Author: Jessica Greene

The Ins & Outs of Energy Performance Contracting

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC) recently hosted a webinar, The Ins and Outs of Energy Performance Contracting, featuring Virginia Energy and Loudoun County Public Schools. The webinar provided an overview of how Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) works and the recent improvements to Virginia’s program. Loudoun County Public Schools recounted their experiences using EPC to enhance their buildings and meet their capital improvement and sustainability goals. Speakers included Nam Nguyen (Virginia Energy), Nick Polier (Virginia Energy), Michael Barancewicz (Loudoun County Public Schools), and Susan Gerson (Loudoun County Public Schools).

Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) is a budget-neutral option for state agencies, localities, public schools, and other public bodies to finance building upgrades while reducing energy use. Through EPC, public entities are able to improve their building performance, address maintenance needs, and reduce their energy consumption – all while achieving a guaranteed level of energy savings. Virginia’s program was established in 2002. To date, there have been more than 280 projects and over $1B in project investment.

EPC projects and customers include public K-12 schools and universities, localities, state agencies, regional jails, and correctional facilities. Virginia Energy provides support throughout the entire EPC process – from the design phase all the way through measurement and verification. This support comes at no cost to the customer and includes all necessary documents and templates to reduce time requirements. Customers are able to select an energy service company (ESCO) to perform the work from a prequalified vendor pool, which expedites the procurement process. The avoided costs from building upgrades pay for the cost of the project and there is a guaranteed energy saving.

During this year’s General Assembly Session, the VAEEC worked with Virginia Energy and our ESCO members to update the Commonwealth’s existing EPC legislation. Once these laws take effect, EPC will be able to finance all roof repairs and full replacements, allowing public buildings to use EPC to become solar-ready. This will provide public bodies with the opportunity to fully finance solar under an EPC (see our fact sheet for more information).

EPC has been particularly beneficial to some localities, such as Loudoun County, which is the fastest-growing county in Virginia with the third-largest school division. With sustainability in mind and the challenge of aging infrastructure, Loudoun County Public Schools reached a point where they could no longer reduce their energy usage without making significant investments. This led them to partner with Virginia Energy to pursue EPC. Through this first pilot project, LCPS saw a 75% kWh reduction, which was even better than the guaranteed level of energy savings. This positive experience led LCPS to continue to use EPC to not only address deferred maintenance and equipment upgrades, but to meet their capital improvement and sustainability goals.

EPC provides the school system with the fiscal advantage of financing energy efficiency retrofits from realized future energy savings. Additional benefits include expertise in design, planning, implementation, and communication; resources that guarantee long-term success; the inclusion of non-energy conservation measures projects (such as security systems); and a trusted partnership between LCPS and their selected ESCO, CMTA. Not only did CMTA understand the nuances of working in an educational environment, but they offered staff training for LCPS employees and have participated in educational opportunities for students.

If you are interested in learning more about energy performance contracting, check out the resources below.

VAEEC EPC fact sheet (6/2022)
VAEEC EPC webpage
Virginia Energy EPC webpage
Webinar Presentation PDF (6/2022)
Webinar Recording link (6/2022)

Spring 2022 Forum Recap

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council was excited to gather in person with Virginia’s energy efficiency industry leaders for our annual Spring Forum on May 5th. Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making this event a great success!

Our biannual forums are known for their ability to bring together Virginia’s energy efficiency leaders to make valuable connections, and this event did not disappoint. Energy efficiency professionals convened in person at the Dorey Recreation Center in Henrico County for ample networking time, a keynote address from a prominent energy-efficiency champion, educational presentations, a membership spotlight, and the organization’s annual business meeting with Board elections.

Senator Jennifer McClellan

The event kicked off with a brief opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish, who provided an update on the organization’s 2022 accomplishments thus far. Attendees were then treated to a keynote address from Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan, a long-time advocate for clean energy in the Commonwealth. Senator McClellan began by stating the importance of clean energy before specifically discussing the numerous benefits of energy efficiency; “energy efficiency is the cheapest way and the zero-carbon way to have clean energy”. She also provided a recap of recent clean energy legislation, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, insisting that Virginia must continue taking action to remain a clean energy leader. We are in the midst of transiting to clean energy; Virginia can continue to be a leader, or it can be at the end of the pack.

Members voting during the Board election

Next was our annual business meeting, a dedicated time where we hold our Board of Directors election and have our members share their accomplishments. Chelsea Harnish started this portion of the meeting with organizational updates, including the process of developing our 2023-2025 strategic plan. Afterward, Board Vice-Chair Mark Jackson (CHP Energy Solutions) led our 2022 Board of Directors election. VAEEC members re-elected seven Board members:

  • Elizabeth Beardsley, U.S. Green Building Council
  • Tim Bernadowski, Siemens Industry
  • KC Bleile, Viridiant
  • Bill Eger, City of Alexandria
  • Stephen Evanko, Dominion Due Diligence Group
  • Mark Jackson, CHP Energy Solutions, and
  • Carrie Webster, Henrico County

Members elected Megan Partridge with Franklin Energy to fill an open seat on the Board of Directors. We also officially welcomed Joyce Bodoh (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative) and Bryna Dunn (Moseley Architects) to the Board. These individuals are fulfilling the terms of former Board members. We are excited to add new voices to our leadership and to continue working with our seven re-elected members.

