Author: Jessica Greene

Virginia Energy Plan

By October 1st, the State Energy Office of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) must prepare an Energy Plan that covers a 10 year period and submit that plan to the Governor, the SCC Commissioners and the General Assembly.  This Energy Plan is required to propose actions that are consistent with the Commonwealth’s Energy Objectives (VA. Code 67-201) including projections of energy consumption, analysis of efficient use of energy resources and conservation initiatives, analysis of whether there is a disproportionate adverse impact on economically disadvantaged or minority communities, and recommendations for legislative, regulatory, and other public and private actions.

This year’s plan, however, will have a slightly different focus. The DMME is pushing for a greater emphasis on outcomes and how this goal can be achieved through policy. In order for this plan to be the most effective and include the most input, DMME will rely on community involvement. Specifically, they want the public to help answer the following questions:

  1. What legislative changes are needed?
  2. What regulatory changes are needed?
  3. Is there administration level action needed?
  4. Is there private activity needed?

Slides from all meetings will be posted on this website and are open for public viewing. The public has until August 24th to submit comments online to the website.

In addition to the written comments, there will also be four listening session that the public can attend:

  1. July 23 from 1-4 PM House Room 1 of the Capitol in Richmond
    • Solar Energy Development and Energy Storage Authority Meeting and Listening Session
  2. July 25 from 12-2 PM in Newport News
    • Offshore Wind Energy Stakeholder Meeting and Listening Session
  3. July 30 from 5-7 PM in Roanoke
    • Public Listening Session

The Virginia Energy Plan will have five tracks and each will have their own focus areas:

  • Solar and Wind Resources
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Electric Vehicles and Advanced Transportation
  • Storage 
  • Offshore Wind

The four focus areas for energy efficiency are:

  • Achieving Virginia’s 10% energy conservation target
  • Lead by example strategies
  • Financing
  • Program design for DMME-funded programs.

The first kickoff meeting of three energy efficiency events was held on June 25th, which included a presentation by DMME on the final recommendations from the Governor’s Executive Committee on Energy efficiency (GEC) and the next steps. There was also an open discussion with the audience on additional topics for inclusion in the energy plan.

Below you will find the list of the completed tasks related to EE since the previous energy plan update:

  • established the GEC
  • enacted legislation facilitating Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE)
  • launched the VirginiaSaves program to provide additional financing mechanisms for efficiency programs (federal funding mechanism not reauthorized)
  • developed a streamlined energy performance contracting program from Virginia facilities
  • strengthened the Commonwealth’s building codes

DMME also presented these ongoing recommendations:

  • Reach the voluntary goal of reducing energy consumption by 10 percent by 2020
  • Reduce electricity consumption in state facilities by 15% through EPC by 2017
  • Create central State facility energy data registry and dashboard to track energy consumption in State agencies
  • Engage social entrepreneurs to explore and implement innovative models to aid ee

During the public discussion, the VAEEC commented that in order to achieve Virginia’s 10% energy conservation target, local government programs must be included and the $1.2B spending commitment by utilities in SB 966 has the potential to make a big impact on this goal. In addition, we also provided ideas for each of the other focus areas, including establishing a benchmarking program for all public buildings as a lead-by-example strategy, continuing to support the Mid-Atlantic PACE Alliance (MAPA) efforts to support localities interested in creating C-PACE financing programs, promoting the new Energy Performance Contracting guidelines and potential opportunities through the new Carbon Rule as ideas for program design for DMME-funded programs.

There will be two more meetings of the energy efficiency stakeholder group with discussions on specific focus areas:

  • July 18th- achieving Virginia’s 10% energy conservation target and lead by example strategies. Localities are strongly encouraged to attend.
  • August 1st- financing and program design for DMME-funded programs. Energy Service Companies and PACE advocates are strongly encouraged to attend.

Don’t miss on your opportunity to provide input on the Virginia Energy Plan. To learn more about the Virginia Energy Plan or to find details on meeting times and locations, please check the website.

MAPA Releases C-PACE Toolkit

The much anticipated MAPA Regional Toolkit has been released! 

The Mid-Atlantic PACE Alliance, or MAPA, is comprised of state agencies, non-profit institutions, and private businesses working to accelerate the development and utilization of C-PACE in Virginia, Maryland, and DC. As part of their objective to accelerate the development and utilization of C-PACE programs within the tri-state area, MAPA developed a regional toolkit with feedback and input from C-PACE experts across the country.

The toolkit is a resource for stakeholders, including but not limited to local governments, program administrators, building owners, contractors, capital providers, and local lenders, providing best practices specific to this region. For localities, the provided guidance and resources streamline efforts to develop and launch a C-PACE program.

