By - Jim Vess

Dominion Energy offers a $918 million grid modernization plan to Virginia regulators

Energize Weekly, August 1, 2018

Dominion Energy has submitted a $918 million plan to modernize its Virginia grid to state regulators following passage of a new law overhauling utility oversight and investment.

The plan seeks to install 1.4 million “smart meters” between 2019 and 2021. An additional 600,000 smart meters would be installed by 2023. A total of 3 gigawatts (GW) of renewable generation would also be added by 2020.

The “Grid Transformation Plan” filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission July 24 is the first phase of a 10-year plan to improve the grid reliability, resiliency and security, as well as to integrate rooftop solar and other distributed generation and energy storage, the company said.

Dominion Energy estimated that the 2019-2021, first-phase plan will cost $816.3 million in capital investment, and $101.5 million in operations and maintenance investment.

The proposal comes after a new state law aimed at encouraging utility investments in the grid, renewable energy and energy efficiency was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam in March. The law went into effect July 1.

The Grid Transformation and Security Act, which was backed by Dominion Energy, removed a 2015 rate freeze and returned oversight of investor-owned utilities to the Virginia State Corporation Commission. It included $219 million in credits to Virginia customer for overpayments.

The law also allowed utilities to deduct money spent on eligible grid and renewable energy projects from overearnings for the purpose of setting rates and customer refunds.

“Thanks to the Grid Transformation & Security Act, Dominion Energy plans to develop a system that meets the increasingly complex demands and expectations of our customers,” Ed Baine, Dominion senior vice president for power delivery, said in a statement.

The law also requires Dominion Energy to propose a minimum of $870 million in energy efficiency programs. The utility said it would file its proposal later this year.

As for the renewable energy targets set in the law, Dominion Energy said it will have 3 GW of renewable generation operating or under development by 2022. The utility has already filed a proposal with the corporation commission for 240 megawatts of solar in the state.

Among the elements in the grid modernization plan are:

  • The installation of 2 million so-called smart meters, which can track energy usage in real time and offer two-way communication between a customer’s home or business and the utility.
  • The deployment of digital intelligent grid devices, such as line sensors and digital relays, as well as automated control systems, to better monitor and manage the grid.
  • Enhanced cybersecurity. “The Company is well aware of its duty to reliably serve its 2.6 million customers in the face of increasing threats of physical or cyber assaults on its assets,” the filing said.
  • Creation of a “greener” grid through investments that will improve the utility’s ability to connect to a growing number of rooftop solar installations, distributed electricity generation and home storage batteries while managing voltage stability, and system operations and reliability.
  • The addition of a “Customer Information Platform,” which enables customers to track their electricity use and choose among different rate structures offered by the utility. It would also allow Dominion to send alerts to customers.

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