Gotta wonder... if this problem was put out for bid in PJM's new competitive transmission process, would other companies have better solutions? Solutions that solve the problem without creating an eyesore and river hazard of an aerial crossing of the James River? Probably.
Dominion contends that the technology doesn't exist to run a reliable line of the caliber and kind needed under 4 miles of riverbed - at least not without a price tag in the billions.
The Skiffes Creek project is a cash cow for incumbent utility Dominion. Under PJM's old, pre FERC Order No. 1000 transmission project selection process, the incumbent was allowed to propose all solutions. The incumbent could propose only those solutions that would provide a healthy shot to its balance sheet. FERC recognized that this process didn't necessarily inspire the best and cheapest solutions and has revolutionized the way regional grid planners select new transmission projects.
Dominion tries to hide behind an aura of concern for ratepayer issues.
Curtis said the Skiffes over-the-river plan, at $60 million, is indeed on the lower cost end of the dozens of routes and options the company considered. Whatever the expense, though, customers will reimburse Dominion. Rate hikes are automatically allowed for utilities that build infrastructure to strengthen the grid.
"So these are rate-payer dollars, not Dominion dollars," Curtis said. "But the opposition is still committed to the conspiracy theory."
So, are there other solutions? Opponents accuse Dominion of not examining and considering all options.
"What's frustrating is that people think we're being disingenuous," Curtis said. "They don't believe we've looked at all the alternatives, or they think we're only concerned about making the most money for our shareholders."
Several lines already feed outside power to the Peninsula, but it won't be enough without the Yorktown plant, which Dominion says is too costly to upgrade in the face of new federal clean-air standards.
How much time and money will Dominion's effort to keep itself from being propelled "up the creek" with Skiffes Creek cost ratepayers? Dominion's blind pursuit of this project in the face of better alternatives is what may cause "rolling blackouts" on the peninsula. The longer Dominion delays by backing a lame horse, the closer the peninsula gets to a genuine reliability issue. Get with it, Dominion, and switch to a solution that everyone can agree upon. Don't you have a legal obligation to keep the lights on? Or only one to increase shareholder dividends every quarter?