“[The toolkit] includes guidance on program development, financial underwriting, technical project criteria, sample program documents, and a model ordinance developed by the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC). This section also includes information on Arlington County’s C-PACE program, the first active C-PACE program in Virginia which launched in January 2018.”

With C-PACE still relatively new in Virginia, there is still a need for materials that will help stakeholders better understand the benefits of the program. Therefore, along with program guidance for interested localities, the toolkit also includes marketing information and resources. These materials help educate stakeholders in an effort to build support for and to promote C-PACE.

As many of you know, the VAEEC has been carrying out outreach and education to Virginia localities for just shy of two years now. We have encountered countless city and county staff and representatives who have been anticipating the release of this toolkit. With a section completely devoted to setting up a program in Virginia, we believe this toolkit will prove itself to be a vital resource to getting additional C-PACE programs up and running throughout the Commonwealth. We welcome the opportunity to meet with any stakeholder interested in C-PACE.

Contact Jessica Greene (jessica@vaeec.org) if you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule a meeting or call. 

2018 Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards

2016 VEEL Awards

Summer has begun, which means we’re gearing up for our annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership (VEEL) Awards. Held in conjunction with the VAEEC Fall 2018 Meeting, the VEEL Awards Ceremony will be held on Wednesday, November 14th at the University of Richmond’s Jepson Alumni Center.

For the third year running, the awards highlight how energy efficiency champions across the Commonwealth are helping businesses, government, schools, and residents save money on energy bills while reducing energy consumption – all while stimulating Virginia’s job growth and economy. Projects or programs can be nominated for the following categories: Academic, Commercial, Government (local or state), Low-Income, and Residential. First, second, and third place will be awarded for each category.

2017 VEEL First Place Awards

The free online awards application process opens on Monday, July 9th and goes through Wednesday, October 3rd. Nominate an acquaintance, a colleague, a role model, or yourself! The only criteria are that the project or program is based in Virginia and is reducing energy consumption. Extra points are given for innovation and creativity, the degree of difficulty in overcoming challenges, and scope of work. Click here to view the Application Scorecard.

Still have questions? We have put together a Q+A guide to help you through the process. For a recap of our 2017 VEEL Awards, check out this blog post.

ecoREMOD: The Energy House

ecoRemod: The Energy House at 608 Ridge Street is home to LEAP’s main office. Located in a historic neighborhood and owned by the City of Charlottesville, the neglected 1920s home was transformed into an innovative energy demonstration house in 2010 through funding by the City of Charlottesville, the University of Virginia, and generous sponsors.

Inspired by LEAP’s mission to facilitate energy efficiency and renewables for Charlottesville residents, this project allowed the City to take the lead in showing how residential energy efficiency can be achieved by preserving a historic home and attaining close to zero net energy use.

Truth window displaying the original laths and project sponsors

Lesley Fore, Executive Director of LEAP, said  “LEAP has been so fortunate to work in a space that we can also use as a way to demonstrate the energy efficiency and renewable technology improvements that we recommend every day to home and business owners. ecoREMOD is a wonderful gathering place for school and community groups who want to learn more about what we do and how we do it. The truth windows and signage throughout the house really allow for a better understanding of energy efficiency, which is usually hidden behind walls.”

As a bonus, working in a 1920s house fits just with our organizational culture. We enjoy the homey-ness, the natural light, and the spaciousness. It’s a great work environment.” – Lesley Fore

This effort to show and create residential energy efficiency has not gone unnoticed. In 2013, the ecoRemod was awarded the US Green Building Council’s Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification, the highest rating possible, for achievement in green homebuilding and design.

See for yourself how energy and water improvements can be achieved in your home & visit the ecoRemond today! Email LEAP at info@leap-va.org or call at 434-227-4666 to set up an appointment or to schedule a tour for your school, neighborhood, office, or civic group.

VAEEC is honored to have both LEAP and the City of Charlottesville as longtime, active members. We look forward to continuing to work with them to advance energy efficiency across the Commonwealth.

Before remodel

After remodel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airtightness display

Duct insulation to reduce energy loss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airkrete exterior wall insulation

Building Code Regulations (Finally!) Released

As mentioned at our spring meeting, the final Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) was published in the Virginia Register on April 30th. There is currently a 30-day public comment period open for any citizen who has concerns regarding these regulations. 

If you have been following this process, then you will recall that VAEEC, in concert with our members and partners, was successfully able to work with home builders and code officials to include more energy efficiency measures in this new USBC update. 