Remarkable Member Updates

After the remarkable member updates, a time for members to highlight their latest successes, and a networking break, attendees reconvened for our plenary session, Advancing Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment. Speakers included: Bryna Dunn (Moseley Architects), Andrew Grigsby (Viridiant), Abby Johnson (Virginia PACE Authority), and Benjamin Knopp (Community Housing Partners). Julia Reynolds (Chesterfield County) moderated.

While the keynote address focused on past successes and an overview of this year’s General Assembly session, this session was more forward-focused. Speakers touched on the latest and greatest opportunities for the field right now and their predictions for the next five years. They also covered the challenges and barriers, as well as the opportunities, they are seeing in their particular niche of the energy efficiency industry. 

Advancing EE in the Built Environment

Abby focused on the statewide Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, including recent legislation that enhances the scope of C-PACE projects. Andrew emphasized the value of efficiency and green design and using funding to support social good. He also discussed the energy code work that Viridiant is doing with the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance. Ben talked about pushing the boundaries of weatherization with MERV-13 filtration, heat pump deployment, electrification, and weatherization deferral repairs. Bryna provided an overview of Moseley’s True Sustainability Program and how it ties together wellness, decarbonization, and resilience

After closing remarks, the event concluded with a happy hour at Triple Crossing – Fulton in Richmond. With networking being one of the main benefits of a VAEEC membership, we were delighted to safely offer this in-person opportunity. It was a pleasure to connect with many of our members face-to-face again after primarily hosting virtual events for the past two years.

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, and event attendees for making this one of our best events to date!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Additional event information, including speaker biographies and sponsor features, can be found in the event programEvent attendees received a PDF of the event’s presentation in the post-event email. Contact info@vaeec.org if you did not receive it. Events photos can be viewed in the photo gallery below.

Leading By Example Through Building Performance

The VAEEC recently hosted a webinar on building performance primarily for local governments across the Commonwealth. Leading By Example Through Building Performance followed three different building performance policies and programs to not only encourage the audience to implement their own strong green building policy but to also provide best practices and lessons learned from the design phase all through the day-to-day management of a program.

Speakers included:

  • Dawn Oleksy, Climate Action Programs & Operations Supervisor, City of Richmond
  • Bill Eger, Energy Manager, City of Alexandria
  • Holly Savoia, Director of Sustainability Enforcement, NYC Department of Buildings, and
  • Elizabeth Beardsley, Senior Policy Counsel, U.S. Green Building Council.

With Virginia being a Dillon Rule state, localities are limited as to what they can and cannot mandate. However, jurisdictions are finding ways to make progress happen in their communities.

The webinar began with an overview of green buildings and the benefits of a strong green building policy – such as energy savings, emission reductions, and improved air quality – from Liz. Next, Dawn covered the City of Richmond’s climate action policy, RVAgreen 2050, which the City is currently in the middle of developing. RVAgreen 2050 centers around three key points: equity, climate action, and climate resilience. Buildings & Energy is one of five pathways the City is using to meet its goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and becoming more climate-resilient. This includes requiring an equitable building performance policy for existing commercial buildings, retro-commissioning for existing commercial buildings to improve efficiency, and benchmarking existing commercial buildings.

RVAgreen 2050 is equitable climate action for a healthy and resilient Richmond.

 

Dawn specified the need for stakeholder engagement throughout the entire process in order to better understand the community’s priorities. She also shared RVAgreen 2050’s measuring process to track the plan’s outcomes and the shared accountability framework to encourage transparency, a culture of improvement, trusting relationships, institutionalizing sustainability in city government, and regular evaluation.

Richmond just began the next phase of community-wide engagement to gather feedback on the plan. RVAgreen 2050 is scheduled to be finalized this summer and adopted by fall.

Next, Bill provided an overview of the City of Alexandria’s Green Building Policy. The City initially enacted this policy in 2009. Alexandria created the Environmental Action Plan 2040 to support the City’s goals, which include climate action and energy reduction.

The Green Building Policy establishes minimum green building practices for new public and private development and major renovations.

 

To work around Virginia’s “constrained policy environment”, authority for this policy is rooted in the City’s zoning code. Certain building performance conditions are required for the Development Site Plan and Development Special Use Permit review processes. New development must achieve the LEED Silver level of certification at a minimum. Using a third-party rating system provides an expert verification of meeting compliance requirements without having to have experts on staff. The policy also includes a minimum threshold requirement for a number of community priorities, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, and advanced energy metering.

The Green Building Policy was updated in 2019 to include newer concepts such as decarbonization. In the ten-year span between 2009 and 2019, over 95% of the development square footage constructed or currently under construction in Alexandria is compliant with the 2009 policy. This equates to nearly 10 million square feet of green building development.

Holly provided an overview of New York City’s Energy Grades Program, including the local sustainability laws that led to this program. PlaNYC set out to reduce the City’s emissions by 30% by 2030. The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan paved the way for benchmarking, energy audits and retro-commissioning, and lighting upgrades and sub-metering. Then, after Hurricane Sandy hit, the One City Built to Last Policy increased the emissions reduction goal to 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Commercial benchmarking served as the precursor to the City’s Energy Grades Program.

Since it provides transparency of a property’s annual energy and water usage, benchmarking is seen as the first step for building owners or tenants to make a building more efficient – you can’t change what you can’t measure.

The City’s commercial benchmarking mandate originally applied to buildings over 50,000 SF, but was later amended to apply to any building over 25,000 SF. Building owners must report their building’s energy and water consumption annually through the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Portfolio Manager is a readily accessible, free tool, so the municipality did not have to purchase it or develop their own benchmarking software. Additionally, building owners do not have to pay to use it or hire someone else to input the data, which helps lead to higher compliance rates. New York City has also created a way for building owners to automatically upload their data from their utility bills. Initially, violation fees were issued once a year. Now that they are issued on a quarterly basis, the City has a 96% compliance rate.

