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Dominion Virginia Power proposes pilot program for electric vehicle charging

Electric car owners would get a break on charging their vehicles overnight under a test program proposed by Dominion Virginia Power.

The voluntary pilot program would use reduced rates to encourage customers to charge their vehicles at night when energy demand is lower.

Customers in the pilot project would pay as little as 33 cents to charge an electric vehicle overnight with enough electricity for a typical 40-mile commute, Dominion Virginia Power said.

Under the standard residential electric rate, the cost would be up to 86 cents, the company said.

“We believe many of our customers will purchase electric vehicles and they will recharge them at home,” said Kenneth D. Barker, Dominion Virginia Power’s vice president of customer solutions and energy efficiency. “We need to be ready.”

The state’s largest power company anticipates that more than 5,000 electric vehicles will be on the road in its service territory by 2013.

In 2020, the number could be more than 86,000, or 5 percent of all vehicle sales in the state, Dominion Virginia Power said, enough to produce demand for 250 megawatts of power. That would equal the amount of electricity generated by a fair-sized power station.

“We see that as a future load coming to our territory,” Barker said. The increased load “could potentially cause our system some problems.”

To push the load into times of lower electric demand, the voluntary pilot program also would charge the company’s customers higher rates for using electricity during peak times.

If approved by the State Corporation Commission, the pilot program will enable the company to gauge potential impacts from electric vehicles, Barker said.

“We’re very supportive of electric vehicles and any measures to accommodate them,” said Glen Besa with the Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter.

However, Besa said, “we’re very interested in seeing that those electric vehicles are powered by renewable energy,” Besa said. “We would not want to see electric cars (added to the power grid) to justify coal-fired generation.”

In the short run, Dominion Virginia Power’s pilot program would be a win for the consumer because of its lower off-peak rates, said University of Richmond transportation economist George E. Hoffer, and a win for the power company because they could use their excess generating capacity during the off-peak times.

But “in the long run, if the electric car is successful,” Hoffer said, “we’ll clearly need more generating capacity at higher cost” to the company’s customers.

Dominion Virginia Power is proposing two experimental rate options for electric vehicle owners:

•Charging electric vehicles only, using a specially installed meter.


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