In Dominion Energy’s quest to get regulators to approve the large-scale deployment of smart meters for customers in Virginia, the fourth time was the charm.
On Friday, after three previous rejections, the Virginia State Corporation Commission approved a proposal from the utility company to replace about 1.1 million existing meters with newer technology that can allow customers to adjust their consumption of electricity. energy based on real-time data.
The project, which was included in the utility’s latest grid transformation plan, will cost $ 198.3 million and bring Dominion closer to a full deployment of smart meters in Virginia by 2023. Replacing the 250,000 to 300 Last, 000 existing non-smart meters will be offered as part of the company’s next plan, which would lead to full deployment by 2024.
Augustus Johnson, Director of Dominion Power Distribution Grid Solutions, called Smart Meters – formally known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure – a âfundamental partâ of the utility’s grid transformation efforts.
With them, “we will be able to offer all of our customers faster storm service connections, more information and options to manage their usage and bill, and streamline the integration of distributed energy resources such as solar panels and battery storage at their homes, âhe said. noted.
Dominion has been vying for CSC’s approval of its smart meter deployment plans throughout its Virginia territory since the General Assembly approved the Grid Transformation and Security Act in 2018.
The utility claimed that as it modernizes the electricity grid, smart meters will provide the data needed to integrate a growing number of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar panels and electric vehicles. In addition to allowing the utility to electronically track customers’ energy use, smart meters can provide information to customers themselves, allowing them to adjust their usage and potentially take advantage of innovative electricity tariffs designed to reduce energy consumption. consumption during peak demand periods.
Dominion has regularly replaced its old meters, known as Automatic Meter Reading Devices or AMRs, since 2008. By the end of November, it had deployed 1.2 million in the Virginia system, with recent efforts focusing on Petersburg, parts of Southside and Hampton. Roads and the eastern part of Richmond.
But regulators have been reluctant to approve the costs of a coordinated system-wide deployment.
CSC twice rejected smart meter proposals in Dominion’s grid transformation plans and in April 2020 again rejected the utility’s request to reconsider its latest refusal. In an official order, the commissioners said they believed the potential benefits of Dominion’s proposed smart meter deployment were “too speculative and uncertain for the commission to choose to approve such a large expenditure at that time, including significant costs impact Dominion customers.
In the most recent plan approved by the CSC on Friday, the nonprofit Appalachian Voices for the protection of the environment and consumers argued that regulators should condition their approval of the deployment of smart meters on taking several other measures. by the utility, such as offering customers a discount for reducing electricity consumption on days when demand has reached a critical peak.
The commission rejected this suggestion, however, and approved the deployment plan as a whole, highlighting other steps Dominion had taken to justify a larger deployment.
In particular, the SCC cited the new hourly utility rate, a type of electric rate designed to encourage customers to reduce their electricity use at peak times and shift energy-intensive activities like recharging vehicles to on-time. hollow. Not only is Dominion now offering an experimental TOU tariff, the commission said, but it has “provided a timeline for the system-wide implementation” of those tariffs.
The commission previously criticized the utility for failing to incorporate hour-of-use tariffs into its smart meter plans, saying Dominion had “not submitted a full proposal” to roll them out in its territory, even asking customers to bear the costs. of smart meters.
Other reasons CSC gave in support of their approval on Friday included declining vendor support for existing meters, as well as âfunctional limitationsâ of the technology.