We know a proud history does not guarantee a prosperous future. So we are not just keeping up with the changing times — we are setting the pace by driving forward innovations that will benefit our customers, our investors and the communities we serve.
On this page
What you should know
We have a clearly defined innovation strategy.
We are creating a culture that encourages employees to experiment.
We seek out industry disruptions and external partnerships to sharpen our innovation skills.
We have created an array of internal programs to drive innovation forward.
A company cannot stand still and hope to remain successful; it must evolve to stay abreast with the changing times. At Dominion Energy, we do more than stay abreast — we drive change forward.
Our corporate ancestry includes companies involved in everything from canal navigation and horse-shoe manufacturing to streetcar and railway operation. Today we deliver electricity and natural gas. But changing customer behavior, lower barriers to entry and new technologies and marketplaces are disrupting or upending traditional business models.
While Dominion Energy currently enjoys success, we know a proud history will not guarantee a prosperous future. Progress in the years ahead will not be shaped by the strength of our legacy, but by how well we embrace innovation.
Our company is determined to create changes that improve our customers’ experience, exceed our stakeholders’ expectations and position our company for sustainable, agile and long-term success. We need not only to foresee technological advancements, but to develop them in order to find new and better ways of serving our customers and bringing them value.
To invigorate that process, in 2018 Dominion Energy created a new position: Vice President — Innovation, who oversees a group of dedicated innovation professionals and who works in support of our Chief Innovation Officer. The company has crafted an innovation strategy built on three pillars:
- Grow the future;
- Enhance performance; and
- Accelerate the culture.
The strategy is designed to grow business and earnings by fostering a growth culture inside our organization, enhancing the assets that belong to it, and developing partnerships and encouraging start-ups outside our organization.
Growing Business and Earnings
We are exploring new markets for our existing businesses, and new lines of business in adjacent or other markets. Some of the areas we are looking into include autonomous electric transportation as a community sustainability solution; blockchain technology as a potential improvement to settle renewable-energy transactions; distributed-energy solutions to maximize the value of renewables to the grid and utilities; and customer solutions focusing on using our assets to reduce our customers’ emissions.
Other elements of our innovation strategy include innovation accelerators, external partnerships and more.
Each of Dominion Energy’s business units has an Innovation Guide — an employee who works with our Innovation Group to find and create innovative, sustainable value for the business. They help employees in the business units develop their skill sets, support crowdsourcing challenges, help individual contributors flesh out their ideas and encourage collaboration on promising new ideas.
In 2018, the company piloted an “innovation accelerator” program. Ten employees across Dominion Energy Ohio were named innovation accelerators and given basic training in how to foster idea generation. The aim was to decentralize innovation by relying on existing influencers, educators and coaches on the front lines — rather than exhortation from top leadership — to cultivate creative thinking at the grassroots level and in all corners of the business. The results were encouraging: a sharp increase in both employee engagement and crowdsourcing within a matter of weeks.
In 2019, the company is taking the lessons from this experience and expanding the innovation accelerator program across all our business units.
“The wisdom of crowds” has entered business vernacular for good reason: Large groups of people often prove better at idea generation and problem solving than small groups of experts, even when the large groups lack expertise themselves. Dominion Energy has made use of this phenomenon by issuing crowdsourcing challenges to solve existing problems or think of creative solutions to problems that might one day arise. The company completed 15 crowdsourcing challenges in 2018 and will likely double that in 2019.
Recent winning ideas in our crowdsourcing challenge include using advanced pattern recognition software to improve equipment monitoring and maintenance by detecting subtle deviations from normal operating conditions, and improving safety by including a sticker inside hard hats with the wearer’s personal and supervisor-contact information.
In 2018, we also launched more than 20 different sprint teams focused on discovering new business models and opportunities for growth in areas from solar energy and electric vehicles to marine LNG. We also expanded our innovation program by forming a small beachhead team consisting of strategists, designers and Innovation Guides. The team reports to the Vice President — Innovation, a new position.
The group fosters a culture of innovation and creative thinking through workshops and events such as Innovation Expos and the 2nd annual Innovation Summit held in June 2018. The summit provided employees the opportunity to learn about exponential technologies — those that display a rate of exponential or accelerating growth, rather than linear growth — and the effects they might have on our business.
"We live in a rapidly evolving world. We are determined not only to respond to that evolution, but to lead the evolution. In order to do this, we must think bigger, [and] shift our culture to plan faster and more innovatively for the long term."
Innovation Guide with the Power Delivery Group
How long have you been at Dominion Energy?
Fourteen and a half years, all of which have been spent in the Power Delivery Group.
What is an Innovation Guide?
Innovation Guides foster innovative capabilities within each business unit. Each Innovation Guide embraces change by convening and catalyzing employee ingenuity. We also provide a bridge between each business unit and the Innovation team by providing insight into the needs of each business unit.
What led to your becoming one?
