- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Dominion Resources plans to put its most outage-prone power distribution lines underground to reduce the need for repairs following a major storm.

Dominion expects to bury 350 miles of power lines annually over the next 10 to 12 years. The lines will be selected by the Richmond-based utility’s strategic underground program, based on a 10-year outage history from all regions served by Dominion, The Daily Progress (https://bit.ly/1wCRZ2Y) reported.

The project will be funded by a special rate adjustment called a “rider” that must be approved by the State Corporation Commission.

“To ensure the cost remains low for our customers, we will request a small, gradual increase over time to cover the costs of this program,” Alan Bradshaw, director of Dominion’s underground program, told the newspaper.

The General Assembly passed legislation in April that gives electric utilities in Virginia the option to spend up to 5 percent of the value of their distribution rate base to place certain lines underground. Bradshaw said that value for Dominion equals about $175 million annually.

The SCC has estimated that burying all 58,000 miles of the company’s distribution lines would cost $83.3 billion, an average cost per customer of $27,000.

About a third of Dominion’s distribution lines already are underground.

Bradshaw said the project will focus on tap lines, which are taken from main overhead lines.

“The locations we would work could be neighborhoods or rural locations where a tap line can serve anywhere from one to five customers,” Bradshaw said. “It’s important to understand that the purpose of the program is to eliminate work repairs, or truck rolls, following a major storm event.”

He said the project also will not eliminate all power outages.

“During a major storm, large numbers of customers could still be affected because most underground electric service connects to overhead lines and equipment that are exposed to weather, trees, animals and vehicle accidents,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said the company decided to take a fresh look at the feasibility of putting certain lines underground after the June 2012 derecho. In the storm’s aftermath, nearly 1 million Dominion customers lost power at some point.

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Information from: The Daily Progress, https://www.dailyprogress.com


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