Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Time-Of-Use Meter FAQ for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Q1: Who provides power in Virginia?

A: Dominion Virginia Power is the chief Power Utility in the Commonwealth, with a number in Northern Virginia using the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC).  I currently use Dominion.

Q2: Can I install a separate, independent meter?

A: Yes, as long as it doesn't enter the house or garage or any other structure already receiving electricity from another meter.  This is because of Chapter 2 of the NEC (National Electric Code) and IRC (International Building Code) E3501.2.  In the Commonwealth, we are on NEC 2005.

Basically, if you want a separate, independent meter, you have to mount the EVSE outside the house and basically park outside.  Not a very appetizing solution if you have a garage here in Virginia.

Q3: What if I just install a submeter?  Can I take advantage of the Schedule 1T or Schedule 1S rate then?

A: Unfortunately, no.  The problem is, the current contract Dominion has with the State Corporation Commission dictates that all metered and billed electricity entering a structure must be billed at the same rate.  I assume this was to allow submeters on apartments while protecting residents from having different rates per apartment.

Todd, an engineer at Dominion, tells me that they are looking into rebidding a new contract with the State Corporation Commission which would add in provisions for things like Electric Vehicles and other new Green elements and he would keep me informed of any progress with that.

Q4: State Corporation Commission?  How does that work?

A: Basically, Dominion makes a proposal for a new rate structure, then the SCC has a request for comments period and after the public comment period is over, the new rate schedule is voted upon and potentially ratified.  At this point Dominion can open up multiple accounts for the same residence, i.e. one on the (new) Schedule 1 and another on the (new) Schedule 1T — or some other schedule specifically for EVs.

Q5: How long could this take?

A: The last rate adjustment request took 9 months from submission to approval.  This request looks to be simpler and so may be quicker, but don't expect any change before about July 2011.

I should point out here that I truly am of the belief that we Virginians will be getting our Nissan LEAFs in July not April as we were previously led to believe.  Either way, I want to get my EVSE in place before 31 Dec for the Federal Tax Credit.

Q6: When the new rate schedule is approved, how much would it cost to install the submeter?

A: Not much, since it's just the meter and no new trenching would be necessary.

Q7: So the submeter would be below the current meter?

A: Not likely.  In fact, Dominion has been rolling out new smart meters that can have up to 3 outputs. It is more likely they would just swap your current meter for one of these smart meters where the first feed would be for the household and the second feed could be for an EV.

Q8: Why can't I just install a second meter? What does NEC / IRC E3501.2 say?

A:

A dwelling unit shall be supplied by only one service.

The idea of NEC / IRC E3501.2 is to give the the marshal a single, master switch where he or she can shut off the power to an entire dwelling.  It is a safety precaution.

Q9: I read something about installing a plaque for the fire marshal so that he or she would know where the other meter was and be able to switch it off, is that true?

A: It's not in the 2005 NEC, which is what the Commonwealth follows, so no, that will not be sufficient.  However, the Commonwealth is looking at upgrading to the 2008 NEC in March, 2011.

Q10: What about installing a firewall between my attached garage and house?

A: Assuming you could isolate the power for each structure on either side of the firewall, this possibility should be allowed under the 2005 NEC since this is what town houses do.  Potentially up to 6 separate meters could be installed, but each area covered by a meter must only get power from that meter and be isolated by other areas with the 2-hour burn firewall.

Q11: So what EVSE are you buying?

A: I've ordered the Clipper Creek CS-100 with J1772 connect via the Electric Automotive Association member discount posted in the Clipper Creek thread of the My Nissan LEAF forum.  I've decided to go with W.H. Cullen Electrical Contractor for my installation.  I found him in the list of Electrical Contractors registered with the Better Business Bureau in the Metro Washington area on the list I recently compiled.