New kinds of energy require new ways to deliver them. We are upgrading the electric grid and our gas operations to better meet the next-generation energy needs of the communities we serve.
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What you should know
We make substantial investments to build and maintain the systems that deliver energy to our customers.
We are shifting focus from big projects to big programs that focus on providing resiliency and sustainability to our customers.
We are transforming the gas and electricity delivery networks.
We are exploring the potential for new kinds of infrastructure.
From Big Projects to Big Programs
Providing around-the-clock energy to millions of customers requires a massive system of production, storage and delivery. Dominion Energy has spent decades constructing such a system. We will continue investing more than $4 billion a year in growth capital through 2023 to make it cleaner, more robust and more secure.
At the same time, we will shift from big projects to more programmatic investments. While we will continue to make major infrastructure investments where they are called for, we are turning our attention to more programmatic enterprises that address next-generation energy needs for the communities we serve.
Grid and Gas Transformation
Virginia’s 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act (GTSA) supports additional solar power — up to 3,000 megawatts (enough to power 750,000 homes) by 2022. That’s in addition to nearly 1,800 megawatts of solar generating capacity in service by the end of 2018. The legislation also supports more energy conservation — with the goal of at least $870 million for efficiency measures over the next decade.
The GTSA represents an important policy statement by Virginia by recognizing the importance of transformational change in the electric distribution system. The existing grid was designed for one-way power flows: from dispatchable, centralized generating stations through the transmission and distribution systems to end-use customers. The current distribution grid cannot effectively integrate ever-increasing amounts of renewable generation, including customer-level distributed energy. That is why the GTSA made possible a proposed 10-year upgrade of the electric grid in Virginia. This grid transformation program will enable:
- More smart meters — 2.1 million of them, to give our customers improved service with more information and control over how and when they use energy, support new rate designs, and enable a smarter grid.
- Improved customer experience — through deployment of a modem digital customer information platform (CIP) enabling a wide range of new capabilities and greatly expanding customer opportunities to engage with us and learn ways to conserve energy and save money.
- A smarter grid — brought about by automated control systems and digital intelligent-grid devices that will both cut restoration times when outages occur and provide the grid with self-healing capabilities, automatically isolating system faults and rerouting power flows to restore as many customers as possible with minimal intervention from system operators.
- A stronger grid — with grid hardening activities to physically strengthen infrastructure and improve the resiliency, performance and condition of the grid as well as help guard against cyber and physical attacks.
- A greener grid — improving our ability to efficiently connect the growing number of distributed-energy resources to the distribution grid and make the grid more adaptable for emerging technologies, including battery storage and electric vehicles.
We also expect continued growth in our regulated gas business. Our programmatic and project-related investments are expected to include:
- Up to $350 million per year to replace pipelines at our local distribution companies in Ohio, Utah and West Virginia. These investments not only improve reliability and ensure public safety, but also reduce methane emissions.
- Up to $175 million per year (beginning in 2021) to modernize and improve our gas transmission system ¬— ensuring continued security and safety for our neighbors, enhancing flexibility for our customers and improving environmental friendliness for the planet. These capital programs — whether on a customer-specific, regional or pipeline-wide basis — are in addition to the millions that we already invest each year, as required to maintain the Gas Transmission and Storage asset base.
- Up to $450 million over two years for expansion of our gas transmission and distribution network. These next-generation investments will emphasize projects to add flexibility and ensure maximum utilization of existing pipeline and storage infrastructure. As we adapt to an economy that features greater reliance on intermittent energy sources, the durability of the natural gas grid is a vital component of a secure cleaner-energy future.
Dominion Energy’s nuclear stations provide more than a third of its total electricity generation — enough energy to power nearly 3.9 million homes around the clock. This safe, reliable energy is completely carbon-free, making it a crucial component of the effort to alleviate climate change. In fact, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, wrote in a recent IEA report that “without action to provide more support for nuclear power, global efforts to transition to a cleaner energy system will become drastically harder and more costly. Wind and solar energy need to play a much greater role in order for countries to meet sustainability goals, but it is extremely difficult to envisage them doing so without help from nuclear power.” The IEA estimates that “[n]uclear power has avoided about 55 [gigatons] of CO2 emissions over the past 50 years, nearly equal to 2 years of global energy-related CO2 emissions.”
In late 2017, Dominion Energy notified the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its intent to renew the license for its North Anna Power Station for another 20-year term. We expect to file the application in 2020. In October, 2018, we submitted a license renewal application for the Surry Power Station. As part of the relicensing process, the company expects to spend up to $4 billion in upgrades to the units. Also last year, Dominion Energy’s Millstone Power Station received regulatory approval from Connecticut to compete in zero-carbon energy auctions.
These efforts will help ensure that our customers will benefit from the zero-carbon power the stations produce for decades to come.
Exploring Modular Nuclear
Dominion Energy is staying engaged with developments in small modular reactor (SMR) technology, including modest investment in a conceptual design. This type of reactor has the potential to reduce construction and operating costs, and thereby to help keep rates low for our customers while safely and reliably generating zero-carbon electricity.
