Proposal seeks to transform electric grid

Published 12:07 pm Saturday, February 3, 2018

by Ed Baine

For generations, the power company has had a fairly simple relationship with the communities it serves. Customers expected a few basic things to happen: Keep the lights on. Restore power as quickly as possible after an outage. Provide affordable rates.

For Dominion Energy Virginia, this is at the heart of what we do every day, and we believe we have done a good job of meeting these expectations. But for 21st century customers in a swiftly changing technological landscape, there are new and urgent needs — needs that require a transformation of the electric grid. That is why the Virginia General Assembly is now considering an important piece of legislation, the Grid Transformation & Security Act of 2018.

Customers now expect an energy grid that gives them flexibility and more control. They want new tools and better information to help manage energy usage and keep monthly bills affordable. They might even want to produce their own energy from a rooftop or other ways. They certainly want a grid that offers advanced protections against the very real threats posed by cyber and physical attacks. Since even the shortest disruptions can affect their ability to work, communicate and operate their homes and businesses, they expect a system that holds outages to a minimum and accelerates restoration.

Addressing these challenges and opportunities is no small task. And transformational change is never easy, but the benefits far outweigh the risk. Backed by members from both parties, along with a wide variety of stakeholders, the legislation offers Virginians a new way forward.

This comprehensive proposal seeks to transform the electric grid, promoting the development of renewable resources and enabling the system to better handle the power they generate. The legislation would pave the way for a more secure, reliable and efficient grid. And its goals are consistent with those of our customers: In a survey conducted last year, more than 80 percent of participants endorsed modernizing the electric distribution system to support efficiency, reliability, security and renewable energy.

This legislation provides a solution, authorizing energy providers to file detailed grid improvement plans for review and approval by the State Corporation Commission. The commission would provide oversight to monitor progress and confirm that objectives are met. And the program would promote continued rate stability for homes and businesses, with the ability to use existing rates to pay for grid upgrades and renewable energy development.

Bill credits and rate reductions, totaling more than $1 billion over eight years, are also included in the legislative proposal. Customers will begin seeing these benefits this year, beginning with a one-time customer credit of at least $175 million. This ensures that the price of electricity remains affordable and reasonable for Virginia customers.

The Grid Transformation & Security Act authorizes a continuation of the expansion of the popular energy assistance program, EnergyShare, through 2028. The statewide program has helped more than 800,000 low income families, elderly and disabled and military veterans since 1982. Since the program was expanded in September 2015, EnergyShare has provided more than $12 million in power bill payment assistance to more than 38,000 Virginia families, and helped make energy efficiency and weatherization improvements to nearly 21,000 homes.

Additionally, the legislation restores the SCC’s power to review energy company base rates, and lifts the rate freeze imposed by the General Assembly in 2015.

Backed by the Grid Transformation & Security Act, Dominion Energy believes we would have the tools we need to launch and maintain a stronger, more resilient, more renewable energy-friendly distribution system — a system that meets the legitimate demands and expectations of our customers. We strongly support the legislation. And we urge the Assembly to approve it — a step that would bring a stronger, smarter, and greener energy grid a step closer to reality for communities all across Virginia.

For more information on grid transformation in Virginia, visit

ED BAINE is Senior Vice President – Power Delivery, at Dominion Energy.