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Dominion Resources Biomass Energy 2013

WHEREAS, Dominion is meeting a portion of its renewable energy obligations with biomass power, including the 83 MW Pittsylvania plant, conversion of the Hopewell, Altavista, and Southampton coal plants to biomass (~150 MW) and up to 20% (~117 MW) co-firing at the Virginia Hybrid Energy Center, and 

Dominion publicly states that biomass power reduces greenhouse gas emissions.1 However, biomass power plants actually emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than coal-fired power plants,2 as Dominion has admitted in testimony before the Virginia State Corporation Commission,3 and
The Environmental Protection Agency panel convened to advise how emissions of biogenic carbon from power plants should be counted under the Clean Air Act has advised that biomass, including forest residues (the purported fuel for the Altavista, Hopewell, and Southampton plants), should not be considered carbon neutral,4 and
Due to low efficiency and high carbon dioxide emissions, facilities like Hopewell, Altavista, and Southampton are no longer considered carbon neutral and thus no longer qualify for renewable energy certificates in Massachusetts;5 other states are also considering policies to limit renewable energy subsidies for biomass power, and
Dominion’s testimony before the Virginia State Corporation Commission states that economic viability for the three coal-to-biomass conversions depends on the assumption of carbon neutrality, and that without this assumption, the net present value of operation is less than if the plants continued to operate on coal.6

RESOLVED: That by October 1, 2013, Dominion cease conversions of coal plants to biomass and cease other investments in biomass power, due to the admitted high carbon emissions from biomass power plants and the increasing rejection of “carbon neutral” status for biomass power at the state and federal level.

1 Dominion’s “Green Power” brochure ( states, “Your participation in Dominion Green Power supports renewable energy and creates environmental benefits”. One benefit listed is “reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
2 Lb CO2/MWh: Gas: 1,218; Coal: 2,086; Biomass: 3,029 (assumes standard power plant efficiency values and fuel heat content values from EIA and DOE).
3 Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission. Case No. PUE-2011-00073. Testimony from January 12, 2011.
4 “Science Advisory Board Review of EPA’s Accounting Framework for Biogenic CO2 Emissions from Stationary Sources”, September 2011. “Carbon neutrality cannot be assumed for all biomass energy a priori… For logging residues and other feedstocks that decay over longer periods, decomposition cannot be assumed to be instantaneous.” Burning forest residues is considered to have emissions that affect the climate (Table 1, page 15). ($File/EPA-SAB-12-011-unsigned.pdf).
5 The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources now requires biomass power plants to be at least 50% efficient, and achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 20 years compared to a combined cycle natural gas unit, to qualify for one-half REC per MWh. (
6 Testimony before the State Corporation Commission of Virginia, Case No. PUE-2011-00073, regarding conversion of the Altavista Power Station, filed June 27, 2011, Volume 2 of 3. Figure 7, page 13 shows that under a “no carbon neutrality” scenario, the Net Present Value is less than under continued operations on coal.