Dominion Virginia Power plans to spend more than $1.7 billion over about a two-year period to strengthen its electric grid, support growing demand for electricity and improve service reliability for its 2.4 million customers.

"While our service reliability has continued to improve over the last seven years, we are not satisfied unless every one of our customers has power," said Paul D. Koonce, Dominion Virginia Power president and chief executive officer. "This initiative is designed to do an even better job of keeping the lights on and restoring service as quickly and safely as possible when they are not."

Service reliability – as measured by time affected by an outage not caused by a major weather event – improved 15 percent between 2003 and 2010 for the average customer. Hurricane Isabel devastated Virginia in 2003.

The $1.7 billion for reliability projects is part of $7.4 billion in infrastructure expansions and improvements announced earlier by the company. Other investments are for new power stations to meet growing customer demand for energy, environmental improvements and other projects.

Dominion Virginia Power has approximately 61,000 miles of transmission and distribution power lines, 900 substations, 566,000 transformers and 1.1 million utility poles.

This group of reliability improvement projects began in 2010. Many are scheduled for completion this year. They fall primarily into five categories:

  • Replacing or updating aging electric infrastructure, such as rebuilding the Mount Storm-Doubs transmission line, which also will increase its capacity by 66 percent;
  • Improving reliability performance through systematic maintenance, tree trimming and underground cable replacement, including reconditioning more than 140 miles of electric circuitry in northern Virginia;
  • Improving the performance of specific circuits and other equipment where customers have experienced higher-than-normal problems, as with a Richmond project to separate a circuit into more sections using additional fuses;
  • Investing in new and advanced electric technology such as automated switching and the smart fault indicators being installed in the Tidewater area, and
  • Supporting growth in the grid to accommodate new customers, such as data centers being built in northern Virginia, and the increased energy needs of current customers. In 1980, the average household had three small electronic devices; today, that number is 25.

"All of these projects help reduce the number and duration of service interruptions our customers experience," said Koonce.

"Reliability on an electric utility system doesn't just happen – it takes a lot of effort, expertise, manpower and money. Regrettably, no matter how well an electric system is maintained and upgraded, accidents and severe weather conditions will still cause occasional outages," he said.