New York City’s Building Energy Grades Program applies to most buildings over 25,000 SF. The Department of Buildings uses a building’s benchmarking data to assign qualified buildings a letter grade distribution based on their Energy Star score. Owners are required to post their building’s Energy Efficiency Rating Label in a conspicuous location of their building’s entrance. The program provides transparency of a property’s energy efficiency to the public.

One of the key takeaways from all the speakers is the importance of getting the private sector involved early in the policy-making process. Getting them involved from the beginning not only increases buy-in but also allows localities to understand challenges that they may not have foreseen and to brainstorm solutions.

It was inspiring to see all of the thought and effort that goes into developing, implementing, and managing green building policies.


A recording of the webinar can be viewed here. Contact info@vaeec.org for more information.

2021 Achievements

Despite the ongoing challenges due to COVID-19, the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council helped advance the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency programs and policies throughout 2021. We worked to facilitate the deployment of energy-efficient technologies that improve indoor air quality in schools as they prepared to welcome students in person, many for the first time in 18 months. We supported legislation to expand public building performance standards and advocated for an update to the Virginia Energy Conservation & Environmental Standards. We also saw the first C-PACE project in the state become a reality. Additionally, we established a dedicated technology committee to identify innovation and needs.VAEEC staff successfully worked with DHCD to establish a new weatherization deferral and repair program using funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s carbon auctions. By participating in proceedings before the SCC, we ensured that the energy efficiency goals set forth in the Virginia Clean Economy Act remain achievable

Check out our top five achievements in 2021 below. View our 2021 Annual Report to learn more about the organization and our work.

All of this progress was made possible by the support of our members. We are excited to work with you in the new year to create, implement, and share energy efficiency solutions that improve the quality of life throughout the Commonwealth.

2021 Energy Efficiency Forum

View the event program for details

Virginia’s energy efficiency community came together on November 15th and 16th for the VAEEC’s 2021 Energy Efficiency Forum. A big thank you to our sponsors, speakers, awards winners, and attendees for making this event a great success!

Day one primarily consisted of breakout sessions on timely, educational topics. Due to COVID-19 and an effort to make the event accessible to those near and far, this portion of the event was offered over a virtual platform. 

Getting Smarter with Energy Efficiency Technology: Smart technologies have advanced by leaps and bounds. This panel explored how these technologies work together to make communities cleaner, safer, and closer – while increasing energy efficiency. The session was sponsored by Virginia Natural Gas. Speakers included Keven Brough (Google), Phil Markham (Southern Company), and Damian Pitt (Virginia Commonwealth University), and KC Bleile (Viridiant, VAEEC Board) moderated.

Opportunities & Insights for Energy Performance Contracting: This panel discussed the ways Energy Performance Contracts, or EPCs, can address post-COVID needs, case studies, potential legislative solutions for ongoing challenges, and a look at what comes next. The panel was moderated by Chrissy Sherriff (ABM Industries), and speakers included Marc Lipschultz (VA Dept. of Transportation), Nam Nguyen (Virginia Energy), and Barry Wilhelm (Schneider Electric). 

Advancing Virginia’s Energy Efficiency Workforce: As the energy efficiency industry grows year by year, there is a demonstrated need for a trained workforce to fill those jobs. This panel discussed the opportunities and challenges in meeting those needs and highlighted the federal, state, and local programs working to fill the gaps. The session proved to be quite timely as states are beginning to receive massive amounts of federal relief funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. Speakers included Brandi Frazier Bestpitch (Virginia Energy), Matt Kellam (Dominion Energy, Virginia Energy Workforce Consortium), and Kim Strahm (Community Housing Partners), and Carrie Webster (Henrico County) moderated. 

Improving Building Performance Across Sectors: According to the US Department of Energy, over 70% of carbon emissions come from commercial and residential buildings across the US. This panel discusses how energy efficiency can not only address existing building stock, but move the industry into the future. This session was sponsored by VEIC. Speakers included David Nemtzow (Dept. of Energy Building Technologies Office), Christian Placencia (DC Sustainable Energy Utility), and Jennifer Rosenthal (TRC Companies) and was moderated by Liz Beardsley (US Green Building Council, VAEEC Board). 

Attendees gathered in person for day two, which took place at the Dorey Recreation Center in Henrico County. The second day began with an opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish. Attendees were updated on the industry’s accomplishments and updates over the past two years.  

The plenary session, Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Energy Efficiency Sector, was next. Energy efficiency growth is a tale told in numbers – dollars saved, households served, jobs provided. However, when it comes to business and hiring needs, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Panelists discussed the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the energy efficiency industry and how it will help advance our aligned values. Speakers included Willie Fobbs (Dept. of Housing & Community Development), Esi Langston (City of Norfolk), Leigh Anne Ratliff (Trane Technologies, VAEEC Board), and Harrison Wallace (Climate & Equity Foundation). Chelsea Harnish (VAEEC) moderated.

Three Virginia-based projects were recognized next during our sixth annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards ceremony. Projects were placed within one of three categories based on the sector served: Academic, Commercial, and Government. For information on each winning project, visit our 2021 Awards page

Finally, after two years of only being able to gather virtually, the event ended with an in-person happy hour at Triple Crossing – Fulton in Richmond. We’ve heard loud and clear that networking is one of the biggest benefits of a VAEEC membership, so we were excited to be able to safely offer this in-person opportunity. It was a pleasure to connect with many of our members face-to-face again.