Initially, we anticipated the final regulations back in December with an effective date of July 1, 2018. Unfortunately, there was a major delay, which has now pushed the effective date to September 4th for the USBC and October 16th for the Fire Prevention Code. Earlier this week, we learned that this will most likely cause a delay for the next cycle update. It does not look like there is an appetite to start the next update cycle in 2019, as originally planned.

We will keep you posted as we learn more.

Join Us! Annual Spring Meeting and Member Opportunities

May is quickly approaching and we cannot wait to see all of you at our Annual Spring Meeting in just a few short weeks!

The meeting will be held at the University of Richmond in the Jepson Alumni Center on May 10th from 10:30 to 2:30. Arrive at 10:00 am to get in some extra networking before the meeting begins. Once you get settled in, help make VAEEC the best that it can be by participating in our 2018 Board Elections and, for the first time, a live membership poll that will be conducted via text message! The poll will consist of no more than five questions with multiple choice and write-in answers. Let VAEEC know how we can better serve you!  

Our breakout sessions this year will focus on Commercial Building Automation and Residential Utility Programs. The commercial panel will offer participants a chance to interact with panelists to learn more about commercial building automation and to overcome existing challenges with their building automation systems.

Staff from Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company will be on the utility panel to discuss how they plan to turn their commitments to energy efficiency- in the new utility spending bill that the Governor signed into law last month- into reality. Join either group to brainstorm how energy efficiency can grow even further in Virginia.

During lunch, we will be joined by the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources to lay out the Governor’s vision and priorities for energy efficiency over the next four years. This will be a great opportunity for us to connect with the new administration on our work.

Our final panel of the day will be a fun, interactive session that provides you with the opportunity to shape VAEEC’s work for the remainder of the year. After a brief overview, attendees will join one of four breakout groups to discuss a variety of issues: Residential programs, Local Government activities, Utility Program expansion or Commercial PACE. We can’t wait to see what you all come up with.

One of the many benefits of being a member of VAEEC is having your chance to shine! Share your success story during the Member Share portion of our event. Email Jenn Fisher, our new Administrative Assistant, at info@vaeec.org to sign up in advance. New this year, we are also providing our members with the opportunity to leave out their business cards and marketing materials on our Member Networking table. In order to accommodate all materials, we are asking our members to email your information to info@vaeec.org by May 7th at 5pm.

If you are not yet a member but want to take advantage of this and the other great benefits that come with a VAEEC membership, the week of the Spring Meeting is the best week to join! Join at any membership level above Individual between May 7th and May 10th, and your name will be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Hurry up and register today! Registration closes next Monday, April 30th. For members, media, or speakers please use this link to register. If you are not yet a member of VAEEC, please register here. We look forward to seeing you on May 10th!

Biomimicry and Energy Efficiency

Happy (Almost) Earth Day Everyone!

Since 1970, April 22 has become a globally recognized day of action and education. Earth Day events are coordinated in over 192 countries and bring people together to celebrate the amazing world around us and recognize the worth in protecting it. Our planet is remarkable and there’s much we can learn from it. In fact, there’s a scientific discipline dedicated to studying and copying nature–biomimicry. 

Biomimicry aims to learn from nature to engineer the future. The discipline looks to solve problems faced by humans by observing how organisms and natural systems deal with the very same issues. Reducing energy use is one problem scientists and engineers are tackling by looking at the world around them to inspire solutions.

Here are four examples of energy efficiency through biomimicry:

In the U.S. alone in 2016, 40% of total energy consumption came from the commercial and residential sectors, primarily from buildings. Buildings suck energy in their heating and cooling systems. Even energy efficient buildings with blinds and shades designed to conserve energy use plug-in electricity and batteries. Cones produced from trees like pines, spruce, hemlock, and fir respond naturally to humidity and moisture to open, using minimal energy in the process. Cordt Zollfrank, a chemist, forest scientist and materials researcher at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), is working to design buildings that would respond similarly. The concept could be used wherever buildings experience humidity changes, such as in climate control units.

Humpback whales are the largest animal on the planet, yet they maneuver through the water fast enough to chase fish. Not only are humpbacks quick enough to chase down a meal, but they have to make tight turns as well. Humpbacks are able to make tight maneuvers by putting their flippers at sharp angles of attack. Angle of attack in fluid dynamics is the angle between a reference line representing a body moving and the vector line representing the motion between the body and the fluid through which it is moving. Angles of attack and lift are closely linked, so raising the angle of attack increases lift as well. This movement is helped by tubercles, which create scalloped edges on the leading side of their flippers. This gives them more lift to turn. Professor Frank Fish at West Chester University studied tubercles and the scallop shape and found that tubercles increased the angle of attack up to 42 percent. Engineers have begun to add tubercles and scalloped blades on wind turbines, creating a higher angle, enabling more lift and increasing efficiency.

