Consultants hired by the staff of the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) agree that a critical need exists for electric reliability improvements by 2011 in northern Virginia and recommend that Dominion Virginia Power's proposed route for a transmission line would meet that need with the least impact to the state, the Richmond, VA-based utility said Wednesday.

"The studies undertaken by the commission staff show a need to increase the reliability of electricity in northern Virginia," said John D. Smatlak, vice president of electric transmission. "The explosive growth in demand for electricity in northern Virginia over the last decade and projected for the future has placed Dominion Virginia Power's ability to provide reliable, affordable electricity for the region's growing economy increasingly at risk. Our proposed route resolves this risk and maintains the reliability of electricity for northern Virginia," he noted.

Dominion is seeking approval from the SCC to build a 65-mile, 500,000-volt transmission line from the Meadow Brook substation in Frederick County to the Loudoun substation in Loudoun County, VA. Dominion, which has held several hearings so far on the project, is scheduled to hold another public hearing in Richmond on Monday (Jan. 14) and an evidentiary hearing in Richmond on Feb. 25. Following a hearing examiner's report, Dominion said the SCC is expected to act on its project later this year.

The SCC staff hired two consultants to review Dominion's project application. One consultant assessed the need for the project, while the other compared the environmental, historical and cultural impacts of the proposed and alternate routes, the utility said. According to Dominion, the consultants concluded that:

In addition, an SCC staff consultant said that "without the proposed Loudoun line...in service by 2011, contingency overloads at various 500-kV transmission lines are expected to occur even if 4,000 MW of [generation] is added to the existing system," according to Dominion.

"While we support and promote efficient energy use by all of our customers, even the most aggressive conservation efforts will not compensate for the obvious need to build this line," Smatlak said, adding that Dominion's studies also showed that additional generation would not solve the transmission reliability problem.

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