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, awards winners, and event attendees for making this one of our best events to date. Click here to view photos of the event. Additional event information, including speaker biographies and sponsor features, can be found in the event program.

Event attendees received recordings for each of the four, virtual breakout sessions in the post-event email. Presentation PDFs can be viewed at the links above.

Benchmarking Best Practices

Benchmarking has been gaining a lot of attention across the Commonwealth, but it is not a new concept. At its core, benchmarking is the practice of measuring a building’s energy usage and comparing it to the average of similar buildings. It provides building owners with the ability to understand their relative energy performance and identify opportunities to reduce energy waste. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2018, buildings accounted for 39% of total U.S. energy consumption.  

2020 legislation mandated the benchmarking of Virginia’s public buildings, which is no small task. There are 10,888 buildings with 117 million square feet of space in the state’s building asset portfolio. In an effort to “lead by example”, the state energy office has developed an energy data warehouse to track and manage this building data. Using energy management dashboards, they are able to highlight energy conservation champions and benchmarking best practices. By pin-pointing areas needing efficiency measures, staff is able to offer support to get innovative technologies implemented, which then help the Commonwealth achieve its energy efficiency goals. Additionally, the state energy office is willing to help interested localities by sharing their energy tracking software. 

Individual localities have also taken steps to benchmark buildings. Back in 2010-2011, Arlington County instituted the Arlington Green Games, a friendly competition for commercial office buildings to boost energy- and water-savings, waste reduction and recycling, and transportation demand management. This voluntary program had over 100 commercial tenants participating. Scorecards kept track of actions taken, and property managers benchmarked buildings for energy and water usage. After just one year of the competition, the County saw an estimated $2 million in energy and water savings. The County gleaned some important takeaways about voluntary benchmarking from this program. 

  • Commercial property owners/managers were eager to participate when prizes were awarded and if they could show off their energy-efficient properties
  • However, this effort did not achieve market transformation
  • Property owners/managers admitted to not including their energy-intensive buildings. This demonstrates the appeal of benchmarking mandates as a public policy tool in order to achieve lasting change through energy-efficient climate action
  • It was also labor-intensive to achieve high engagement rates with property owners  

Several Virginia localities are already benchmarking their government facilities, including Fairfax County. The live results are publicly available in the County’s energy dashboard. Benchmarking has provided several tangible benefits:

  • Internal tracking and recordkeeping, trend analysis, etc.
  • Ability to identify opportunities for improvements and to measure and verify savings
  • Leading by example
  • Provides the platform for long-term awareness, internal and public accountability, and actionability

Beyond Virginia, cities and counties across the country mandate benchmarking for commercial and public buildings. Just to our north, the District of Columbia passed legislation in 2008 requiring all private buildings greater than 50k square feet and all public buildings greater than 10k square feet to report their annual energy and water use. This program is run through the D.C. Dept. of Energy & Environment (DOEE) in partnership with the D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU). All data is reported through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. DOEE also uses the Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Program to centralize energy benchmarking data. SEED allows the DOEE to track compliance, enforcement, and communications with building owners and managers. 

Additional legislation passed reduces the size threshold of the building required to submit annual benchmarking reports. In 2022, buildings greater than 25k square feet will be required to report, and in 2025, buildings greater than 10k square feet will be required. This legislation also established a third-party verification requirement for all covered buildings every three years. 

Throughout this process, DOEE and DCSEU have pinpointed several best practices for benchmarking commercial buildings. 

  • Data quality emails
  • Automation
  • Trainings/webinars
  • Enforcement
  • Customer service

Additionally, there have been several challenges faced along the way.

  • Staffing (at the start of the program)
  • Outreach and engagement
  • Reliable data sources
  • Access to tools
  • Lack of benchmarking knowledge/ no national standard process

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council is working with Del. Rip Sullivan on commercial benchmarking legislation for the 2022 General Assembly session. The legislation will allow localities to mandate commercial benchmarking programs within their jurisdiction. We hope to set up the legislation in a way that is beneficial to localities. Therefore, we are facilitating conversations with our local government members who are interested in this topic. We have also met with several benchmarking experts to glean their best practices. Stay tuned for more information, or contact Jessica Greene if you have any questions. 

To learn more about benchmarking and any of the programs mentioned above, check out the VAEEC’s Benchmarking Best Practices webinar held in June 2021.

Spring 2021 Forum Recap

Virginia’s energy efficiency industry virtually gathered together to learn and connect at the VAEEC’s Spring 2021 Forum. Over 100 energy efficiency professionals participated in the event, which included three educational sessions, dedicated networking sessions, and our annual member meeting with Board elections. Attendees were treated to timely topics, including energy management systems, Virginia’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auctions and Housing Innovations in Energy Efficiency program, and how the industry is still coping with the impacts of a global pandemic. We want to extend a huge thank you to our sponsors and speakers for their support, and to everyone who attended.

The event kicked off with our annual member meeting. This is a dedicated time where not only do we get to share VAEEC’s updates and accomplishments, but it’s a time for members to share their successes. Many of the organizational highlights can be found in our 2020 annual report, and our 2020 accomplishments blog post and video. Additionally, Board Chair John Morrill (Fairfax County) led our 2021 Board of Directors election. VAEEC members re-elected Michael Hubbard (Dominion Energy), David Koogler (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative), and John Morrill (Fairfax County). We also welcomed Tim Bernadowski (Siemens Industry) who took over Rick Counihan’s (Nest) seat, Carla Dix (Columbia Gas) who took over Susan Larsen’s (Columbia Gas) seat, and Carrie Webster (Henrico County) who took over Tom Nicholas’s (City of Virginia Beach) seat. We are excited to add these new voices to our leadership. 

