Dominion announces “smart meters”

Brent Finnegan -- June 20th, 2008

Dominion Virginia Power just announced a plan to reduce energy by offering incentives for saving energy, and installing “smart meters” at every customer’s home or business.

Here’s a video that explains how smart meters work. They allow customers (or Dominion, if given permission) to control power remotely, shutting off HVACs and other energy-guzzling appliances during peak hours.

Of course, this would only apply to Dominion customers (i.e. county residents that don’t get bills from HEC or SVEC). Although HEC buys power from Dominion, an engineer at HEC told me that they have no plans to implement smart meters at this time. The same goes for Shenandoah Valley Electric Co-op, which has about 13,000 customers scattered throughout the county.

If the initiative is successful for Dominion, I’m thinking HEC and SVEC might want to look into it.

So why does Dominion — a company that has ignored clean energy alternatives, and fought dirty for the Rappahannock line — want to save Virginians energy?

It’s good for the shareholders. From the Times-Dispatch:

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.

Dominion currently provides power to 2.3 million homes and businesses. The company plans to eventually install smart meters to all their customers (unless it’s being brokered by a middle-man, like HEC), which would cost $600 million, and save an estimated $1 billion in energy costs over the next 15 years.

3 Responses to “Dominion announces “smart meters””

  1. SVEC actually does have a somewhat similar program called “Load Management” described on their web site as:

    “A voluntary program where members allow the Cooperative to install a remotely controlled switch on their electric storage-type water heater. This allows the Cooperative to control that heater during peak times of electrical demand system-wide. Any reduction in peak demand results in a savings to the Cooperative which, in turn, are savings for the members. To date the Cooperative has over 6000 water heater switches installed and the program has reduced our wholesale power costs by over $29.0 million since its inception.”

    I haven’t signed up for it yet, but may do so soon.

  2. finnegan says:

    I learned about that in my conversation with someone at SVEC this morning.

    Still, it’s not as cool as being able to control it yourself remotely via laptop or blackberry.

  3. Bubby says:

    Dominion Power continues to resist efforts to move Virginia toward alternative energy. And they wrote Virginia’s current electric utility regulations. Here is a link to a story about the experiences of Alden Hathaway, a guy that powers his home in Loudoun County with photovoltaic panels, and has installed an impressive 70kWatt array that Dominion Power refuses to connect to the grid.

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