Author: Jessica Greene

2022 Achievements

Throughout 2022, the VAEEC worked with our members to advance energy efficiency policies and programs in Virginia. Check out the graphic below to see our top 10 accomplishments. As 2022 is wrapping up, we are switching focus to the new outcomes and strategies in our 2023-2025 Strategic Plan, which will build off of the tremendous progress we’ve made over the last three years. We are excited to begin the next chapter on solid ground with endless opportunities.

2022 Energy Efficiency Forum Recap

View the program

The VAEEC’s 2022 Energy Efficiency Forum brought together the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency community on October 31st and November 1st. A huge thank you to our sponsors, speakers, award winners, and attendees for making this event a great success!

In order to make the event more accessible to those near and far and to provide a diverse array of speakers from across the country, day one was fully virtual. It consisted of four breakout sessions and a networking session.  

A Tale of Two Heat Pumps: Heat pump adoption is a priority for the Biden administration, and the technology has long been proven to be safer and more efficient than traditional boilers. However, barriers exist to widespread use. This session discussed the barriers and opportunities with experts from the NE and SE to address these regions’ needs and perspectives. Speakers included Maggie Kelley Riggins (Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance), Dan Lis (Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships), Louis O’Berry (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative), and Dan York (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, moderator). 

Using Less to Get More: The Role of Energy Efficiency in Decarbonization: Decarbonization has become a buzzword lately with the passage of historic federal laws. During this panel, attendees learned from those implementing successful decarbonization programs with an eye on energy efficiency. Examples included both state- and utility-run programs, including what one of the Commonwealth’s gas utilities has in the works. Erich Evans (Columbia Gas), Caterina “Katy” Hatcher (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), Shaun Hoyte (Con Edison), and Edward Yim (ACEEE) were the speakers, while Solome Girma (D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility) moderated. 

Proof of Concept: Approaches to Energy Efficiency: This case study session was designed to provide the value of shared experience and knowledge from those who have successfully navigated new technologies and programs. Robert Hart (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab) covered the advancements in window construction. Betsy Farrell Garcia and Mackenzie Stagg (Front Porch Initiative) gave an overview of rural, low-income housing programs from experts in the field. Joyce Bodoh (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative) and Brett Hood (Community Housing Partners) moderated. 

Efficiency First: Strategies to Improve Municipal Buildings: Local governments and public school systems often face a unique set of challenges when it comes to the comfort, cost, and health of their buildings. This session focused on inventive ways this sector is improving its buildings through efficient and equitable programs. Speakers included Joanne Bissetta (Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources), Ann Livingston (Southeast Sustainability Directors Network), Christopher Russell (Maryland Energy Administration), and Kristel Riddervold (City of Charlottesville, VA, moderator). 

 

 

 

 

Attendees gathered in person for day two at the University of Richmond Jepson Alumni Center in Richmond. The day began with an opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish. Attendees were updated on the organization’s 2022 accomplishments and our 2023 priorities, as well as an overview of the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency industry. 

Everyone was then treated to a keynote address from Jennifer Bumgarner, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Ms. Bumgarner provided a breakdown of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding, as well as how the DOE is preparing to use this funding for the expansion of programs for state and local benefits and workforce development. Highlights of the address included approximations of when applications for the different buckets of funding will open, tips on what to include in your proposals, and DOE resources to help you navigate all of the options. 

After a break of networking and snacks, attendees came back together for the plenary session, Preparing for Impact: New Funding Opportunities to Accelerate Energy Efficiency. Between the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, states and localities are receiving a historic investment in clean energy. But what does that mean for Virginia? Experts in state and local governments, industry, and policy provided a breakdown and predictions for what’s next for energy efficiency in the Commonwealth. Speakers included Sabine Rogers (AnnDyl Policy Group), Bettina Bergoo (Virginia Energy), Abby Campbell Singer (Siemens USA), John Morrill (Fairfax County Government), and Rebecca Hui (Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, moderator). 

Next, we had the privilege of hosting our seventh annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards ceremony. One project and two programs were recognized for their incredible energy efficiency contributions to the Commonwealth. For information on each winning project, visit our 2022 Awards page

Finally, the event concluded with an on-site networking reception. It is always a pleasure to connect with many of our members and others in the industry face-to-face, and this was no exception. 

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, award 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 breakout sessions in the post-event email. Presentation PDFs can be viewed at the links above.

Virginia’s High-Performance Buildings Act (HB2001)

Virginia’s High-Performance Buildings Act (HB2001) was signed into law in 2021, with the goal to drive more efficient, resilient, and future-proof buildings. The law updated the building performance standards for state/public buildings by adding electric vehicle charging and infrastructure and utility metering requirements. It also created new building performance standards for local governments.  