VAEEC’s biannual forums are known for their ability to bring together Virginia’s energy efficiency leaders to make valuable connections. Even with this year’s Spring Forum being virtual, we wanted to continue to provide this opportunity. Our virtual networking session allowed participants to join breakout rooms based on different topics: Building Codes & Performance, Innovation & Technology, Legislation & Policy, and Local Government Collaboration. Lively conversations arose and beneficial connections were made. Thank you Virginia Energy Sense for sponsoring this popular session. 

Next, participants were able to attend one of three concurrent sessions: Using Energy Management Systems for Whole Building Efficiency, Making a Difference in Low-Income Housing: How the RGGI Auctions Affect EE Work, and Pandemic Problem Solving: Facing Energy Challenges Across Sectors. Click on a session title below to view the corresponding presentation. All attendees will receive an audio recording of each session. 

Using Energy Management Systems for Whole Building Efficiency, moderated by Dawn Oleksy (City of Richmond), discussed the biggest challenges and opportunities with the installation, operation, and maintenance of energy management systems and the strategies for overcoming those obstacles. Panelists shared new trends and the future of energy management systems, including grid-interactive buildings. Speakers included Tim Bernadowski (Siemens Industry, VAEEC Board member), Lee Dunfee (Cushman & Wakefield), and Christopher Perry (ACEEE). This session was sponsored by the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development

Be careful of misinterpreting ASHRAE guidelines to mean you should simply bring a lot of outdoor air into your building, Tim Bernadowski of Siemens Industry says on our Whole Building Efficiency panel. More accurate: “Make sure you’ve got the correct outdoor air for your design.”

The Virginia RGGI auctions provide enormous potential to improve the Commonwealth’s low-income housing stock. During the session, Making a Difference in Low-Income Housing: How the RGGI Auctions Affect EE Work, panelists provided insights on program management, development, and the weatherization assistance and Affordable & Special Needs Housing programs. Speakers included Dan Farrell (Virginia Dept. of Housing & Community Development), Sunshine Mathon (Piedmont Housing Alliance), and Kerri Walker (Project:HOMES) and Lesley Fore (Community Housing Partners) moderated. The session was sponsored by the Piedmont Housing Alliance

The COVID-19 pandemic has had wide-reaching effects on all sectors of the energy efficiency industry. During Pandemic Problem Solving: Facing Energy Challenges Across Sectors, panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities faced over the past year, and what they anticipate going forward. Speakers included Benjamin Knopp (Think Little), Cathy Lin (Arlington Public Schools), and Aaron Schneider (Metrus Energy), and Legih Anne Ratliff (CPower Energy Management) was the moderator. This session was sponsored by VEIC

“There’s more money than ever for green projects,” says Aaron Schneider of Metrus Energy — from the government, asset managers and capital markets. It’s a “massive shift.”

As with all of our work, this event would not have been possible without the continued support of our members and sponsors. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Spring Forum for helping us push energy efficiency toward an even brighter future.

We strive to make each event better than the last. To achieve this goal, we rely on feedback from our event attendees. Please take a moment to share your thoughts and suggestions with us in this brief survey


Save the date. Our Fall 2021 Forum will be held in Richmond on November 16th. The event will feature the Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards Ceremony and an industry Trade Show. We hope to see you there!

VAEEC’s 2020 in Review

2020 has been a unique year for sure. However, looking back, VAEEC and Virginia’s energy efficiency industry saw several monumental wins this year. In fact, Virginia had its best year on the ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. For the first time ever, we broke into the Top 25 and Virginia was ranked #1 in the Southeast. This is a reflection of the hard work and efforts of the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency industry throughout 2020. We look forward to continuing to advance energy efficiency even further in the new year.

For our part, the VAEEC worked tirelessly with fellow stakeholders to pass several key pieces of historic energy efficiency legislation, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). This landmark law will pave the way for a carbon-free Virginia by 2045, ensuring investments in energy efficiency, solar, wind, and more. The VCEA mandates 5% energy savings from the investor-owned utilities by 2025, marking Virginia as just the second state in the Southeast to establish a mandatory stand-alone Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). Additional laws established mandatory benchmarking for state buildings, enabled an on-bill tariff program for electric co-ops, and added an energy audit to the residential disclosure during homebuying. We also saw the passage of a law permitting the state energy office to develop a statewide Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, program.

The VAEEC also advanced energy efficiency in the Commonwealth beyond legislation. We identified the need to change Dominion Energy’s definition of low-income eligibility requirements and worked with our members to make it happen. The new definition will allow weatherization providers to serve even more households across Virginia. Three localities passed C-PACE ordinances and one launched a program. Blower door testing and increased ceiling insulation requirements were included in the recently adopted final draft of the Uniform Statewide Building Code.

At the end of each year, the VAEEC completes a program evaluation, which goes hand-in-hand with our Strategic Plan to answer:

  • What impacts is the organization trying to achieve?
  • What strategies will help us achieve our goals?
  • How will we know if our work is successful?

