Dominion admits cost of North Anna 3 will top $19 billion

photo by Peter Burke/Wikimedia

A nuclear plant in Pennsylvania. Photo by Peter Burke/Wikimedia

Dominion Virginia Power is projecting that the capital cost of a third nuclear reactor at its North Anna facility will total over $19 billion, according to filings in its 2015 biennial review before the State Corporation Commission (PUE-2015-00027).

This works out to over $13,000 per installed kilowatt, according to the testimony of Scott Norwood, an energy consultant hired by the Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Counsel to analyze Dominion’s earnings evaluations. He notes that this capital cost is “approximately ten times the capital cost of the Company’s new Brunswick combined cycle unit,” which will burn natural gas.

As a result of this high capital cost, the “total delivered cost of power from NA3 is more than $190 per MWh in 2028.” That translates into 19 cents per kilowatt-hour.

By comparison, in 2014 the average wholesale price of electricity in the PJM region (which includes Virginia) was 5.3 cents per kWh. Dominion currently sells electricity to its customers at retail for between 5.5 and 11 cents/kWh.

In other words, NA3 is ridiculously expensive.

Dominion had kept its cost projections for NA3 secret until this rate case forced the disclosure. Previously, executives had acknowledged only that the cost would be “far north of 10 billion.”

This cost revelation may point to the real reason Dominion pushed so hard for SB 1349, the 2015 legislation that insulates the company from rate reviews until 2022.

As Norwood testifies, “DVP forecasts a dramatic increase in NA3 development costs over the next five years, during which there will be no biennial reviews.”

These costs are dramatic. A table included in Norwood’s testimony shows Dominion expects to have spent $4.7 billion on NA3 development by the end of 2020. By the time the SCC is allowed to review this spending, more than one-quarter of the total cost will have been spent, and Dominion will be looking to ratepayers to cover the bills.

With perfect deadpan, meanwhile, Dominion executives told legislators this year that SB 1349 was necessary to protect ratepayers from higher costs to be imposed by compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

This isn’t the first time legislators have been snookered in the cause of NA3. Recall that in 2014 Dominion succeeded in lobbying for a law that allowed it to shift 70% of already-spent NA3 development costs onto ratepayers, some $323 million. The effect was to soak up the company’s over-earnings so it would not have to rebate millions of dollars to customers.

This year’s snookering was more comprehensive. Given that Dominion has continued to over-earn, those who opposed SB 1349 assumed it was this year’s version of the 2014 maneuver, designed to protect over-earnings this year and for years to come. Now it appears the real purpose of SB 1349 was to allow Dominion to spend freely on NA3 development costs in amounts that it knew would be unacceptable to state regulators, not to mention the public.

That Dominion thought it could do so in secret is especially reprehensible. Lawmakers and the Governor should be outraged by this deception, whether they voted for SB 1349 or not.

The Attorney General’s office is now trying to force Dominion to justify NA3 to regulators before it racks up billions in sunk costs. Norwood recommends that the SCC “initiate a proceeding to address the prudence of DVP’s planned future investments for development of NA3. This proceeding would allow the Company to present its case regarding the need for and cost effectiveness of NA3, including the value of the proposed project from a fuel diversity perspective and as a means to comply with any final version of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan and other potential future environmental regulations.”

15 thoughts on “Dominion admits cost of North Anna 3 will top $19 billion

  1. On the one hand, those of us who want low carbon sources of electricity are willing to pay the higher cost. On the other, Dominion is probably trying to hold onto centralized generation, rather than allowing distributed solar among rooftops.

  2. The problem with Nuclear is the waste- no nation has figured out a long term solution for waste storage or disposal. We have spent $9 Billion on the Nevada mountain which will never be used.

  3. The problem I have with this is we are once again beholden to a devious and self-serving company disguising itself as abiding in its mission of public service. What a crock! Total sleaze running roughshod over Virginia citizens and the SCC does nothing.

  4. If consumers are ever stuck with the bills for this ridiculous project (and we will, one way or another) it will make consumer-owned solar cheap by comparison and hasten the demise of centrally generated electric power.

  5. Over and over I witness large corp such as Dominion buy our legislators so they, the corp, can exploit the citizenry of our commonwealth! And we have no one to blame but ourselves when we fail to exercise the only power we have and that is using the power of the vote. Often less than 30% of eligible voters actually participate in the voting process!

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  8. It is time to retire this unit right now before any more funds are put into this boondoogle. It should be treated as a stranded asset. Otherwise we are looking as thirty or more years of potential hazard and nuclear waste with huge water consumption. Why are we still doing nuclear power It is unclear

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  12. Having been in construction for 40 years. The cost of this pant will easily reach 30 billion and beyond. Look at previous Nuclear pant construction costs. It is time for DVP to cut its losses

  13. Pingback: Constitutional test looms over who sets utility rates in Virginia | Southeast Energy News

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