Dominion Energy recently filed a proposal with the State Corporation Commission (SCC), which outlines expanded details of the first three years of implementation of the company's 10-year plan to transform the state's energy grid. Customers can expect more reliable service, new tools to manage energy usage, and greater access to clean energy sources under the new proposal. With SCC approval, the initiative will enhance service to customers through implementation of new technologies and a series of new programs developed with input from stakeholders and customers over the past several months. The initiative comes as the company continues its progress toward a clean energy future and amid Governor Northam's call for Virginia's electric sector to fully decarbonize by 2050.
The proposal calls for approximately US$594 million in investments through 2021. The investments include a new customer information platform, which allows customers to digitally manage their energy usage, and installation of nearly one million smart meters, which would more than triple the number currently deployed. Pending subsequent SCC approvals, the company would achieve full smart meter deployment in its Virginia service area by 2024.
Customers will see no rate increase for costs associated with deployment of the new customer information platform and smart meters installed through 2021. This represents approximately half of the initial three-year investment package, because the company plans to reinvest funds under the provisions of the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018 (GTSA).
The SCC previously approved investments under the GTSA, for improvements in cyber and physical security, and telecommunications.
"Our initiative is the next step in creating a clean energy future in Virginia," said Ed Baine, senior vice president — electric distribution. "This will help customers for years to come with more resilient service, greater value, and a partnership that helps protect the environment for the next generation."
According to a cost-benefit analysis performed by West Monroe Partners, a business consulting firm, the investments will provide a range of customer benefits, including fewer power outages and flexible rate options to meet customer lifestyles. The analysis concluded that the planned investments deliver significant benefit to all customers across a wide range of areas, while also driving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, increase in new jobs and economic growth in the Commonwealth, and savings to electric vehicle (EV) owners.
Customer benefits of the proposal include:
- More control and convenience: Smart meters will give customers more information and tools to better manage their energy use and bills. Customers will be able to save money through new options like timely usage insights and energy efficiency programs. While the meters will allow customers to receive alerts that warn of potential high bills, notifications will let them know if power goes out and when it is restored. It will also be easier to start or stop service when customers move.
- More reliable service: Customers can expect fewer outages caused by weather and other events because of stronger, more secure and resilient infrastructure, and new technology, such as digital intelligent devices and automated control systems that help manage the flow of energy more efficiently across the distribution system. Installation of thousands of smart devices on the grid will prevent some customer outages and automatically report others. The devices will help isolate outages when they do occur and reroute power so that fewer customers are impacted. They will also help crews pinpoint the source of outages, speeding restoration.
- More adaptable to clean energy: A smart grid is designed to maximize the benefits of renewable energy generation, whether the energy is produced by offshore wind or from solar panels at customer homes. Proposed upgrades will accommodate two-way flow of power, allowing excess energy produced at customer homes to be delivered back to the wider grid.
- More EVs: Proposed investments will accelerate development of more environment-friendly transportation. Among other things, new pilot programs will support rideshare electrification and EV charging at multi-family communities, workplaces, transit bus depots, and fast-charging locations. Incentives and new programs will help customers make decisions on how and where to charge an EV and still save money.
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