As you might remember, VAEEC staff and Board members met last summer to develop our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan. Taking feedback from our members, we created focus areas for our next three years of work:

  1. Advancement of New Energy-Efficiency Technologies
  2. Government Engagement
  3. Utility Programs and VCEA Implementation

Our evaluation focuses on each of these areas, prompts us to think about the goals, strategies, and metrics for each, and assesses whether or not we are on track to achieve our goals. To provide our membership with a snapshot of these goals and whether or not we are on track to achieve them, we are sharing our program evaluation infographics. Take a look below to get a glimpse of all of the EE advancements we were able to achieve in this unprecedented year.

To learn more about the VAEEC’s 2020 achievements, watch our short video below.

Our work would not be successful without the support of our members. Thank you for your dedication to the organization and to Virginia’s energy efficiency industry. We look forward to working with you in the new year to make 2021 our strongest year for EE yet.

Fall 2020 Forum & Trade Show Recap

A global pandemic was no match for Virginia’s energy efficiency industry, who came together virtually to learn and connect at our Fall 2020 Forum and first ever Trade Show. Approximately 100 energy efficiency professionals participated in the event’s four educational sessions, multiple exhibitor and networking breaks, and a networking reception. A huge thank you to our sponsors and exhibitors for making this event possible, and also to everyone who attended.

COVID-19 looms large over the industry, so it was a major topic of discussion in nearly all the sessions of the day. “Air quality will be non-negotiable” [in a post-COVID-19 world],” said Serene Al-Momen, co-founder and CEO of Senseware. The unique intersection of energy efficiency technologies and strategies, building environment health, and maximizing the safety of both implementers and inhabitants has come to the forefront of many conversations nationwide, including VAEEC’s recent series of articles. Speakers throughout the event discussed the varying approaches to improving energy efficiency before, during, and after a crisis. 

The event kicked off with welcome remarks from VAEEC’s Chelsea Harnish, who provided an overview of the state of Virginia’s energy efficiency industry. Highlights included: 

  • Updates on implementation progress for 2020 legislation such as the revised low-income eligibility criteria we worked on earlier in the year, upcoming stakeholder processes for RGGI funds and electric cooperatives’ on-bill tariff program, and the impending RFP for a statewide C-PACE administrator.
  • Upcoming public comment deadlines – November 13th is the deadline for the draft Uniform Statewide Building Code and November 17th for the Dominion Large General Service customer opt-out proceedings before the SCC.
  • VAEEC’s new video series, Building the Future, which highlights the incredible energy efficiency work accomplished by our members. The projects featured are Henrico County’s Varina library (with a very special guest appearance by Chelsea’s daughter), the Virginia Beach Aquarium, and Monticello. 

Attendees then moved into the first of three exhibitor and networking breaks Thanks to a new event platform called Hopin, participants could step into our first ever trade show, where they could move between interactive “booths” from Community Housing Partners, C-Power Energy Management, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Virginia Energy Sense, and Viridiant. They could also choose to connect with each other one on one or in groups through the “speed-networking” and chat functions. Networking has long been one of the most beneficial aspects of our events, so we didn’t let the virtual nature hold us back. 

View the event program for session summaries, speaker bios, sponsor features, and more.

The next session, Advancing Efficiency with Emerging Technologies, has become a Fall Forum tradition. Sponsored by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), the panel was made up of innovative technology startups who shared how their product is pushing the energy efficiency industry forward. Speakers included Serene Almomen (Senseware), Jesse Thornberg (Grid Fruit), and Joe Weaver (Ario) and was moderated by Adam Sledd (Dominion Energy Innovation Center).  

After a second exhibitor and networking break, attendees choose between two concurrent sessions, Large Energy Users: Efficiency Opportunities & Challenges and Energy Efficiency Implementation in the Time of COVID-19.  

The Virginia Clean Economy Act allows customers using more than 1MW of electricity annually to opt-out of utility energy efficiency programs only if they are delivering energy savings via their own programs. Large Energy Users: Efficiency Opportunities & Challenges, sponsored by Schneider Electric, encouraged participants to join the discussion for a chance to help influence the VAEEC’s future work in promoting programs to meet the needs of this diverse customer class. The session started with a brief presentation by Ed Rightor (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) and Chelsea Harnish (VAEEC) before pivoting into an interactive session with participation from attendees. Thank you to everyone who joined and shared their expertise and ideas. 

Energy Efficiency Implementation in the Time of COVID-19 ran concurrently with the above session. During this session, speakers shared their personal experiences with how COVID-19 has changed energy efficiency implementation and procedures for their respective businesses. The session ended on a positive note, reflecting on how much has still been able to be accomplished despite the pandemic. “COVID-19 is another constraint — not a progress killer,” said Samuel Ringelberg, Project Development Manager at Schneider Electric, during his presentation. The speakers also included Michael Hubbard (Dominion Energy) and Kerri Walker (project:HOMES), and Willie Fobbs (VA Dept. of Housing & Community Development) moderated the session.

The final breakout session of the day addressed how VAEEC members are using energy efficiency to combat the spread of COVID-19. During Exploring the Intersection of Health & Energy Efficiency, sponsored by VEIC, speakers focused on the technologies, programs, and innovations that are helping to keep our buildings safe through improved air quality. Speakers included Jody Lesko (Vermont), Michele Mitch-Peterson (Siemens), and John Morrill (Arlington County), and Bill Eger (City of Alexandria) moderated. “The measures to improve energy efficiency and to improve ventilation and air quality are the same,” said Lesko. 

The VAEEC Fall 2020 Forum & Trade Show would not be possible without the continuing support of our exceptional members and sponsors. To everyone who joined us, thank you for helping us push energy efficiency forward to ensure a smooth transition to an affordable and equitable 100% clean energy future in the Commonwealth.

