Dominion Resources Inc.'s Virginia subsidiary plans to install 46,500 "smart meters" in Charlottesville and surrounding Albemarle County by the end of the year -- the first of 13 electricity conservation projects slated for the state, company executives announced today.

Dominion Virginia Power has already installed half of the SmartGrid Charlottesville project's meters, which will enable commercial and residential building occupants to track and adjust their electricity consumption in real time. Dominion, in turn, would have the ability to stop and start electricity service and read meters remotely.

The $20 million project will cut the typical Charlottesville-area customer's electricity consumption by at least 4 percent, or by about 40 kilowatt-hours, company officials estimate.

"This program launches a new era in energy efficiency and customer empowerment for Virginia," Dominion Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell II said during a Charlottesville news conference. "As the smart grid develops, energy conservation capabilities and programs will grow."

Demonstration projects slated for the Charlottesville area next year include the installation of light-emitting diode street lights and batteries to store power from photovoltaic panels. The Richmond-based utility (NYSE: D) is also seeking approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission to apply time-based rates that would give customers the ability to shift electricity use to off-peak times.

Dominion plans to seek commission approval next month for a dozen more smart-meter projects throughout its Virginia service territory, which includes about 2.3 million residential and commercial customers. The utility is considering expanding the effort to about 125,000 more customers in North Carolina, said Bob Burnette, Dominion's director of energy conservation.

Dominion's plans come with a price tag of about $600 million, Burnette estimated. The utility is considering applying for federal stimulus funding to cover part of the cost.

Indeed, the $787 billion economic stimulus -- which includes $11 billion to build a bigger and more efficient grid -- is spurring utilities around the country to give smart meters and other technologies a test run.

Last week, Duke Energy Corp. announced plans to install nearly 2 million residential smart meters, as well as routers, switches and other "distributed automation" infrastructure, throughout its service territory in Indiana and Ohio during the next five years (Greenwire, June 9).

In April, Florida Power & Light Co. embarked on a $200 million project to supply Miami-Dade County with more than 1 million smart meters and photovoltaic panels during the next two years.

Austin Energy hopes to deploy 400,000 smart meters in Texas' capital city by the end of August as part of its "Pecan Street Project."


Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500