Accelerating Energy Efficiency in the Commonwealth
Executive Director, Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP); VAEEC Steering Committee
We’ve come a long way from our first Energy Efficiency Roundtable a year ago. Energy efficiency policies, initiatives and funding have definitely picked up steam, including the following:
- Formation of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council
- A second and third Department of Energy competitive award to grow energy efficiency to our Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (2010 for residential programs, 2011 for commercial programs, 2012 for a state-owned building program)
- Successful passage of the energy efficiency bill included in Governor McDonnell’s energy package
- Launch of new residential programs in three regions of the state funded by grants from a State Energy Program award
- State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) approval of new residential and commercial energy efficiency programs for Dominion Virginia Power
- Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative working together to launch a residential energy efficiency pilot with the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP)
That’s just a sampling of what’s happened here in Virginia. These efforts have been complemented by other developments on a national scale, including the Green Button initiative to make sharing utility data easier and the national launch of the Home Energy Score, an energy assessment and MPG-like rating for homes.
Even as we celebrate the impressive pace and scope of energy efficiency activity, we have much more to do to achieve the state’s voluntary goal of a 10% efficiency gain from the 2006 baseline by 2022. To overcome hurdles that remain, it is all the more important that we help our communities and the legislators who represent them understand the lower cost per kilowatt hour energy efficiency can deliver compared to other resource options. We must be vigilant as we champion the “pros” of energy efficiency – like the local jobs it supports and the potential for reinvesting dollars that might be spent on energy bills back into local households and businesses.
And key questions linger as to how to weave together energy efficiency initiatives implemented here in Virginia. How can we best coordinate to make more cost effective our efforts? How can we leverage marketing, contractor approvals, certifications and trainings? How can we best help business or residential customers stay informed of their options for rebates or tax credits – local, utility, national? How can building owners capture the value of those improvements should they decide to sell their property at a future date? Who will independently verify the right improvements were made to the level of quality that the projected efficiency gains become actual?
Most business owners will agree that a strategic plan is a critical part of successfully running a commercial enterprise. Such a plan for synergizing efforts of stakeholders and partners makes sense. This begs the question, “What is our strategic plan for energy efficiency in Virginia?” The VAEEC must both ask and help answer this question. We stakeholders in Virginia’s energy efficiency future must expand the internal dialogue on coordinating our efforts and make recommendations to our state and local governments, the State Corporation Commission, and other interested parties on what could be done to support consistent messaging and growth of energy efficiency programs, particularly in the residential sector. This is one important reason why the VAEEC is needed – to develop a consensus voice on energy efficiency industry issues – and I look forward to conversation on this subject with my colleagues during our fall VAEEC meeting.