Presentations can be viewed below.

Welcome & Opening Remarks
Advancing Efficiency with Emerging Technologies
Energy Efficiency Implementation in the Time of COVID-19
Large Energy Users: Efficiency Opportunities & Challenges
Exploring the Intersection of Health & Energy Efficiency

An audio recording of each presentation has been provided to all participants.

We appreciate your feedback! If you attended the event, please take a moment to complete this quick, six question survey. Your comments and suggestions help us make each event better than the last.

Energy Awareness Bingo

Play all October for a chance to win a virtual home energy audit from Viridiant!

October 1st kicks off National Energy Awareness Month, a time to promote the importance of energy efficiency, discover new ways to become more efficient, and reflect on your own energy consumption. To get everyone in on the fun, the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council will be orchestrating Energy Awareness Bingo! Get rewarded for energy-efficient measures you have already implemented while learning about additional ways to reduce your energy footprint. Winners will be entered into a raffle to win a virtual home energy audit* from Viridiant! The raffle winner will be announced at our free virtual Fall Forum on November 10th.

See official rules and a description of the prize at the bottom of the page. Contact us at info@vaeec.org with any questions.

Guidelines

  1. Sign up to play. Simply fill out this quick form to download a bingo card.
  2. Once you receive your virtual bingo card, mark any of the squares that contain an energy efficiency measure that you have taken at your home. Marks can be done virtually or by printing out your card and writing on it.
    • To qualify, all energy efficiency measures must have been implemented within the past three years.
  3. Have fun while learning new ways to make your home more efficient!
  4. If you get “bingo”, take a photo or screenshot of your card and post it to social media. Get creative! Be sure to tag us and use the hashtag #EEbingo.
  5. Register for the virtual Fall Forum on November 10th to see if your name is drawn for the grand prize, a virtual home energy audit from Viridiant.

Tips to Reduce Your Energy Consumption – and Utility Bills

Below you will find a brief description of the measures or habits included on each card. The majority of them are no- or low-cost measures or simple behavioral changes that reduce your energy consumption and save you money on your utility bills.