Equipment in buildings usually function independently and in isolation of one another. They are set on a single thermostat or timer that doesn’t have the capability of knowing what else is currently operating in the building. Since equipment doesn’t communicate with one another they often run at the same time, wasting energy. The clean technology company Encycle created Swarm Logic which can cut a property owner’s electric costs 5-10% or more a year. The technology is based on the way bees and other social insects communicate and coordinate with one another. The controllers establish a wireless network among power-consuming appliances and this enables them to communicate among themselves autonomously. Once the communication network is set then an algorithm is created so the connected appliances spread out their energy demand.

Boeing and NASA have teamed up to find ways for major airlines to save jet fuel. The answer they came up with? Copy geese. By lining up cruising airplanes in a V-formation like migrating geese, the planes leap in efficiency without investing in new technology or changing the designs of individual planes. The concept is called wake surfing. It involves harvesting energy from a lead plane by cutting down on the drag and wind resistance from the planes (or birds) following the leader. The method is still in the works but has the potential to cut down fuel bills and make air travel more energy efficient.

Nature has already solved many of the problems we face today. Animals, plants, microbes, and systems have undergone billions of years or trial and error. These biomimicry breakthroughs in energy efficiency are just a few of the ways emulating nature is shaping the future of sustainable innovation.

Latest Updates on C-PACE in Virginia

The VAEEC has been focused on advancing Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, financing across the Commonwealth for the past few years. Since Virginia’s C-PACE law requires interested localities to develop and implement their own C-PACE program, start up can be on the slow side. However, we’ve seen a lot more traction lately thanks in part to the launch of Virginia’s first C-PACE program (in Arlington County) and the recent release of C-PACE resources for local governments.

source: PACENation

Program Status in Virginia

Over 30 states and Washington, D.C. have approved C-PACE programs. Virginia joined this growing list in 2009 when it first passed C-PACE enabling legislation, which was later amended in 2015. Our C-PACE law includes all new and existing commercial, industrial, multifamily residential (over four units), and nonprofit buildings.

Arlington County’s C-PACE program officially launched in January of this year with the goal of improving new and existing buildings and helping the County’s Community Energy Plan implementation. Sustainable Real Estate Solutions, or SRS, was selected as their independent, third party program administrator to provide marketing, outreach, education, and quality assurance services.

During a January 2018 Board meeting, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to direct staff to develop a C-PACE program structure, evaluate options for Program Administration, and draft an ordinance. These items will be brought back to the Board at a future meeting for consideration. Similarly, Fairfax County is exploring the development of a C-PACE program. County staff are developing information for the Environmental Committee with the goal of presenting their findings to the Committee at their next meeting on June 12th.

In addition to providing educational information to Loudoun and Fairfax, the VAEEC is working with several other jurisdictions to answer questions and help with program development. Just last week, we worked with the City of Virginia Beach to organize a C-PACE informational session for all municipal staff in the Hampton Roads region. Representatives from the Cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach were in attendance. We are also working with local Virginia chapters of the Sierra Club to host a C-PACE event on May 30th in the City of Alexandria. This event will be open to all C-PACE stakeholders in the area, including property owners, contractors, lenders, and municipal staff. We also continue to work with the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to answer staff questions and provide guidance on the resources currently available to localities.

Resources for Local Governments

In early 2018, the VAEEC released a Virginia model ordinance for localities to use when crafting their own program. The ordinance was commissioned following a review and input from a wide variety of C-PACE experts in the lending, local government, engineering, legal, and policy fields. This document incorporated key factors that we consider to be crucial to implementing an effective C-PACE program.

Accelerating C-PACE throughout DC, MD, & VA

As part of its mission to accelerate the development and utilization of C-PACE in the Mid-Atlantic region, MAPA is currently creating program implementation guidance. These regional guidelines will be a part of a toolkit created to help localities craft their own C-PACE program and is slated to be released by June. In conjunction with MAPA, the VAEEC will be hosting a C-PACE webinar in September that will walk attendees through both this toolkit and the Virginia model ordinance.

Virginia localities may review the program infrastructure implemented in Arlington County, including the County ordinance and other program documents. There is also the option to “ride” the C-PACE Program Administration contract with SRS, which would eliminate the need for a Request for Proposals (RFP) process and shortens the time to program launch. Localities may also contract directly with SRS if cooperative procurement is not preferred. Explore the Arlington C-PACE website for more information.

