Member Spotlight: City of Charlottesville

VAEEC is pleased to spotlight the companies, organizations, utilities and municipalities it works with to advance energy efficiency in Virginia.

August 2013 Member Spotlight: City of Charlottesville

In what ways does your local government promote energy efficiency? 

As a local government, the City of Charlottesville has a dual role in promoting energy efficiency – both throughout the community and within its own organization. Recognizing the importance of energy efficiency to our community, the City of Charlottesville helped to establish and has subsequently partnered with the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) to assist property owners to implement energy efficient retrofits to existing residential and non-residential homes. We have been a major partner of both the Charlottesville Area Better Business Challenges (Round 2 kicks off this September!), which provides resources and trainings to businesses through a friendly competition while making the case that resource efficiency is smart, sustainable, and successful. Energy is one of the most popular focuses in the Challenge. The City also offers several energy efficiency incentives to property owners who achieve green building certifications, combine renewable energy with energy efficiency improvements, or install a green (vegetative or solar) roof (charlottesville.org/greenincentives).

As an organization, the City ‘leads by example’ and has made significant process in reducing its operational energy use. For example, from 2000-2011, City facilities reduced their energy use by 29.5%, equating to over $450,000 in avoided utility costs, while increasing the square footage of our building portfolio. Sharing our experiences supports the City’s goal to be a green leader and celebrates our success while confirming that energy efficiency can produce good results.

How do you describe the value of energy efficiency to your constituents?

In speaking with the community, we often describe the value of energy efficiency in reference to the amount of dollar savings they could see, which would free up cash flow for other things, and the environmental stewardship aspects associated with reducing energy consumption. Our program partner LEAP uses the message of ‘it’s worth it’, increased comfort, potential health benefits, and the financial savings.

What innovations or trends do you expect to see in the near future? 

In our community, there are two trends we are looking to see where they go:  solar and integration of EE into other projects. The 2013 General Assembly identifies Power Purchase Agreements as permissible within our jurisdiction (we are within Dominion Power’s service area), and Dominion has begun to offer a community solar power purchasing program. Local solar installers have observed a sharp increase in interest in solar generation. While BMPs recommend pursuing EE retrofits before renewables, the exercise of identifying a properties’ electricity use and calculating from that the required solar capacity will likely be the first time many people will have grappled with the generation implications of their energy consumption. It could have the potential to make saving and/or producing a kWh more meaningful.

There has also been a growing conversation about the age and quality of the housing stock in our area in conjunction with the cost of living. As more conversations about being an affordable place to live occur, the role of energy use and energy efficiency measures will arise more often as well. To reach scalability, particularly for middle to low income property owners, the integration of EE measures into any substantial retrofits could likely prove to be a winning strategy.

What do you hope to accomplish as part of the VAEEC? 

As the other VAEEC members likely know, energy efficiency is a multifaceted topic with lots of players at the table. We hope to be well informed of current EE efforts within the state, be able to contribute a local government perspective to conversations, and to assist moving efforts in support of EE forward.