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Nuclear will be major for Virginia’s electric grid as utilities decarbonize, regulator says

Dominion Energy’s North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Louisa County.
Dominion Energy’s North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Louisa County.(Ned Oliver)
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 9:04 AM EDT
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Dominion Energy’s two existing nuclear plants “may become more important to the transmission system” as Virginia and the utility move to decarbonize the power grid by midcentury, a hearing examiner with the Virginia State Corporation Commission says.

Under the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act, Dominion and Appalachian Power, the state’s two largest electric utilities, are required to close all Virginia power plants that rely on fossil fuels and source all their non-nuclear energy from renewables by 2045 and 2050, respectively.

The North Anna and Surry nuclear plants last year supplied just under 30 percent of the utility’s power, making nuclear the second-most used fuel source after natural gas for Dominion, the largest utility in the commonwealth.

“The value of the carbon-free generation that North Anna and Surry provide has been increased by the compliance obligations and potential costs associated with the VCEA,” wrote the examiner, Mathias Roussy, in a May 20 report.

If Dominion retires its nuclear units, the company will have to procure more renewable energy, either through building new generating facilities, contracting with third-party producers or purchasing renewable energy certificates.

“Without the nuclear units the system will rely more heavily on market purchases and sales for both reliability and to lower overall fuel costs,” wrote Glenn Kelly, Dominion’s director of integrated strategic planning, in testimony filed with the SCC earlier this year.

State Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, who was one of the patrons of the VCEA, told the Mercury Thursday that “the amount of nuclear we have right now is part of the puzzle to get us to clean energy,” although she said Virginia “shouldn’t need any new nuclear.”

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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