Snapshots: 60 Seconds with Felicia Howard, Dominion Energy

Howard, who takes the reins of the newly-created position of Vice President of Economic Development Strategy at Dominion Energy on Jan. 1, 2022, talked with Business Facilities about the future of economic development, clean energy, and the “new normal.”

By the BF Staff
From the November/December 2021 Issue

Business Facilities: What inspired Dominion Energy to create this new position?

Dominion Energy
Felicia Howard, Vice President of Economic Development Strategy, Dominion Energy

Felicia Howard: Dominion Energy is very committed to economic development. I think the fact this position I have exists signals that we want to be an even more significant player in local, regional, and state economic development across all 16 states where the company operates. As a result, we’re developing an even more comprehensive and proactive economic development strategy that will benefit customers across the company’s footprint.

BF: What are Dominion Energy’s current goals for economic development? How do you plan on impacting that? Any specific changes in mind?

FH: Part of what I see as an opportunity is a convergence between our commitment to clean energy and our goal for net zero emissions by 2050. It all happens with various strategies, as we minimize emissions from our generation mix and our natural gas businesses. We are also looking at how we can help our customers use cleaner energy and reduce their emissions. When it comes to economic development, we’re going to be looking at how we can support companies’ initiatives around clean energy as energy becomes a more and more critical variable in the site selection equation than it once was.

BF: Earlier in your career, you were the first African American woman to hold an officer position within SCE&G. What was that experience like, and how has it impacted your career going forward?

FH: I am fortunate to have had a long and fulfilling career with SCE&G. It was an honor to be the first African American woman to serve as an officer of the company, but that status was not my primary focus on a day-to-day basis. I enjoyed working with an incredible group of dedicated professionals committed to teamwork and achieving outstanding results. It was exceptionally rewarding to me to serve in a position to influence the professional and personal development of others—both internal and external to the company—so that my first would not be the last.

BF: Dominion Energy is working with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy to establish the first offshore wind turbine blade facility in the U.S. in Virginia. What impact is this renewable energy project going to have on economic development and businesses in the region? What kinds of jobs will this project create?

JF: Dominion Energy is committed to developing an offshore wind domestic manufacturing hub in Hampton Roads and maximizing local economic opportunities resulting from our Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project. The Siemens Gamesa offshore wind turbine blade finishing facility is the first of its kind in the U.S.—creating 310 new jobs, including nearly 50 operations and maintenance jobs to support CVOW. In addition, we have completed most of the major offshore contracts for CVOW construction and have formed the Virginia Supply Chain Team, made up of project team members, which will work with each major equipment provider to identify the direct and subcontracted commercial activity they plan to conduct in Virginia. As the scopes are identified, the types of job roles needed to support the businesses can be assessed. The company will share the job roles with workforce councils, primary and secondary educational institutions, and community organizations to promote interest and encourage engagement in training and apprenticeships for those interested in joining the offshore wind workforce.

Dominion Energy
To support Dominion Energy’s 2.6 GW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Commercial Project,
Siemens Gamesa will establish the first offshore wind turbine OEM blade facility in the
U.S. at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, VA. (Photo: Siemens Gamesa)

BF: Are there more renewable energy projects on the horizon for Dominion Energy?

FH: Dominion Energy is committed to meeting our net zero carbon dioxide and methane emissions by 2050. We are developing the largest offshore wind project planned for the U.S. and this year proposed our largest expansion of solar and energy storage projects to benefit customers. We are also pursuing the largest renewable natural gas initiative in the country.

BF: Dominion Energy recently offered agricultural businesses in South Carolina new financial incentives to reduce their energy usage. How does this program reflect the company’s overall approach to economic development?

FH: Agriculture and agricultural businesses are a big part of South Carolina. Qualifying agricultural businesses can receive financial incentives to help fund lighting upgrades and other energy efficiency projects. The program is a great example of helping customers reduce their energy consumption, which in turn can reduce their energy bills while reducing the amount of energy they consume from the grid. It’s a cost-saving measure for them that has positive impacts on their own emissions. A program like this is about meeting the customer where they are, identifying solutions, and going a step forward to help them implement those solutions. This ties back to our goal of assisting customers in using cleaner energy and reducing their emissions.

BF: What other kinds of incentives does Dominion Energy offer growing companies? Do they differ across the regions and states the company operates in?

FH: Dominion Energy offers energy efficiency products, services, and rebates to our business customers across our service territories. There may be minor variations from state to state, but they all have the same goal: helping business customers conserve energy and save money. In some states, we offer rebates or financial incentives on qualifying upgrades to lighting, refrigeration or heating and cooling systems, on-site energy audits and non-residential energy-efficient products.

BF: What are some of Dominion Energy’s most significant recent economic development projects?

FH: Dominion Energy is fortunate to operate in some of the fastest growing and highly desirable regions in the country. While it is difficult to single out specific economic development projects as most significant, our mission to provide sustainable, reliable, affordable, and safe energy has allowed Dominion Energy to experience a great deal of success in attracting and developing extensive data center, automotive, aerospace, life sciences, and food and beverage business and manufacturing clusters, among others, across our service territories. Working together with state, regional and local economic development partners, Dominion Energy is playing an increasingly important role in helping countless communities to thrive and grow.

BF: We are, hopefully, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and slowly moving toward a new normal. How has the pandemic impacted economic development, and do you see it changing the field moving forward? Will the shift to remote work impact the way companies choose locations?

FH: There isn’t a corner of the globe that COVID-19 and the pandemic haven’t impacted. That holds for Dominion Energy and many parts of our business. In the early days of the pandemic, we dealt with an economic downturn that depressed energy demand. As we, hopefully, come out of the pandemic, we’ve seen demand return, but we’re dealing with the same supply chain issues that have been affecting so many other organizations. Dominion Energy is working with key suppliers and business partners to identify potential issues and develop strategies to combat supply chain issues. For example, we are diversifying our supplier list to ensure there are multiple product sources, exploring different logistics models to mitigate ocean shipping delays, and instituting new work management policies, including material conservation and recycling and project rescheduling. These proactive steps have helped minimize the impacts of these challenges, and we continue to provide safe, reliable service to our customers.

There’s been a lot of talk about a “new normal” in what feels like every aspect of life. Our business is no different. Employees who can effectively work remotely or hybrid schedules have the flexibility to do their jobs during the ever-changing landscape. Flexibility is always a positive thing.

Read more Snapshots interviews with economic development professionals here.