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The State Corporation Commission is in flux, as big ruling looms

Offshore Wind Virginia
Steve Helber
FILE - Two of the offshore wind turbines which have been constructed off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va. are viewed June 29, 2020.

Regulators in Virginia are about to make an important determination about a potential new wind power operation off the coast of Virginia Beach.

The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind proposal would be a massive new wind farm off the coast of Virginia Beach. But only if state regulators approve it. The decision is expected in the next month or so, even as membership of the three-member commission is in flux.

Harry Godfrey at Virginia Advanced Energy Economy says regulators are now considering a deal that would protect customers.

"The settlement sets some parameters, some pretty strict parameters around construction costs," Godfrey says. "So, it really helps to make certain that the upfront costs of that project are reigned in and that they don't spill over onto customers like you and I unnecessarily."

Dominion Energy was skeptical of an earlier performance guarantee, which the utility said would make the project untenable. Tim Cywinski at the Sierra Club says the proposed agreement now under consideration sets limits on how much customers of the utility would be on the hook if things go wrong.

"What we have here is a binding commitment to say that the company itself has to have some risk," Cywinski says. "It has to have some skin in the game, and if they don't perform it the way that they're promising to, they can't pass those costs off to customers."

The State Corporation Commission has three members, although one seat is vacant. The upcoming retirement of another of its members means a decision on the offshore wind proposal is likely to come before the end of the year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.