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Dominion Sustainability Report: CO2 Intensity Drops 10% in a Year

Energy company Dominion reduced its carbon intensity 10 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the company’s latest corporate sustainability report.

In 2011, the company produced 926 lbs of carbon dioxide per MWh, down from 1,027 lbs per MWh in 2010. Since 2007 the company had reduced this metric by around 17 percent.

According to the report, Dominion is in the top third of the nation’s 100 largest power producers in minimizing carbon intensity. A 2010 study by Ceres found that Dominion’s 2008 carbon intensity of 1,089 lbs of CO2 per MWh was about 27 percent below the industry median.

Dominion attributes its success in this metric to improving efficiency in its power generation units. From 2000 to 2010, Dominion’s company-owned generating stations reduced their average CO2 emissions per unit of output by about 21 percent. During that same time period, the generating capacity of such stations increased by 53 percent, the report says.

Upgrades aimed at squeezing more power out of generating units while not increasing fuel intake include installing larger, state-of-the-art power turbines and advanced instrumentation devices, Dominion says. From 2009 to 2010 such “uprates” added about 172 MW of net generating capacity to Dominion’s roster.

The company’s total carbon emissions fell by 25 percent year-on-year from 56.43 million tons in 2010 to 46.1 million in 2011. Since 2007 the company has reduced its total annual CO2 emissions by almost 32 percent.

Dominion names renewable energy as a key part of its strategy to reduce its carbon footprint. The company currently has renewable energy assets in Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana and Illinois. These sites employ wind power, hydroelectricity and biomass, the report says.

In 2011, the company’s renewable energy assets had a capacity of 683 MW – with hydroelectric plants accounting for just under half of that total. If all plans under development come to fruition, by the end of 2012 Dominion says that its renewables offering will total 1,631 MW, with 830 MW coming from wind. Dominion’s total power generation capacity is around 28,000 MW (see graph, below).

The additional wind capacity will come from a proposed 300 MW site at Prairie Fork in Illinois and an additional 240 MW of wind power at various ridge-top sites in Virginia.

From 2010 to 2011 the company reduced its water intake by 6 percent, from 4.6 trillion gallons to 4.3 trillion gallons. The report does not provide figures for water withdrawals prior to 2010.

Dominion says that about three-quarters of its facilities withdraw water and return it to the source at a slightly higher temperature “but with little to no consumption” involved in the process. The remaining 25 percent have closed-cycle cooling or air-cooled condensers and as such withdraw “very little” water, the company says.

In 2011, Dominion completed the construction of a twin closed-loop cooling tower at Massachusetts’ Brayton Point station – New England’s largest fossil-fired power source. The installation cost almost $570 million and has reduced the amount of water that the site withdraws from Mount Hope Bay by more than 90 percent, from about 1 billion gallons per day to about 100 million gallons per day.

The company’s recycling of coal combustion products – or coal ash – dropped from 2.7 billion lbs in 2010 to 2 billion lbs in 2011. In 2007, Dominion recycled 4 billion lbs of such products.

About half of the coal ash produced is disposed of on site, Dominion says. In 2011 about 1 billion lbs of coal ash was used to replace higher value or “beneficially reused” materials offsite, the report says. The ash can be reused in various commercial applications, such as in cement and concrete manufacturing, additives for plastics manufacturing, and specialty paint ingredients, Dominion says.

In 2012, Dominion was ranked No. 84 among the “100 Best Corporate Citizens,” rated by Corporate Responsibility Magazine. The companies on the list are selected from the Russell 1000 and are scored in seven categories, including environment, climate change, human rights, employee relations, corporate governance, philanthropy and financial performance.

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