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In 2019, Dominion Energy launched one of the most ambitious electric school bus initiatives in the country. When participating local school districts replace aging buses in their fleets, Dominion Energy will cover the additional cost of converting from diesel to electric buses and provide charging infrastructure. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this initiative will substantially improve the air quality for the buses’ passengers; the air quality inside an electric bus is six times better than air quality inside a diesel bus. The initiative will also provide ongoing savings to school districts because electric buses have 60 percent lower operation and maintenance costs.
What’s more, because the buses are idle for long stretches at regular intervals, the program will enable Dominion Energy to use the battery systems for grid operations and in support of intermittent renewable energy.
In January 2020, we announced the first phase of the program: 50 buses in 16 localities will be operational by the end of the year. Further expansions of the program will follow later.
- We have partnered with Fairfax County, Va., on a project to bring an autonomous electric shuttle online. It will extend the reach of the Washington Metro public-transit service from the Dunn Loring stop to the Mosaic District slightly less than a mile away. Surveys show most people are willing to walk no more than half a mile to or from a transit stop, so the shuttle will make the use of Metro more convenient and appealing at minimal cost.
- The first electric bus charging stations in Dominion Energy South Carolina’s system were installed to serve the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority’s bus depot.
Other Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Reducing emissions from the transportation sector will require widespread electrification of both passenger and fleet vehicles. For example: If 3 billion vehicle miles were driven in Virginia with electric vehicles rather than internal-combustion vehicles by 2030, the commonwealth would avoid 1 million tons of CO2 emissions. As of December 31, 2019, there were approximately 17,200 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in the company’s Virginia service area. Based on the average number of miles driven per year in Virginia, 13,300 EVs would cover roughly 170 million miles in a typical year. By 2030, the number of EVs in our Virginia service territory is projected to rise to 169,000. Dominion Energy will continue to take a variety of steps to help consumers make the shift to electric vehicles. For example, we are making it easier to learn about the benefits — both financial and environmental — of driving electric. In 2019, we launched an online education tool to help customers as they make the transition to electric transportation.
It is important for Dominion Energy to optimize the electric grid to meet the increased demand from EV charging. In Virginia, we recently received approval of the Smart Charging Infrastructure Pilot Program and requested regulatory approval of two additional customer-facing programs to support and encourage EV adoption while minimizing the impacts of EV charging on the grid.
One of the best ways to motivate our customers to adopt electric vehicles is to lead by example. We intend to have workplace vehicle charging stations at every one of our offices in Virginia and North Carolina by 2021. We are offering incentives for our employees to buy electric vehicles and get discounted chargers for their home. Additionally, by 2025, we aim to convert 25 percent of the Dominion Energy Virginia light-duty fleet to electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.
The heavy-transport industry is increasingly looking to hydrogen as a source of emissions-free fuel. Dominion Energy’s natural gas pipelines provide a ready network of delivery infrastructure that could be used to supply hydrogen fueling stations. Hydrogen is both a fuel and a carrier that can be used to store and transport energy. When produced from low- or no-carbon sources, such as through excess renewable energy, hydrogen can help the transportation industry transition to a sustainable, zero-carbon model.
Renewable Natural Gas
In Utah, we have contracted with Fleet Saver — an industrial-fleet fueling company — to distribute RNG to its fleet customers through our compressed natural gas stations. In 2019, we also began delivering RNG as transportation fuel to our natural gas customers in Utah.
In late 2018, Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods joined forces, creating Align Renewable Natural Gas (Align RNG) to capture methane emissions from hog farms and convert them into clean renewable energy for homes, businesses, and transportation fleets. In 2019, the companies doubled their investment, to a combined half a billion dollars through 2028. Dominion Energy followed that up by announcing a $200 million nationwide partnership with Vanguard Renewables in collaboration with the Dairy Farmers of America to capture methane from dairy farms.
In late 2019, we finalized construction of our first Align RNG project in Milford, Utah. The project entered commercial service in the spring of 2020. Consisting of 26 hog farms in southwestern Utah, the project will produce enough clean energy each year to heat nearly 3,000 homes and will reduce the same amount of annual emissions as taking more than 20,000 cars off the road or planting nearly 2 million new trees each year. Align RNG’s second and third projects in Duplin County, N.C., and Waverly, Va., are now under development.
Capturing methane and converting it to renewable natural gas substantially reduces greenhouse-gas emissions from agriculture. In fact, when emitted to the atmosphere methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide. Our projects are a significant net benefit for the climate as they reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90 percent when comparing the RNG used by customers to the gas released from our nation’s farms. When combined, our partnerships with Smithfield Foods and Vanguard Renewables are expected to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions from our nation’s farms by the same amount as taking more than 650,000 non-electric vehicles off the road or planting 50 million new trees each year. That will help shrink the carbon footprint of the agriculture sector, which accounts for roughly 10 percent of the nation’s climate-changing emissions.
Heavy industry accounts for more than a fifth of carbon-dioxide emissions. Much of those emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels, because many industrial processes require high temperatures for sustained periods. While electrification is not practical for some processes, it may be applicable in others. Switching from coal and oil to natural gas could reduce emissions in some instances. Further reductions could be achieved through the use of hydrogen.
In Ohio in 2019, we continued work with Waste Management Renewable Energy to help that company improve the quality of gas from its RNG facility in Waynesburg by addressing certain constituents that can affect pipeline integrity. Dominion Energy Ohio and WMRE continue to discuss opportunities to increase the volume of RNG produced at American Landfill.