  1. Use smart power strips. Many electronics produce “phantom loads”, which refers to the electricity used by electronics when they are either in standby mode or are turned off. This wasted energy can cost you up to $200 per year. In fact, estimates suggest that stand by power accounts for over $11 billion in annual U.S. energy costs. Smart power strips shut off the power to electronics when they are not in use.
  2. Install low-flow plumbing fixtures. Along with saving water, low-flow plumbing fixtures reduce the energy it takes to heat the water. Even without new, efficient fixtures, you can save money by making more conscious decisions. For example, turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, and don’t rinse dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.
  3. Add (additional) attic insulation. Attic insulation slows the rate of heat leaving the house in the winter or entering the house in the summer, thus requiring less energy to heat or cool your home. If your older home already has insulation, it might be time to add more. Insulation settles with age, thus reducing it’s R-value. Homeowners typically reduce their heating and cooling costs by up to $200 by adding insulation and air sealing their homes. This includes sealing the entire home’s thermal envelope, such as the foundation, walls, roof, doors, and windows (think anything that separates your living space from the outside).
  4. Use a smart, programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling when you are away from home or asleep. This eliminates wasteful energy consumption without having to upgrade your HVAC system. On average, they save households $180 per year. Many models even include indicators for replacing your air filter or HVAC problems, which improves the efficiency of your HVAC system. Additionally, consider setting your thermostat to 78F in the summer and 68F in the winter. For every degree extra of heating or cooling, you’re increasing your energy usage by 6-8%. Note, setting your thermostat to a lower temperature than normal does not cool your home faster.
  5. Upgrade to an ENERGY STAR appliance. If you need to replace a household appliance, consider upgrading to an ENERGY STAR certified one. Appliances, on average, account for approximately 13% of a household’s energy use. Energy-efficient appliances usually have a higher upfront purchase cost, but their operating costs tend to be 9-25% lower than conventional models. ENERGY STAR labels are a guarantee that the appliance consumes less energy than standard models.
  6. Get an HVAC tune-up. Annual heating and cooling system check-ups keep your system at peak performance and can prevent future problems. The average homeowner spends about $875 a year on heating and cooling costs. Some money-saving measures include using a programmable thermostat, cleaning the area around your HVAC system’s outdoor components, and regularly changing your air filters. Additionally, have your HVAC professional check your ducts for leaks too.
  7. Receive an energy audit. Using specialized tools and skills to evaluate your home, energy auditors and raters recommend the most cost-effective measures to improve its efficiency and comfort. They can also recommend the best sequence for implementing measures to help you take advantage of interactions.
  8. Participate in the Dominion Energy Marketplace. Dominion Energy customers can purchase energy-efficient products at a discounted price through the company’s online marketplace. Products include an array of LED bulbs, smart power strips, and outdoor motion/sensing lights. Orders over $35 ship free.
  9. Switch to LED light bulbs. LED light bulbs use anywhere from 25-80% less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, and they last between 3-25 times longer.
  10. Seal cracks, gaps, and leaks. Weatherizing your home by sealing air leaks is a low-cost, effective way to reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs. Vents, windows, and doors are the most common sources of leaks. Apply caulk or spray foam to seal air leaks between stationary objects. Weather striping can be used for cracks between moving objects, such as doors and windows. These low-cost measures typically offer a return on investment in less than one year.
  11. Upgrade or replace windows. Old, inefficient windows can add up to 10-25% of your total heating bill. Replacing single-glazed windows with energy-efficient models can result in noticeable cost savings. An alternative option is to add interior or exterior storm windows, which can reduce heat loss by 10-20%. If you are already planning on replacing your home’s windows, the typical additional cost of ENERGY STAR-rated replacement windows is modest and can be cost-effective while also boosting your home’s comfort. Depending on your location, ENERGY STAR windows can save anywhere from $20-95 a year on your energy bills.
  12. Insulate your electric hot water heater and hot water lines. Insulating your water heater and hot water lines helps keep the heated water from cooling off as quickly between uses. On average, households spend over $250 a year on water heating. You can also save money by lowering your water heater’s temperature setting.
  13. Wash clothes in cold water, when possible. Using cold water uses less energy because you don’t have to heat the water. About 90% of the energy used to operate a clothes washer is from water heating. To save even more, wash full loads or use lower water settings for smaller loads. Additionally, longer spin times in the washing machine reduces the amount of drying time needed in the dryer.
  14. Use clothes dryers efficiently (if used at all). Dryers account for 6% of residential electricity consumption. Luckily, there are several easy-to-implement tips to make your dryer more efficient. Don’t overstuff the dryer, which causes it to run longer. Lower heat settings use less energy. Use the moisture sensor option, if available, which helps avoid over-drying clothes. Clean the lint trap after every use to improve air circulation to increase the dryer’s efficiency. Use your washing machine’s highest spin time to reduce the amount of drying time needed.
  15. Clean or replace filters regularly. It’s recommended that you check your HVAC system’s air filters monthly, especially during times of heavy use. If it looks dirty, change it. At a minimum, HVAC filters should be changed every three months. Dirty filters make your system work harder by slowing down airflow. For an even greener option with a bigger payback, check to see if your system accommodates a washable filter.
  16. Plant shade trees around your home. Good landscaping can save energy, especially if you live in an older home with relatively poor insulation and windows. Planting deciduous trees on the western side of your home block solar radiation in the summer and lets the radiation through in the winter.
  17. Insulate your HVAC ducts. Most HVAC systems consist of a network of ducts that distribute the warmed or cooled air to different parts of your home. If they are not properly insulated or sealed, the resulting energy waste could be adding hundreds of dollars to your annual heating and cooling bills.
  18. Avoid running appliances during peak hours. Consider using your dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer later in the evening. Not only will this help keep your house cooler during summer months, avoiding peak usage hours (4:00-6:00 pm) will save on your utility bill.
  19. Watch your appliance placement. Placing heat-generating appliances, such as TVs, computers, or lamps, near a thermostat can make your HVAC unit run more than it needs to.
  20. Close the fireplace damper when not in use. Opened dampers allow warmed or cooled air to easily escape from the house. Closing the damper will help keep your conditioned air in the living space. For an even more efficient option, consider a chimney plug or fireplace balloon.
  21. Use your ceiling fan. A ceiling fan can allow you to raise your thermostat setting about 4F while still remaining comfortable. Just remember to turn the fan off when you leave the room; fans cool people, not the room. In the winter, you can reverse your fan to produce a gentle updraft, which drives the warm air near the ceiling down into the living space.
  22. Cook efficiently. If you’re using your stove, avoid wasting energy by covering pots and pans. Trapping the heat also reduces cooking times. In fact, covering your pot when using an electric cooktop can reduce your carbon footprint by roughly 85 lbs of CO2 per year. You should also match your pot size to your burner size. When using the oven, resist the urge to open the door to check on your food, which allows the heat to escape. Every time you open that door, the temperature can drop 25F. Use your oven light and look through the door’s window instead. Finally, use the microwave for cooking. Using the microwave can reduce your cooking energy by as much as 80%. Additionally, by generating less heat than an oven or stovetop, you also save on AC costs.
  23. Defrost refrigerators and freezers. Ice build-up over ¼ inch thick can reduce your appliance’s efficiency. Additionally, fridges and freezers operate most efficiently when they’re full, so keep them as full as possible (without overfilling them). To avoid excessive cooling and wasting energy, you should also make sure to set your refrigerator temperature to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  24. Turn off lights when not in use. Approximately 12% of a typical household utility bill is from lighting. During the day, open curtains and blinds to rely more on natural light than lamps.
  25. Unplug electronics when not in use. As mentioned above, many electronics produce “phantom loads”, or electricity used by electronics when they are either in standby mode or are turned off. This wasted energy can cost you up to $200 per year. Only turn on your computer, monitor, printer, etc. when you need them. And while you’re at it, don’t leave your cell phone plugged in overnight; it only takes 1-2 hours to charge.

*VAEEC is partnering with Viridiant to offer the Energy Awareness Bingo Grand Prize! Announced at the Fall Forum on November 10th, the raffle winner will receive a virtual Home Energy Audit from Viridiant. Conducted via video-chat, Viridiant’s 1-hour audit with a building science expert will provide a whole-house inspection, utility bill analysis, and a prioritized list of improvements affecting energy costs, health, and comfort for your home. Viridiant is a non-profit advancing sustainable, affordable and energy-efficient construction through education and technical support. Learn more about their work and mission at viridiant.org.

No purchase necessary. Promotion begins on October 1st. Entries must be received by October 31st. One (1) winner will receive the following prize: One (1) Virtual Home Energy Audit. Winner will be announced on November 10th during the VAEEC’s virtual Fall Forum. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who live within Virginia and are 18 or older. Prize must be redeemed within 6 months of notice to winner. Sponsor: Viridiant, 1431 East Main Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220.

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