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Dominion Energy grid programme paves way for renewables growth in Virginia

Steve Rogerson
August 7, 2018

Dominion Energy has launched a grid transformation programme, paving way for Virginia's energy future with 3000MW of new solar and wind planned by 2022.
Customers of the utility could benefit from a smarter, stronger and greener energy grid in the first set of plans filed under the Grid Transformation & Security Act (GTSA). The legislation became effective last month. Dominion Energy is committing to having 3000MW of new solar and wind – enough to power 750,000 homes – under development or in operation by the beginning of 2022.
"Thanks to the GTSA, Dominion Energy plans to develop a system that meets the increasingly complex demands and expectations of our customers," said Ed Baine, senior vice president. "And we are doing it with more renewable energy."
The law paves the way for expanded investments in renewable energy, smart grid technology, a stronger, more secure grid and energy efficiency programmes, all while keeping rates affordable. It provides hundreds of millions of dollars in bill credits and rate reductions for customers, and expands the Energy Share programme to help Virginia's most vulnerable citizens.
The GTSA includes provisions for:

  • $200m in bill credits to customers, and $125m in annual rate cuts due to tax relief;
  • Modernising the energy grid to improve reliability, resiliency and the ability to integrate more renewable energy and emerging technology;
  • Significantly expanding the company's renewable energy fleet in Virginia; and
  • Future testing of wind turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach.
In the regulatory filing, the company asked the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to approve the programmes, investments and costs included in the first three years of the ten-year grid transformation programme. The company will update the plan and request approval of additional programmes and spending in later filings with the SCC.
Dominion Energy says its customers will continue to see affordable energy prices even as the company makes critical investments in grid transformation. Through the provisions of the new law, customers will see significant savings, starting with the $133m bill credit in July, another $67m credit in January, and $125m annually in rate cuts due to recent federal tax reform.
Additionally, those who need assistance will benefit from the expansion of Energy Share. The law directs Dominion Energy to commit at least $13m in shareholder funds each year to 2028 for bill assistance and weatherisation services for seniors, veterans, low-income customers and people with disabilities.
The GTSA set Virginia's energy policy on a course for a massive expansion in new wind and solar energy – 3000MW of which Dominion Energy is committed to having in operation or under development by the beginning of 2022. The projects will be a combination of assets developed and procured by the company.
In a related filing with the SCC, Dominion Energy will seek to add 240MW of solar energy in Virginia. The proposed projects will continue to grow the company's solar fleet, which is already the sixth largest in the nation. Dominion Energy is also working this summer to gather input from stakeholders before announcing the next phase in its solar strategy later this year.
Later this summer, the company will seek SCC approval for its proposed Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. The 12MW facility would be the first of its kind in the mid-Atlantic, located in a federal lease area about 43km off the coast of Virginia Beach. The two-turbine test project is being developed through a partnership with Ørsted Energy of Denmark. It will provide information that could lead to more extensive wind development.
The grid transformation initiative includes the installation of approximately 2.1 million smart meters in homes and businesses. If approved by the SCC, these smart meters will give users more information and tools to manage their energy use and bills. The approximately $450m investment in smart meters and the customer information platform during the first three years of the initiative will be funded without any rate increase by using the reinvestment model enabled by the GTSA.
Smart meters and other grid transformation investments will help integrate technologies such as private solar and electric vehicle charging stations into the grid. Investments in intelligent grid devices, smart meters and automated control systems will enable a self-healing grid, which will speed the restoration process by quickly identifying and isolating outages.
New construction and material standards should improve grid resiliency and reduce outages caused by weather and other events. Additional measures will be taken to protect the grid against the growing threat of physical and cyber attacks. These measures include hardening substations serving critical facilities and the deployment of intelligent devices and control systems that can help energy companies detect and recover from events more quickly.
Other provisions of the GTSA reinforce efforts by Dominion Energy to place more vulnerable and outage-prone distribution lines underground. The latest expansion of the company's strategic underground programme is now under review by the SCC.
The GTSA has directed Dominion Energy to propose at least $870m in energy efficiency programmes over the next decade, designed to help customers save energy and manage the demand on Virginia's electric system. The new law designates that at least five per cent of energy efficiency programmes must benefit low income, elderly or disabled individuals, most likely through residential weatherisation upgrades.
Dominion Energy will file its initial proposals for new energy efficiency projects with the SCC for approval later this year following input provided by stakeholders.
"The GTSA lays out a very clear path for Virginia to reach a clean energy future that includes greater reliability, more security and grid resiliency," Baine said. "And it does this while ensuring prices remain reasonable and competitive. Virginia will make great strides in the coming years, because of the new law."