 MW of solar by 2028 and 300 MW more by 2032, as well as 100 MW of battery storage by 2032.

The largest near-term resource additions would be natural gas: 553 MW of combined cycle gas and 523 MW of large-frame internal combustion turbine units in 2028, in addition to replacing 415 MW of coal with natural gas at Cope Station by 2030. 

“This replacement generation protects reliability and provides a base of dispatchable generation to support the addition of 1,900 to 2,000 [MW] of solar and 700 to 900 MW of battery storage from 2026 to 2048,” the utility wrote in the modified filing.

“The plan also indicates that the most reasonable and prudent path for the company is a plan to retire Wateree and Williams stations in 2028. Natural gas, solar and battery storage resources would be added to the system … Specific retirement studies are being prepared that will inform future decision making and will be presented in a future IRP.” Fischer said.

Clean energy advocates hailed the modified IRP as a relief for the majority Black communities where these coal plants are located.

“These communities have fought long and hard for protections that others take for granted, and now there’s hope for real change,” Will Harlan, senior representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in South Carolina, said in a statement.

“But while we’re very glad there’s an end in sight for Dominion Energy’s coal in South Carolina, adding fracked gas is a [shortsighted] move that means communities in Orangeburg County won’t get the safe, clean energy they deserve — and we’ll continue to support and work alongside them until they do,” he said, referencing the dual-fuel Cope Station that would operate only on natural gas after 2030.

South Carolina regulators will make a determination on the revised IRP after the state Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) submits a report on the “sufficiency” of the modified filing, according to Sierra Club Senior Attorney Dori Jaffe. The ORS, and other parties which may submit comments, must act within 60 days of the utility’s submission, by April 20.


Community solar benefits citizens, not corporations

  • By Andrew Stone
  • Dec 12, 2020
  •  0

Have you noticed a trend lately? Distilled, the headlines could read “Spanish firm to acquire PNM,” “French company to build massive solar plants in Four Corners” or even more simply, “Benefits of solar energy flee New Mexico.” European companies are eating our solar lunch and dinner.

My family added our photovoltaic system to Public Service Company of New Mexico’s grid in 2005 and added battery storage in 2016. Our system routinely provides neighbors with our extra solar energy at peak-demand times, making the grid more resilient and deferring expensive upgrades that ratepayers always end up paying for. The solar repaid in seven years. The batteries are a research project to see if a family with two electric vehicles can meet all their electricity needs 24/7/365 — spoiler: They can.

We have the economical answer to the resilient future grid — it’s wind, distributed solar and battery storage. Internet search “wire alternatives,” “nanogrids” and “virtual power plants” and you’ll learn that solar coupled with networked batteries is a grid solution already successful in Australia. PNM’s pilot nanogrid project in Mesa del Sol shows how each house can have solar and share a battery with a neighbor to meet their electrical needs 24/7.

But who will own and benefit from the energy transition? If PNM owns all the solar and the batteries, citizens lose their solar benefit and pay way too much. I counsel homeowners on how to maximize their solar investment: Invest your own money if you can to maximize your returns and hire local, reputable New Mexico solar installers to boost the local economy.

Not all homeowners have the credit. Many New Mexicans rent or live in shaded homes. The sun falls equally on all of us; shouldn’t everyone have access to the benefits of solar energy? Of course there is a solution to an equitable and just transition, but we have to fight for it, given the state-sanctioned monopoly on electricity production.

Community solar is the solution, and more specifically, community-owned community solar. Community solar happens when a group like a church or shaded homeowners or renters in an apartment building come together to build a larger solar array and share the energy produced.

Over 20 states have community solar legislation, but not the sunniest state with the sunny state flag! And it’s been quite an uphill battle. Since 2013, forward-thinking citizens and legislators have attempted to pass community solar legislation with no success because of opposition by investor-owned utilities like PNM and the rural electric cooperatives.

Community solar provides choice and competition. Smaller facilities spread around New Mexico provide more diverse economic activity and many more jobs, just as rooftop solar does. Plus when the clouds come over a giant facility, the grid takes a huge hit, which won’t happen if you have solar gardens dotted around the state.

Besides foreign-owned for-profit solar being more expensive, the energy transition can be about energy sovereignty and the desire of the public to find agency in fighting climate disruption. Let’s all participate and reap the benefits.

Community-owned community solar provides the maximum benefit to communities. Contact your legislators and let them know you want a community solar bill that helps our communities. Let’s put the community into community solar and let the sun shine in.

Andrew Stone (husband of Katie Stone of The Children’s Hour) came to New Mexico 46 years ago and worked in tech ( from their small farm in the North Valley of Albuquerque.