 

The VAEEC prides itself on being a neutral, trusted resource for any Virginia localities interested in C-PACE. We are actively meeting with local governments across Virginia to discuss all available options and help each locality determine which option best suits their needs. If you would like to know more about C-PACE, contact Jessica Greene at jessica@vaeec.org.

 

Carbon Trading Rule Comments

The public hearings for the Carbon Trading Rule and Clean Energy Virginia Initiative have wrapped up, but there is still time to submit public comments before the April 9th deadline. VAEEC encourages members to submit comments supporting the energy efficiency carve out and are happy to help you draft comments.

VAEEC Comments

Click here to view VAEEC’s public comments.

Background

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.

State Corporate Commission Updates + Impacts of New Utility Bill

Passage of the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018 underscores the widespread, bipartisan agreement that energy efficiency is a smart investment for the Commonwealth. The VAEEC endorsed this legislation because of the tremendous potential opportunities for energy-saving programs that will be provided to Virginians over the next decade, including a combined commitment by the electric utilities to spend over $1.3 billion on energy efficiency programs. Unfortunately, all of that potential could easily evaporate away.

Last month, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) held proceedings to review proposed energy efficiency programs for both Appalachian Power Company (APCO) and Dominion Energy. Dominion Energy filed for approval to extend their low-income program for another five years. As defined by Virginia law, low-income programs are already determined to be in the public interest so these types of programs do not face as much scrutiny by the SCC.

During the APCO proceeding however, the SCC staff recommended rejecting all five of the utility’s proposed residential programs. For three of these programs, the SCC staff stated that the utility had not taken into account new federal lighting standards taking effect in 2020. APCO decided to withdraw one of the programs for consideration due to this change but argued in their rebuttal testimony that the SCC staff’s interpretation of the new standard was incorrect for the other two programs since they would be direct install measures. Meaning, the program contractors would directly install the new LED light bulbs into sockets where incandescent light bulbs currently exist and would not be replacing CFL light bulbs with LEDs, as stated in the SCC staff response.

Similarly concerning was the SCC staff’s re-calculation of the cost-benefit tests for APCO’s appliance recycling program renewal, which incentivizes customers in their territory to recycle secondary appliances such as refrigerators. The SCC staff stated that the company miscalculated the cost-benefit tests of this program and performed new calculations, causing the program to fail two of the four cost-benefit tests.

According to experts I’ve spoken with, these new test results calculated by the SCC staff for the appliance recycling program are questionable since there is no customer cost for this particular program, therefore, it is unclear how this program could fail the Total Resource Cost Test but not the Utility Cost Test. Below is a table that was produced in a 2014 VAEEC report explaining the purpose of all four tests.

You may be wondering what this means, especially since this is all pretty technical, but what it boils down to is this: the substantial commitments to energy efficiency by both Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company in the omnibus utility bill will not come to fruition if energy efficiency programs continue to be scrutinized in this manner.

To be clear, the VAEEC supports the role that the SCC plays in scrutinizing proposals put forth by the utilities. That is their job and it is an important one. However, they tend to scrutinize energy efficiency programs more so than other proposals- including new power generating facilities. They do not view energy efficiency as a true resource when it comes to planning for future energy needs, when, in fact, it should be viewed as the critical first step. The kilowatt that goes unused is the cheapest form of energy. Allowing utilities to develop robust programs that help all customers make smart energy choices helps reduce the need for new, larger power generation facilities in the future. Energy efficiency isn’t a silver bullet by any means, but it is a valuable tool in the toolbox that should be utilized much more often than it is now.

VAEEC Report Cover

Investments in energy efficiency also mean new jobs in every corner of Virginia. In our report “Why Energy Efficiency is a Smart investment for Virginia,” we found that energy efficiency is a $1.5 billion industry in Virginia that supports approximately 75,000 jobs. Greater investments and growth in energy efficiency means more jobs in the local communities being served- jobs that cannot be outsourced out-of-state or overseas. This is the argument that we have made before the SCC over the last two years.

The SCC should evaluate the economic development and job creating benefits that these programs create in the local communities they serve. These same benefits are included in the analysis to build new fossil-fueled facilities, so why wouldn’t the same economic benefits for energy efficiency be factored in as well? Especially given that most of the jobs created by building new power plants are temporary construction jobs whereas the jobs provided by energy efficiency programs are year-round and last for the life cycle of program.

The vacant seat on the SCC provides a unique opportunity to unleash the economic potential of energy efficiency for the citizens of the Commonwealth. It is our hope that a new Commissioner is appointed soon and that he or she sees the value and tremendous opportunity that energy efficiency provides. Otherwise, we will be leaving over a billion dollars on the table.

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