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Va. SCC staff recommends Amazon help bear costs of Dominion transmission line

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Va. SCC staff recommends Amazon help bear costs of Dominion transmission line

Amazon.com Inc. should help foot the bill for more than $50 million in transmission upgrades needed to serve a proposed data center in Northern Virginia, according to the state's Office of the General Counsel.

"The need for the proposed project in this proceeding is driven by the projected load of a single customer," the staff of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, represented by the Office of the General Counsel, said in a Dec. 6 filing. "Anytime a proposed transmission line is needed to serve a single customer, the utility's other retail customers face a disproportionate share of environmental and construction costs while receiving little, if any, benefit from the constructed transmission line relative to the customer driving the need."

Dominion Virginia Power, known legally as Virginia Electric and Power Co., in July 2015 proposed several routes for a 230-kV transmission line through Prince William County, Va., that would primarily serve the Amazon.com data center in Haymarket, Va.

The "I-66 Hybrid Alternative," which would place the line underground, appeared to be the preference of local politicians and an activist group. Current plans, however, call for Dominion Virginia Power to construct about 5.1 miles of an overhead 230-kV transmission line along I-66 at a cost of about $51 million. A hearing examiner recommended the Virginia State Corporation Commission reject the Dominion Resources Inc. utility's proposal and approve an alternative route that "reasonably minimizes the project's impact on the environment, scenic assets, and historic resources."

The alternative would be 1.6 miles longer and cost about $10.1 million more than Dominion's plan, the staff said.

The staff recommended the commission impose conditions on granting a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the project, which includes construction of a new substation, by allocating a portion of the costs over the life of the project to the customer through a new rate category. Another option is for the commission to require that the customer pay the difference between Dominion's proposal and the recommendation of the hearing examiner, the staff noted.

"Allocating a portion of the project's costs up front to the sole customer driving construction of the proposed project would help to lessen the impact on the retail customers who would otherwise bear most of the environmental and construction costs of the project while receiving very little of the project's benefits," the staff wrote. (SCC docket PUE-2015-00107)