About 33,700 of Dominion's 97,000 customers in Loudoun were without power Wednesday night. As of about 10:10 a.m. today, Dominion reported that 104,958 customers were without power across Northern Virginia, which was down from 278,500 customers Wednesday night (out of a total of nearly 795,000 customers). - LoudounExtra, June 5, 2008For 22 hours, my house was without power. We lost some food, and the poor dog was uncomfortably hot, but we came out none the worse for wear. That being said, the question must be asked: Why were we without power for 22 hours?
As of 4:20 p.m. Friday, Dominion was reporting that about 9,829 customers were without power across Northern Virginia, which was down from a peak of about 298,000 customers Wednesday night (out of a total of nearly 795,000 customers). - LoudounExtraIf an event short of a hurricane or earthquake can take out over 37% of the customers on Dominion's northern Virginia grid, then Dominion Power is failing in its most simple, fundamental responsibility.
Earl and Eileen Cherry of Warrenton said they were spending as much time as they could in their basement, the coolest part of their house, but were getting edgy after four days without power. They said they have been eating out, mostly at McDonald's, and have delayed leaving for vacation because they can't wash their travel clothes and don't want to leave the house empty without power. - The Washington PostWhile 37% of Dominion's customers in northern Virginia lost power last week, and some remain without power today, Dominion Inc., Dominion Power's parent company, made $1.6 billion in profit last year. I suspect that a few extra hundred million in power grid improvements in northern Virginia would have done wonders to the stability and availability of power after a series of summer thunderstorms, but that's just my opinion.
Dominion's answer to the power problems faced by our region is bigger transmission lines and more power stations. The debates over these two issues have been both ceaseless and heated. Meanwhile, we have more code red days and more power outages.
I will give Dominion the benefit of the doubt that they need more transmission capacity into our area in order to stabilize power availability on the hottest days of the summer. (Though I will take issue that overhead lines are the best option.) However, I find Dominion's solution to the generation question puzzling at best, ironically misguided at worst. New coal plants do not solve the power problem, they exacerbate it.
1. A big reason for power stability and availability problems is peak demand in the summer. This stems from more air conditioning being available.
2. The hotter it is, the more air conditioning is demanded.
3. More air conditioning means more power use.
4. More power use means more generation from existing sources, most of which are fossil fuel-based.
5. Fossil-fuel power generation contributes to global warming.
6. Global warming exacerbates warmer, violent weather.
7. Warmer weather creates more demand for air conditioning, and violent weather impairs power availability and stability.
Thus, it would seem logical to seek to generate new power from sources that did not contribute to warmer, more violent weather, since warmer and more violent weather negatively impacts power availability and stability. To generate additional power from sources that contribute to global warming is to invite future power outages and trouble for Dominion Power.
On the face of it, new coal plants aren't just a bad idea for the environment, they're bad business for Dominion Power! By exacerbating the very problems that get them in the biggest trouble with their customers (power outages), they are setting themselves up for a worse reputation, lower stock prices and more regulation in the future. I am certain that the shareholders in Dominion Inc. would be concerned with that.
This is neither good policy, nor good business.
Dominion Power, in its own interest, should make a concerted effort to generate electricity in more climate-friendly ways, so that it is able to maintain the stability and availability of power across its grid in the height of summer. And that does not mean a token wind farm on a mountaintop, it means a concerted effort to reduce demand (i.e., conserve) while expanding non-polluting generation capacity, in order to stay in business for another 100 years.
And so, I will continue to hold Dominion Power responsible for keeping my power on, regardless of the weather, unless there is a hurricane or act of God. The company is a regulated monopoly and has only one job, to keep the lights on, along with a public mandate to keep doing it for generations to come. It is their responsibility, as a public utility, to plan for the long-term, even if it means a few hundred million less in profits in the short term. If the answer is obvious to one simple ratepayer in Leesburg, it is probably obvious to many other customers as well. And we will be watching. If Dominion does not act, we will be asking our legislators in Richmond to force them to, and no corporation wants that.