Virginia regulators approve Dominion Energy Virginia’s participation in pilot program involving underground lines

The Virginia State Corporation Commission, in a July 26 order, approved a request by Virginia Electric and Power (Dominion Energy Virginia) to participate – via its proposed Haymarket transmission project – in a pilot program that involves underground electric transmission lines.

As noted in the order, Dominion in November 2015 filed with the commission an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the proposed Haymarket 230-kV, double-circuit transmission line and 230-34.5-kV Haymarket substation.

Through its application, the company requested commission authority to:

  • Build the new Haymarket substation in Prince William County
  • Convert its existing 115-kV Gainesville-Loudoun Line #124, located in Prince William and Loudoun counties, to 230-kV operation (Line #124 conversion)
  • Build in Prince William County and the Town of Haymarket the new 230-kV transmission line from a tap point about 0.5 mile north of the company’s existing Gainesville substation on the Line #124 conversion to the new Haymarket substation (the Haymarket Loop)

The order also noted that the company, in its application, proposed five alternative routes for the Haymarket Loop:

  • I-66 Hybrid Route – $167m
  • Madison Route – $68m
  • Carver Road Route – $62m
  • Railroad Route – $55m
  • I-66 Overhead Route – $51m

The company said that the project is necessary to provide service to a new data center campus in Prince William County, as well as to maintain reliable electric service to its customers in the area in accordance with mandatory NERC reliability standards for transmission facilities and the company’s transmission planning criteria.

The order added that a hearing examiner in November 2016 issued a report, finding that the project is needed so that Dominion “can continue to provide reasonably adequate service to its customers at reasonable and just rates,” and that the “Carver Road Route reasonably minimizes the project’s impact on the environment, scenic assets, and historic resources.”
The commission in April 2017 issued an interim order finding that the project is needed and that both the Railroad Route and the Carver Road Route meet the statutory criteria in the case.

The July 26 order also noted that after receiving information from Dominion that it was not feasible to build the Railroad Route, the commission in June 2017 issued its final order, reiterating that the project is needed and approving construction of the Carver Road Route.

The company in September 2017 filed an update with the commission, advising that it was not able to secure the necessary approvals from Prince William County to build the Carver Road Route, and requesting that the commission authorize construction of the I-66 Overhead Route.

The July 26 order also noted that the commission in December 2017 issued its order remanding for further proceedings, which directed the hearing examiner to conduct additional proceedings to receive evidence and legal analysis regarding:

  • New information as proffered by the parties that the hearing examiner finds relevant to the issue of the need for the project
  • Dominion’s additional variations to the routes proposed in the record

As TransmissionHub reported, the company in March filed with the commission a motion for expedited consideration of a stipulated settlement regarding the project.

In that March filing, the company noted that the Coalition to Protect Prince William County (Coalition) and Somerset Crossing Homeowners Association (Somerset) have agreed to the motion. Commission staff has seen the motion and has represented to the company that it does not oppose the motion. The company also said in its March filing that FST Properties, LLC (FST) and Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) have seen the stipulation and have represented to the company that they do not oppose the stipulation.

According to the commission’s July 26 order, the stipulation was filed in response to Senate Bill (SB) 966, which was signed by the governor in March, to go into effect July 1. In the stipulation, the order noted, the Coalition and Somerset agreed not to contest the need for the project or to seek to enter additional evidence into the case record in return for the company’s agreement to file, by July 2, a written request for approval of the I-66 Hybrid Route under the pilot program established in the legislation, which is also known as the “Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018,” (GTSA), and for issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the I-66 Hybrid Route, upon a commission order affirming that the project is needed.

Dominion’s written request

As noted in Dominion’s July 2 written request to participate in the pilot program, Enactment Clause No. 2 of the GTSA establishes a pilot program “to further the understanding of underground electric transmission lines in regard to electric reliability, construction methods and related cost and timeline estimating, and the probability of meeting such projections” (the pilot program).

Dominion added that that program consists of “a total of two qualifying electrical transmission line projects, constructed in whole or in part underground, as specified and set forth in this act.”

Section 2 of Enactment Clause 2 identifies one of the two qualifying projects for the program stating, in part, that the commission is to approve as a qualifying project a transmission line of 230 kV or less that is pending final approval of a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the commission as of Dec. 31, 2017, for the construction of an electrical transmission line about 5.3 miles in length, utilizing both overhead and underground transmission facilities, of which the underground portion is to be about 3.1 miles in length, which has been previously proposed for construction within or immediately adjacent to the right of way of an interstate highway.

A proposed route for the Haymarket project qualifies under Section 2 of the pilot program, Dominion added, noting that as the commission has recognized, “the above statutory language appears to fit the description of the I-66 Hybrid Route.”

Dominion said that as part of its request for approval of the Haymarket project along the I-66 Hybrid Route, it requests approval to implement potential variations to the route within certain corridors along the I-66 Hybrid Route, in order to avoid any further construction delays to the project.

The company said that it has identified five corridors (referred to as variation corridors) that are all within the scope of a property owner notice that it provided in the proceeding. Allowing for flexibility in the variation corridors may allow the company to implement construction methods in line with the stated goals of the pilot program and to make changes where feasible to maximize the separation from, and/or reduce the impact to, private property, Dominion said.

Dominion noted that commission staff has represented to the company that it does not oppose the written request, while the Coalition has represented to the company that it supports the written request for the pilot program and supports the variations as proposed. Somerset has represented to the company that it consents to the written request, Dominion said, adding that ODEC has represented to the company that it neither supports nor opposes the written request. Southview 66, LLC has represented to the company that it takes no position on the request, Dominion said.

Commission: Project to be in service in 2021

The commission, in its July 26 order, noted that a hearing examiner in May recommended that the commission adopt the hearing examiner’s finding that the project continues to be needed. The commission in June issued an order on remand, adopting the hearing examiner’s finding.

The commission added in its July 26 order, “[W]e approve the company’s written pilot program request, including the described variation corridors, as a qualifying project under the pilot program established in SB 966.”

The Carver Road Route, which the commission approved in its June 2017 final order, would have cost consumers about $62m. The order also noted that given the unavailability of that route, on remand, the hearing examiner received from commission staff updated estimated cost information on the remaining available routes as such:

  • I-66 Hybrid Route – $171.9m
  • Madison Route – $67.8m
  • I-66 Overhead Route – $51.2m

Based on those updated cost estimates, the I-66 Hybrid Route, which is the route required under the provisions of SB 966, will cost ratepayers an additional $120.7m, the order said.

Among other things, the order noted that the project must be built and in service by Dec. 31, 2021; however, the company is granted leave to apply for an extension for good cause shown.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.