General Assembly Updates

The 2018 General Assembly session kicked off this week and things are (not surprisingly) moving pretty quickly. We will be updating our legislation page each Friday with updates of the week’s activities.

VAEEC’s Policy Committee met this week to discuss all of the bills that have been introduced so far and our Board has voted to formally support

  • HB 204: Commercial Benchmarking enabling legislation (Del. Sullivan)
  • HB 1261: Cost-effectiveness tests used in utility proceedings (Del. Hugo)

VAEEC staff, along with a few of our members, participated on the DMME Benchmarking Stakeholder group to build consensus for legislation to give localities the authority to mandate commercial benchmarking programs if they so choose. HB 204 is a result of that work and includes program design requirements such as setting the minimum square footage for commercial buildings at 50,000 square feet and requiring the use of Energy Star Portfolio Manager to collect the energy data. In addition, buildings must have more than three or more utility accounts with no single utility account making up more than 85% of the energy consumption in order to protect customer privacy. Any locality choosing to enact this type of program is also required to benchmark its own buildings that are 10,000 square feet or larger for at least a year prior to program launch. While there may be some flaws with this particular legislation, VAEEC supports the concept of benchmarking in general. You can read more about it here.

The other bill we are officially supporting, HB 1261, states that proposed energy efficiency programs shall be considered within the public interest if the net present value of the benefits exceeds the net present value of the costs as determined by any three of four benefit-cost tests. Current state code only states that an energy efficiency program cannot be rejected based solely on the results of a single cost-benefit test. This bill would be a substantial improvement over current law given the State Corporation Commission’s reliance on the Ratepayer Impact Measure (RIM) test, which is a hard test for most energy efficiency programs to pass.

Investor-owned utilities over-earnings debate

We are tracking the over-earnings debate closely. VAEEC has NO opinion on whether the rate review freeze should be repealed or whether the utilities should be able to keep any portion of their over-earnings. However, if the utilities are able to keep some portion of their over-earnings- both current and future- we are advocating for expanded existing programs and opportunities for more programs. While these bills have not been introduced yet, we will keep you posted as we learn more.

Other bills of interest

  • HB 58: LED use in public outdoor lighting (Bell)- requires the use of LED bulbs in public lighting currently using incandescent lights, which are maintained by state agencies with exemptions
  • HB 560: EE Revolving Fund (Sullivan)- Creates the Virginia Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund to provide no-interest loans to any locality, school division, or public institution of higher education for energy conservation or efficiency projects, funded by 40 percent of the annual revenue over $325M of certain state recordation taxes and other funds given to the Fund.
  • HB 781: Virginia Open Data Initiative Act (Keam)- Increases public awareness of and access to the data created by and available from state agencies and provides for the appointment by the Governor of a Chief Data Officer to maintain the official website of the Commonwealth of Virginia as a dedicated open data website.
  • HB 963: Mandatory EE savings targets (Sullivan)- Requires investor-owned electric utilities, cooperative electric utilities, and investor-owned natural gas distribution utilities to meet incremental annual energy efficiency goals.
  • HB 964: Removing the RIM test (Sullivan)- Removes the RIM test as a test the SCC can use to determine cost-effectiveness of an EE programs
  • HB 965: Prioritizing the TRC test (Sullivan)- An energy efficiency program or measure that meets the Total Resource Cost Test is declared to be in the public interest.

All of these bills can be found on the Virginia Legislative Information System (LIS) website:

Carbon Rule/ Clean Energy Virginia Initiative

Last November, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board approved Governor McAuliffe’s regulations to limit carbon emissions from Virginia’s electric generating facilities. These regulations will:

  • cap emissions at 33 or 34 million tons
  • reduce carbon emissions 30% between 2020-2030

The state will hold quarterly consignment auctions to determine the cost of the allowances and the money from that auction will be given back to the utilities (not to state), which is a first of its kind in the US.

Five percent of the allowances will be withheld from the consignment auction and will be transferred to the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) to implement energy efficiency programs. DMME plans to hold a separate rulemaking for this piece of the carbon rule later this year. VAEEC will continue providing resources to DMME as they investigate options for program design and implementation.

There is currently an open comment period through April 9th, 2018 and public hearings taking place throughout the Commonwealth in early March on the Clean Energy Virginia Initiative.

VAEEC encourages members to submit comments supporting the energy efficiency carve out and are happy to help you draft comments. DMME will be holding

There are several pieces of legislation both supporting and attempting to prevent this regulation from going to in effect. Due to those efforts, it is unclear, at the moment when this regulation will take effect. We will keep you posted as those pieces of legislation move through the legislature.