Since the act was introduced in the General Assembly, the VAEEC and key partners have been working with the bill patron and others to clarify the requirements and identify potential updates to the existing law. This included working with the Department of General Services (DGS) to update the Virginia Energy Conservation and Environmental Standards (VEES) for the first time since 2012. 

In September of this year, we held two building performance roundtable discussions with localities, state agencies, schools, architecture and design firms, engineering firms, and energy service companies. The goals were to educate stakeholders about the requirements and identify ways to update the law so that it better suits the needs of the intended audience. 

VAEEC Board members Elizabeth Beardsley (U.S. Green Building Council) and Bryna Dunn (Moseley Architects) started off the roundtables with an overview of the law and the pathways to compliance. 

By July 1, 2021, state agency buildings were mandated to:

  1. Be designed, constructed, verified, and operated to comply with a high-performance building certification program,
  2. Comply with VEES,
  3. Have sufficient zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, and
  4. Include features that measure energy consumption and associated carbon emissions.

In the law, there is an option to exceed the above design and construction standards with prior written approval from the Director of DGS. The Director of DGS can also grant exemptions for specific projects if it is impractical to build or renovate to the standards. HB2001 also added a new reporting requirement for state agencies: an annual report is due to the Governor by January 1st detailing the energy efficiency and associated carbon emissions metrics for each applicable building built or renovated during the prior fiscal year.

Beginning July 1, 2021, buildings for localities with populations of 100,000 or more must:

  1. Be designed, constructed, verified, and operated to comply with one of three high-performance building certification programs (LEED certification, Green Globes Certification, or VEES verification),
  2. Have sufficient zero-emission vehicle charging and fueling infrastructure,
  3. Include features that measure the energy consumption and associated carbon emissions, and
  4. Incorporate appropriate resilience and distributed energy features. 

Remaining localities will need to abide by these requirements beginning July 1, 2023.

Localities can seek an exemption if it is impractical to build or renovate to the standards. Local governments also have the option to adopt their own green design and construction program with standards that are more stringent than those required by law.

The above mandates apply to new buildings over 5,000 square feet and renovations where the cost of the renovation exceeds 50% of the value of the building. Smaller projects (those that are less than 20,000 gross square feet in size) have the option to achieve an ENERGY STAR certification with the implementation of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and envelope commissioning instead. 

The three compliance pathways are LEED certification, Green Globes Certification, or VEES verification. LEED v4 is the newest version of the LEED green building certification. A building must comply with a set of prerequisites, but then you can select a minimum number of criteria depending on what makes the most sense for your building. Similarly, Green Globes provides the option to pick and choose a minimum number of criteria, but this certification program does not have prerequisites. VEES follows the International Green Construction Code, so a building must comply with all of the stated requirements. 

Guidance, resources, and support exist to help state agencies and local governments navigate and meet the law’s requirements. Starting October 1st, the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) will be providing technical assistance with policy creation and stakeholder engagement. They will also be providing technical assistance and training on the Building Energy Analysis Manager (BEAM) tool, which helps states and communities achieve building energy policy goals.

Additionally, Moseley Architects created a Requirements Summary for HB2001, which includes an option comparison. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) curated two resources specific to green building in Virginia, Getting Started with High Performance Green Building: A Guide for Virginia Localities and VA HB2001: Summary & FAQ for Local Governments. USGBC also created Inflation Reduction Act: Buildings Provisions, which state agencies and localities will find helpful as they navigate the opportunities in the Inflation Reduction Act. These resources can be viewed at the respective links above, as well as in the VAEEC government clearinghouse. The clearinghouse also includes additional green building resources for our local government, academic, and state agency members.

Facilitated discussions took up the remainder of the event. Attendees were encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback, including:

  • What part(s) of the legislation is consistent with objectives already set by your locality/agency?
  • What part(s) of the legislation is helping move forward objectives that your locality/agency supports but doesn’t already have policies around?
  • What clarifications or additions would you offer to update the current language?
  • How can VAEEC and our partners support you in meeting your sustainability goals and the requirements of this legislation?

The presentation PDFs are available to download (local governments and schools, state agencies), and recordings of both roundtables can be viewed on the VAEEC YouTube channel. To learn more about building performance, register to attend our Energy Efficiency Forum on October 31st (virtual) and November 1st (in-person, Richmond). Additional questions can be addressed to Jessica Greene (jessica@vaeec.org).

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!

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