According to the think tank Third Way, small nuclear reactors could help cut carbon emissions in numerous circumstances. The examples are easy to imagine: remote Alaskan towns that currently pay extremely high rates for electricity; naval stations that want microgrid capability for increased energy security, without having to house large on-site diesel generators; intermodal transportation hubs that seek to power passenger rail systems, and offer to charge their riders’ electric vehicles in their park-and-ride lots; and industrial manufacturers who need the consistent carbon-free, high-heat energy that solar and wind power have difficulty providing.
Natural Gas: Demonstrably Cleaner
In recent years some have disputed whether natural gas truly is cleaner than coal when the entire fuel life cycle is taken into consideration. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has observed that "at the power plant, natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal, but uncertainties exist in the amount of methane leakage occurring upstream in the extraction and production of natural gas. At high leakage levels, these methane emissions could outweigh the benefits of switching from coal to natural gas." ("Role of Natural Gas in Meeting an Electric Sector Emissions Reduction Strategy and Effects on Greenhouse Gas Emissions," https://cfpub.epa.gov).
However, research suggests that concerns about supply chain methane emissions offsetting natural gas’s superior greenhouse-gas profile are overblown.
A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that shifting from coal to gas reduces long-term climate impacts. "Our conclusion that the benefits of natural gas outweigh the possible risks is robust under a broad range of methane leakage, and under uncertainties in emissions data and metrics," says lead researcher Katsumasa Tanaka.
Sustainable Natural Gas
Natural gas plays a major role in reducing greenhouse-gas and other emissions. It has enabled Dominion Energy to transition away from coal — which once made up roughly half our electric production, and now accounts for 12 percent. (For more detail, see the section on Greensville Power Station below.) Natural gas also has supported greater use of renewable energy sources by providing the quick-start back-up that renewables need when renewables aren’t available.
While we are happy about these developments, we are not content to rest on our success. So Dominion Energy is focusing on three key areas to become more sustainable.
- First, we are investing in new equipment and technology to drastically reduce any methane emissions on our system. As a result, we are committed to reducing emissions by 50 percent by the end of the next decade.
- Next, we are investing in resiliency programs to make our system safer, more secure, more flexible and more sustainable. These programs will allow us to be part of the solution by adding more renewables onto the system.
- Third, Dominion Energy is pursuing other ways to reduce our customers’ carbon footprint by extending the benefits of natural gas to our customers and communities, including modular LNG service and renewable natural gas (RNG). The RNG process actually removes more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than are generated by the end user, by a factor of 25 to 1. For more detail about these programs, see this report’s section on Natural Gas Diversity.
Greensville Power Station
On December 8, 2018, Dominion Energy Virginia fired up its Greensville County Power Station — a $1.3 billion, 1,588-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas station. One of the cleanest natural gas power stations in the U.S., Greensville has the strictest CO2 limit in the country.
In its first year of operation, the station is expected to provide up to $7 million in property taxes for Greensville County. Post-construction economic benefits are projected to amount to about $36 million annually, and about 166 jobs will be supported, with roughly half of those in Greensville County. Over its expected life, the station will save Dominion Energy customers about $2.1 billion as a result of the company not having to purchase power from market sources.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline
When completed, the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) will transport natural gas to electric and gas utilities and industrial customers alike. The ACP will provide a cleaner, lower-cost and more reliable energy supply from the Dominion Energy South Point gas market hub to consumers across Virginia and North Carolina. For a region facing pipeline constraints, economic challenges, and the ongoing transition to cleaner energy, the project is essential for energy security, economic vitality and environmental health.
The new infrastructure of the ACP would draw from low-cost supply basins, including the Appalachians, through an alternative route that is not available today. By competing with the lone current route for supply, ACP enhances the reliability of electric and gas utility service and potentially lowers costs for consumers. It also would help alleviate constraints and expand access to gas in underserved communities, and attract manufacturing and other new industries — building a foundation for long-term job creation and economic growth. In fact, the ACP is expected to create 17,240 jobs during construction and support thousands more with new industries.
In 2014, construction began on a $4 billion facility to liquefy natural gas at Dominion Energy’s Cove Point on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The facility entered commercial operation in 2018, and a transport ship carrying the first cargo of LNG produced for export left Cove Point on March 1.
The facility’s footprint has not expanded to accommodate the project, and the facility maintains a surrounding nature preserve. In addition to the nearly 3,000 construction jobs created when Cove Point was built, the facility also has produced nearly 100 permanent jobs at the site and has committed to contribute $40 million in new annual revenue to Calvert County, Maryland. Cove Point is a pivotal corporate citizen, providing nearly 13 percent of the county’s total expected revenue in 2020.
Cove Point contributes to the environmental sustainability of energy production worldwide by providing American allies in Japan and India with a new source of natural gas for the next two decades or more. This infrastructure is helping those countries reduce their carbon footprints while improving the reliability of their gas and electric utilities. In recent years India has pursued an ambitious program of rural electrification. Despite those efforts, rural areas still face considerable challenges with regard to power quality and reliability — a problem that disproportionately affects the poor. LNG from Cove Point can help alleviate that disparity.
NiCHe LNG, a partnership between Dominion Energy and REV LNG, arose to meet the needs of customers in areas with little or no access to permanent natural gas infrastructure. NiCHe LNG deliveries have facilitated demonstration projects that will convince industrial consumers to switch from fuel oil to cleaner-burning natural gas. Smaller-scale LNG investments provide the peak-day reliability that energy consumers need, in order to securely forego reliance other sources. For more on this program, see the section on Natural Gas Diversity.