Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Dominion to invest $594m in Virginia’s energy by 2021

Steve Rogerson
October 15, 2019

Virginia-based Dominion Energy is planning $594m investment in the state’s energy system by the end of 2021 including the installation of nearly a million smart meters.
The utility says it wants its Virginia customers to have a more reliable service, new tools to manage energy usage, and greater access to clean energy sources under a proposal filed with the State Corporation Commission (SCC). The proposal outlines expanded details of the first three years of implementation of the company's ten-year plan to transform the state's energy grid.
With SCC approval, the initiative will enhance service to users through the implementation of technology and a series of programmes developed with input from stakeholders and customers over the past several months. The initiative comes as the company continues its progress towards a clean energy future and amid Virginia governor Ralph Northam's call for the state's electric sector to decarbonise fully by 2050. Dominion Energy has embraced that challenge, continuing to expand its growing solar and offshore wind portfolio.
The proposal calls for approximately $594m in investments by 2021. This includes an information platform that lets its customers digitally manage their energy usage, and installation of nearly a 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.
Its customers will see no rate increase for costs associated with deployment of the information platform and smart meters installed until 2021, which represents approximately half the initial three-year investment package, because the company plans to reinvest funds under the provisions of the Grid Transformation & 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, Dominion senior vice president. "This will help customers for years to come, with more resilient service, greater value and a partnership that helps to 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 benefits, including fewer power outages and flexible rate options to meet different lifestyles. The analysis concluded that the planned investments deliver significant benefit to all users across a wide range of areas, while also driving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, increase in jobs and economic growth in the commonwealth, and savings to electric vehicle owners.
Benefits of the proposal include:

  • More control and convenience: Smart meters will give users more information and tools to manage their energy use and bills. They will be able to save money through options such as timely usage insights and energy efficiency programmes. The meters let users receive alerts that warn of potential high bills, and notifications to 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: Users can expect fewer outages caused by weather and other events due to stronger, more secure and resilient infrastructure and 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 outages and automatically report others. The devices will help isolate outages when they do occur and reroute power so fewer people are impacted. They also help crews pinpoint the source of outages, speeding restoration.
  • More adaptable to clean energy: A smart grid is designed to increase the benefits of renewable energy generation, whether the energy is produced by offshore wind or from solar panels at people’s homes. Proposed upgrades will accommodate two-way flow of power, allowing excess energy produced at homes to be delivered back to the wider grid. 
  • More electric vehicles: Proposed investments will accelerate development of more environment-friendly transportation. Among other things, pilot programmes could support rideshare electrification and electric vehicle charging at multi-family communities, workplaces, transit bus depots and fast-charging locations. Incentives and programmes could help users make decisions on how and where to charge an EV and still save money.
Nearly 7.5 million users in 18 states energise their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy. The company says it is committed to sustainable, reliable, affordable and safe energy and is one of the USA's largest producers and transporters of energy with about $100bn of assets providing electric generation, transmission and distribution, as well as natural gas storage, transmission, distribution and import and export services. The company expects to cut generating fleet carbon dioxide emissions 80 per cent by 2050 and halve methane emissions from its gas assets by 2030.