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Dominion receives approval to build underground line as part of pilot program

Dominion Energy Virginia can move forward with building a controversial 230-kV transmission line that will serve an Amazon.com Inc. data center along a "hybrid route" authorized by a new state law.

The State Corporation Commission, or SCC, on July 26 approved the Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary's request to participate in a pilot program established under Virginia's Grid Transformation and Security Act. The legislation, which became effective July 1, directs the SCC to approve a partially underground route for Dominion's transmission line in northern Virginia as part of a pilot aimed at studying the reliability and cost impacts of underground lines.

Dominion Energy Virginia, known legally as Virginia Electric and Power Co., in November 2015 submitted its initial application for the transmission line after considering several routes for the project. The proposal, however, was met with stiff opposition from concerned residents and government bodies.

The SCC in July 2017 suspended its final order that approved construction and operation of the transmission line along Carver Road in Gainesville, Va., based on complaints raised by The Coalition to Protect Prince William County and the Somerset Crossing Homeowners Association. In addition, regulatory filings showed the Prince William County, Va., Board of Supervisors refused to grant the necessary easements for this route and a previously preferred "railroad route."

Prince William County politicians and concerned residents preferred the "I-66 Hybrid Alternative," which would place a 3.2-mile portion of the line underground along the interstate. After its previous proposals were unsuccessful, Dominion argued that an overhead route along the interstate "is the most reliable, least cost solution with the fewest construction impacts and can be constructed in the least time."

Based on the new state law, the SCC in June approved a stipulation signed by Dominion and the intervenors tied to the hybrid alternative and adopted a hearing examiner's finding that "the project continues to be needed to provide reasonably adequate service" in the area.

In its July 26 order, the SCC pointed out that the hybrid alternative is significantly more expensive than the route regulators approved in the summer of 2017. Regulators said the Carver Road Route would have cost consumers approximately $62 million and the I-66 Overhead Route would have cost $51.2 million, whereas the I-66 Hybrid Route will cost ratepayers $171.9 million, based on staff estimates.

(SCC docket PUE-2015-00107)