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Va. Power Proposes Plan to Save Energy: Utility Says Proposal Could Save Customers $1 Billion Over 15 Years

June 20, 2008

By Greg Edwards, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

Jun. 20–Someday your refrigerator may talk to Dominion Virginia Power.

It could happen under a technology-based plan revealed yesterday to help the utility meet a state goal for conserving electricity.

The utility estimates that the plan, which requires approval by the State Corporation Commission, would provide customers more than $1 billion in net savings on their electric bills during the next 15 years.

The plan includes incentives for customers to construct energy-efficient buildings and install energy-saving equipment. Eventually, it would provide customers new technological options for managing energy use.

A key element of the plan is the introduction of “smart grid” technologies, including installation of “smart” meters at each of the 2.3 million homes and businesses served by the utility.

The meters would provide two-way communication between Dominion Virginia Power and appliances and heating and cooling systems in a home or business. New thermostats have wireless technology that can communicate with the meters; appliances are expected to follow.

The meters would be able to notify Dominion Virginia Power when there’s a power outage and allow the utility and the customer to adjust power use remotely. The utility, for example, briefly could turn off air-conditioning or heating systems during peak demand.

Besides benefiting consumers, the plan would be good for the environment and shareholders of the utility’s parent, Dominion Resources Inc., said utility President David A. Heacock.

The energy savings would eliminate the need to build two power plants and delay the construction of two more, Heacock said. The plan would result in an estimated annual savings of 2.6 million megawatt hours of electricity by 2013, or enough to supply 216,000 typical single-family homes, he said.

Virginia law contains a goal for cutting the state’s anticipated electricity use in 2022 by 10 percent of actual 2006 use. Heacock said the plan announced yesterday would get the utility one-third of the way toward that goal within five years.

From an environmental standpoint, the conservation plan would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 12 million tons during the next 15 years, which is the equivalent of permanently removing 130,000 cars from the road, Heacock said. It also would help reduce emissions of the pollutants sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, he said.

Heacock said the company hopes to begin implementing the smart-meter program next year with the installation of the first 200,000 meters. In all, the meter installation would cost $600 million, which would be recovered through power rates, but the savings should more than offset that cost, the company said. Contact Greg Edwards at (804) 649-6390 or gedwards@timesdispatch.com.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

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