Dominion Virginia Power said Tuesday that it plans to invest nearly $2 billion per year through 2020 to add new, clean generation — including solar energy — and to secure and upgrade the electric grid in Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.
Dominion said the planned $9.5-billion spend builds on a record of new capital investment by the company in recent years with spending on electric infrastructure designed to meet growth, enhance reliability and promote cleaner air and water. The company made $1.8 billion in similar investments in 2015.
The investments are in addition to the proposed controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a $5 billion natural gas pipeline that, if approved by federal regulators, would serve Dominion Virginia Power and other electric and natural gas utilities.
“We know our customers expect high reliability, clean energy and reasonable rates,” Robert M. Blue, president, Dominion Virginia Power, said in a statement.
Blue said that since 2008 the company has invested more than $8 billion in new electricity infrastructure, including environmental control equipment designed to reduce fossil power station air emissions.
“Over the same period, our reliability has improved 25 percent,” he said. “Our reliability in 2015 was 99.98 percent – which translates into approximately 2 hours of outage time per customer over the whole year.”
To get comparative year-to-year data across the industry, Dominion and other utilities typically do not include outages from major storms in reliability measures.
Dominion said its electric rates remain lower than national, regional and state averages. In recent years residential rates have increased by an average of less than 1 percent annually. The company said it achieved minimal increases through efficiency and by holding down operating costs.
Of the $9.5 billion planned capital expenditures through 2020, $2.4 billion is slated for the company’s distribution system, $3.6 billion for transmission lines and substations, and $3.5 billion for new generation and environmental improvements. Included in those amounts are $700 million for new solar generation and additional funds for undergrounding vulnerable distribution lines, if approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission.
Not included are costs for coal ash removal. According to Dominion Virginia Power, the estimate for closing 11 ponds at four power stations in Virginia is about $325 million. If the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) proposes stricter limits, frequent testing and increased monitoring, the costs could be higher.
Dominion has said that it is closing the ponds in compliance with standards set by the state and the Environmental Protection Agency. Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity, contains hazardous chemicals.
The Virginia State Water Board is expected to act Thursday, Jan. 14, on a proposal from Dominion Virginia Power, which owns the Possum Point Power Station next to Quantico Creek, to divert millions of gallons of water from its coal ash ponds into the creek. It’s also expected to rule on a similar request for the Bremo Power Station in Chesterfield County, which is located by the James River. In both cases, Dominion proposes to treat the water before releasing it under limits prescribed by the DEQ. In Chesterfield, the company also is moving forward with plans to build a lined, dry landfill to store coal ash.
The proposals have drawn opposition from environmental and other groups who are lobbying for more stringent limits before the coal ash could be released into the state’s waterways.
Dominion Virginia Power currently serves 2.5 million customers in Virginia and northeast North Carolina. It said more than 430,000 customers – the size of a large city – have been added in the past decade.