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Dominion Energy says it’s making good on promises but city leaders say there’s room for improvement

It’s been two years since Alexandria leadership put Dominion Energy’s feet to the fire over frequent outages. Dominion said it’s been making good on promises to improve the city’s power infrastructure, but city leaders are a little more skeptical.

Near the intersection of West Braddock Road and Russell Road in the Braddock neighborhood, Allen Moon, superintendent of contractor resource management with Dominion Energy, ran down the list of projects ongoing around Alexandria, from changing poles to targeted improvements in specific neighborhoods.

Moon said Dominion assesses which areas see the most outages and target their improvements accordingly. Most recently, 43 poles were replaced along Kenmore Avenue. Dominion has also replaced 30 transformers over the past few months.

“Residents should be excited,” Moon said. “Grid hardening has meant voltage optimization, which improves customer reliability.”

Moon said the Dominion team is starting to plan out projects for the next year. In particular, Moon said Dominion is working on getting permits and easements for projects like undergrounding, which could require digging on private property.

Access to private property is one of the larger challenges for Dominion on Alexandria, especially with many of the power lines running behind properties where bucket trucks can’t reach.

“Alexandria is very tight, it’s a very tight space,” Moon said. “It can be challenging to get large pieces of equipment in. There are a lot of lines behind homes and that can be uncomfortable.”

Moon said Alexandrians should still expect outages in strong storms, but that in general the power grid should be more reliable.

Dominion’s plans for the upcoming year include more work in Del Ray, near William Ramsay Elementary School and on North Jordan Street.

The breaking point for some in Alexandria was the widespread outage during the Art on the Avenue festival in 2021. Moon said all of the equipment from that outage has been fully replaced and upgraded.

City leaders say that while there have been improvements, there’s still a long way to go before Dominion’s fully back in the city’s good graces.

“Going back a couple of years here with the Art on the Avenue debacle when all the businesses lost power… and that was in the core of Covid when we were trying to get businesses back up and running: that was disappointing, to say the least,” said Vice Mayor Amy Jackson. “I think since that time, they’ve tried to put their best foot forward in creating strong community partnerships.”

Both Jackson and Mayor Justin Wilson said communications between Dominion and the City of Alexandria have — mostly — improved.

“Our staff has continued to meet with Dominion to better define the investment in reliability that they have committed to provide,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “We have received some information, but we still expect significantly more investment to improve reliability for Alexandria’s ratepayers.”

Jackson said Dominion’s improvements have been noticeable but there are still significant areas that need improvement. In particular, Jackson said she’s been frustrated with the difficulties of getting power connected to the new Douglas MacArthur school.

“We have a new school trying to get connected to get kids through the door in August and [Alexandria City Public Schools] is having issues getting it online because of Dominion,” Jackson said.

Overall, though, Jackson said there’s been some improvement.

“Can I see the progress? Yes, they’re trying,” Jackson said. “A for effort, but I’m not going to say we’re at the level yet where we say ‘okay, great, fantastic, everything is efficient.'”

Jackson said she also wants to see companies like Dominion Energy putting its money where its mouth is more frequently for community partnerships.

“It’s been interesting to see, as an aside, Ting has done a phenomenal job coming in with boots on the ground and creating partnerships, the same thing happened with the Innovation Campus,” Jackson said. “Before it was built, they had people come into the community and be a part of the community and support everything, giving dollars to events and festivals and being a part of Alexandria.”

Jackson said Dominion has gotten a little better about that in recent years as well.

“Dominion has gotten that message through and through, they were just one of our sponsors for the Portside Festival,” Jackson said. “They are trying and I do believe communication has gotten somewhat better… I do believe they are trying and trying to help our community, but I don’t see them being as visible as Ting or the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. Community partnership means you are there with us with your name all over every banner as a sponsor. That’s how you show you’re in the community.”

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