Dominion Energy officials say they haven’t determined what will happen to the jobs of 45 people at a Fluvanna County power plant scheduled to be mothballed this spring.
Officials announced this week that the two power generating units at Bremo Power Station will be shut down and put into “cold reserve.” The units are among nine the company decided earlier this week to close in five facilities across the state.
The closures affect nearly 400 Dominion positions across the state, company officials said. About 100 of the jobs that will be lost currently are vacant.
Bremo is expected to go offline in April, and its employees either will be laid off or reassigned to the nearby Bear Garden Power Station in Buckingham County or to other company sites. Exactly how many jobs will be moved or eliminated will be determined through labor union rules and an administrative study, officials said.
“There are union policies that will determine some of the reassignments and [an administrative] process for salaried people,” said Dan Genest, a Dominion Energy spokesman. “It will take six weeks to two months to prepare the plant for storage, so they have time to figure it out.”
Some maintenance workers will remain on site. Employees involved in coal ash reclamation at the power plant will also remain on the job.
The move comes in the wake of inexpensive natural gas supplies and increased generation capacity in the 13-state region that supplies power to the electric grid.
“The economics has changed to where we have low-cost natural gas and solar is dropping in price and becoming more efficient, as is wind,” Genest said. “Because of these factors, we looked at all of our generation facilities for efficiency and economics.”
State Sen. Mark J. Peake, R-Lynchburg, said he is concerned about the Bremo employees. Peake represents the 22nd District, which includes Fluvanna, Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Goochland and Prince Edward counties and parts of Louisa County and the city of Lynchburg.
“My primary concerns are for families who may lose their livelihood and any loss of revenue for Fluvanna and the surrounding counties,” Peake said. “In discussions with Dominion officials, I have been assured that the affected employees will be offered jobs elsewhere with Dominion Energy, along with relocation assistance.”
Peake said he was told that there would be no loss of revenue in property taxes to Fluvanna or other counties affected by a closure.
Genest said cold reserve means the power plants will be able to be restarted should economic factors change and the extra electricity be needed.
“If we see a change in the market, they could be put back into operation within about six months,” Genest said.
The power facility in Bremo Bluff generates 227 megawatts of electricity, burns natural gas and can power 57,000 homes. It was built in 1931 and originally was powered by two coal-burning units that were shut down permanently in 1972. Two other units, built in 1950 and 1958, continued to burn coal until 2014, when they were converted to burn natural gas. The conversion cost of $53.4 million.
“When we made the decision to convert, it made sense to have it available to help,” Genest said. “With the lower cost natural gas and other generation sources out there, it wasn’t used all that much and it’s really not economically feasible anymore.”
As part of the switch to natural gas, Dominion Energy is draining ash ponds on the property that held the byproduct of burning coal over the plant’s decades of operation. In 2016, the company reached an agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center on the process for treating wastewater from the ponds and the process for closing and capping the ponds.
Dominion committed to enhanced treatment of the pond water and monitoring fish tissue at the site.
The facility is across the James River and about a mile due north of Dominion Energy’s Bear Garden Power Station, a more fuel-efficient 580-megawatt, combined-cycle power station that can power 146,000 homes.
The $619-million station went online in 2011 and has 35 employees. The Bremo plant was used primarily in times of peak demand, officials said.