Innovation and embracing change are a big part of our company’s future and it’s exciting to have the opportunity to be a part of it. I was approached with the opportunity to become an Innovation Guide and saw this as a fantastic opportunity to help to guide the future of our company, help my colleagues learn to become more innovative and help to push their ideas forward.
What is being an Innovation Guide like?
No two days are the same. Part of the fun in being an Innovation Guide is getting to see and experience the wide variety of innovation here at Dominion Energy — from the great ideas that come from all of our teammates to the potentially game-changing initiatives and opportunities that come from external companies that we could partner with one day.
Do you work with employees to shape and refine their innovation ideas, or is your role strictly to help them get their ideas in front of the right people?
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned about innovation through your participation in the program?
I kind of knew this coming in, but innovation is both big and small and can come from anyone, anywhere and at any time. Nowhere is this more evident than in looking at the wide swath of ideas that have been submitted to the various crowdsourcing challenges that the company has run over the years. It’s amazing to see what people come up with when you simply ask for their thoughts and opinions.
A sustainable future depends on new ideas — and no company has a monopoly on good ones. We are always interested in what others are thinking and doing, and enthusiastic about helping them move their projects forward. To that end, Dominion Energy has developed a number of partnerships to foster innovation both inside and outside our company. Among them:
- We have joined forces with Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, to host an annual pitch competition for both startups and students. The winning company receives a $10,000 award and membership in the Dominion Energy Innovation Center; the winning student teams earn the opportunity to pitch their ideas in front of a panel of judges; the winning team receives a cash prize and co-working space in the innovation center. The 2018 company winner was Babylon Micro-Farms, which creates modular indoor farms to supply fresh produce year-round.
- We are a corporate partner with Plug and Play, a California venture capital firm and innovation accelerator that advises corporations on their innovation practices.
- We have worked with Virginia Commonwealth University on ventures such as its Power the Future design-a-thon and its multi-disciplinary Da Vinci Center.
Internal Mindsets and Skills
To encourage employees to think like innovators, the company has put a number of programs in place that foster new ways of looking at things. These include: Innovation accelerators, external partnerships and more.
- Blue Ocean Brain — an online development platform where employees can take part in additional training at their own pace and challenge their cognitive skills with game-like brain exercises.
- Design Thinking — an eight-hour Learning Management System class open to all employees.
- Knowledge Networks — collaboration groups that provide Dominion Energy employees with diverse backgrounds across the company with a way to connect and share ideas around a particular technology or focus area.
- The Chairman’s Excellence Award — an expansion of Dominion Energy’s IDeAs innovation program, which encourages creativity in any aspect of our business and helps employee inventors take new products and services to market, the Chairman’s Excellence Award recognizes employees who develop new ways to help the company save money, work more efficiently and effectively or provide better service to our customers. It provides cash awards of up to $5,000.
Ideas accomplish nothing without action to move them forward. At Dominion Energy, an emphasis on follow-through has enabled innovation to make real improvements in how we work. Some examples:
- We are using use of Zero Emissions Vacuum and Compression (ZEVAC) technology to capture methane before maintenance or inspection so it can be recycled for use. After piloting the technology on a limited scale, Dominion Energy recently purchased 20 ZEVAC® units from TPE Midstream for widespread use across its distribution and transmission pipeline systems. Using ZEVAC leads to a 95 percent reduction in methane emissions. Eighty employees have been trained to use the technology so far.
- Our Electric Distribution business has developed an augmented-reality application to let customers “see” how infrastructure proposed for their property will look once it’s in place. The application overlays a 3-D image of a transformer or other equipment on an iPad camera view of the customer’s home and yard; the image can be dragged and dropped to different locations, and because it is geopinned, the customer can take the iPad to different locations — including inside his or her home — to see how the equipment will look from multiple vantage points. The application, which the company began using in May 2018, won the 2018 Chairman’s Excellence Award.
- At our North Anna nuclear plant, members of our Generation team devised a new, more cost-effective way to inspect the interior of auxiliary service water pipes. Because the pipes use a sleeved pipe-in-pipe configuration, conventional inspection methods — which involve excavation and uncoating — are difficult and expensive. Engineers at North Anna instead used a robotic crawler and electromagnetic acoustic transducers to inspect the pipe from within — lowering inspection costs of up to $3 million to less than $200,000.
- Also in 2018, the company teamed up with Texas-based Renu Robotics for a pilot project that will deploy autonomous, battery-powered mowers to manage the vegetation at two of our solar facilities. We are using augmented reality to improve safety and solar panels to power pumps at some of our natural gas facilities. We are also exploring how to take advantage of big data, the Internet of Things, and other advances in technology and innovation.
All these change-embracing efforts will improve how we serve our customers, shareholders and stakeholders — and help us make the world a better place in the process.
The innovation team is focused on identifying and pursuing opportunities that build a sustainable future for others as we are increasing the sustainability of our own operations.