Author: Jessica Greene

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.

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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.

Spring 2020 Forum: An Interactive, Virtual Experience

Social distancing did not stop Virginia’s energy efficiency industry from coming together to learn and connect at our first-ever virtual Spring Forum. Over 100 energy efficiency professionals participated in the event, which included three educational sessions, our annual member meeting with Board elections, the fifth annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards, and a virtual networking break. Attendees were treated to topics such as the 2020 legislation, energy data, high-performance buildings, technology, and more. We want to extend a huge thank you to our sponsors for their support and to everyone who attended.

The event started off with the “2020 Legislation” session. Led by VAEEC’s Chelsea Harnish, Sen. Jennifer McClellan, and Del. Rip Sullivan discussed the monumental energy efficiency laws that passed the General Assembly earlier this year, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). 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 items discussed included the On-Bill Tariff and the Solar Freedom bills, as well as the election of a new State Corporation Commissioner.

Next, “Virginia’s Energy Efficiency Potential” provided organizational updates and accomplishments, along with the incredible momentum VAEEC and the industry as a whole is gaining. Many of the organizational highlights can be found in our 2019 annual report. Also during this session, Board Vice Chair John Morrill (Arlington County Government) led our 2020 Board of Directors election. VAEEC members re-elected Goerge Barnes (Trane)and elected two new Board members: Maggie Kelley (Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance) and Leigh Anne Ratliff (CPower Energy Management). We are excited to add these new voices to our leadership.

Board Chair David Koogler (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative) recognized winners of the fifth annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards. Henrico County was recognized for its LEED Certified buildings, and the University of Virginia (UVA) was recognized for its Delta Force Program. Since 2011, Henrico County has built or renovated 16 government buildings and schools to LEED certification standards. The County is currently pursuing certification of LEED Silver or higher on six current projects. These efforts have reduced energy use by approximately 30 percent and are overseen by Carrie Webster, Energy Manager with Henrico County.

UVA’s Delta Force Program achieves energy efficiency and savings across the university’s nearly 18 million square feet of building space. Since 2009, UVA has invested $17.4 million in energy projects, for a savings of $28.7 million in avoided energy costs and 180,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. The program is overseen by Jesse Warren, sustainability program manager for buildings and operations in the Division of Facilities Management. Congratulations, Henrico County and UVA’s Delta Force Program! Keep up the inspirational work.

During this portion of the event, David Steiner (D+R International) was also recognized for his service to the VAEEC. David joined the VAEEC Board of Directors as a founding member in 2012 and has now stepped into a new role as Director Emeritus. Thank you, David, for your tireless support of the organization.

VAEEC’s annual forums are known for their ability to bring together Virginia’s energy efficiency leaders to make valuable connections. Even though this year’s event occurred virtually, VAEEC wanted to make sure this opportunity was still available. The next session, “Virtual Networking”, went off without a hitch. Participants joined breakout rooms based on different topics: 2020 Legislation, Weatherization Programs, COVID-19 Predictions & Responses, and Innovation & Technology. Lively conversations ensued, and beneficial connections were made. Thank you Community Housing Partners for sponsoring this session.

“Leveraging Energy Data from Start to Finish”, moderated by John Morrill (Arlington County Government), followed. Brandi Frazier Bestpitch introduced the Virginia Dept. of Mines, Minerals and Energy’s new Energy Data Warehouse. Tim Bernadowski Siemens Industry) covered building automation, including the types of data you can collect and how to utilize those data to meet your needs. Scott Dicke (Sustainable Real Estate Solutions (SRS)) discussed how data collection can lead to project origination while rolling out SRS’s new EPIC tool. The group also discussed project opportunities during a global pandemic.

The last session of the day, “Achieving High-Performance Buildings”, focused on EarthCraft and LEED certifications for commercial buildings. Liz Beardsley (US Green Building Council, VAEEC Board) moderated the session and provided an overview of what defines a high-performance building. Matt Waring (Viridiant) and Bryna Dunn (Moseley Architects) covered the differences between EarthCraft and LEED and the best practices for achieving these above-code credentials.

As with all of our work, the VAEEC Spring Forum would not be possible without the continuing support of our remarkable members and sponsors. To everyone who participated in this year’s Spring Forum, thank you for helping us push energy efficiency in Virginia toward an even brighter future.

Presentations can be viewed here:
2020 Legislation
Virginia’s Energy Efficiency Potential
Leveraging Energy Data Tracking from Start to Finish
Achieving High-Performance Buildings

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

The Case for C-PACE in the Lending Community

C-PACE finances EE improves for commercial and multifamily buildings

By now, many people in this industry have at least heard of Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE. Across the Mid-Atlantic region, VAEEC and other stakeholders, including the Mid-Atlantic PACE Alliance, or MAPA, have been working diligently to accelerate the implementation of C-PACE programs and projects. Through this work, over $50 million of C-PACE projects have been financed across the region since January 2017.

C-PACE is a voluntary special assessment that is added to a property’s real estate tax bill. It provides building owners with a means to finance energy efficiency, water conservation, renewable energy, stormwater management, and resiliency projects for new and existing commercial, industrial, multifamily (with five+ dwellings), and nonprofit properties. 

C-PACE is more advantageous than traditional financing by providing 100% financing, no upfront cash investment, and immediate savings. In fact, many projects are cash-flow positive from day one

Benefits of C-PACE

  • Increased building value
  • Reduced utility bills
  • More comfortable space with improved air quality
  • 100% financing: no upfront cash investment required
  • Long-term loans up to 25+ years: lower annual payments, positive cash flow
  • Repaid as a Special Assessment on the Real Estate Tax Bill
  • Transferable: the loan stays with the property upon sale
  • Non-accelerating
  • Can fill a gap in the capital stack
  • Contributes to economic development, local job creations, and improved public health

How C-PACE differs from traditional financing options

 Traditional Construction LoanC-PACE Assessment
PurposeHVAC and LightingHVAC and Lighting
Project Cost$100,000$100,000
Loan$75,000
25% upfront cash investment required
$100,000
0% upfront investment required
Interest Rate5%6.25%
Term5 years, fully amortizing15 years, fully amortizing
Monthly Payment$1,415$857
Annual Payment$16,984$10,290

What role does the lending community play?

Funding for C-PACE projects comes from private capital providers, including local, regional, and national banks and investors. Capital providers or lenders approve the financing eligibility and underwriting for the project. They even have the ability to act as the project originator and can assist the owner with obtaining mortgage holder consent. 

How does C-PACE benefit the lending community? 

  • This fairly new financing mechanism provides lenders and capital providers with new funding opportunities. 
  • C-PACE provides a good fixed rate of return without the property owner needing to refinance or incur additional transaction costs. 
  • The ability to transfer the C-PACE assessment to a new owner upon sale provides the current owner with an incentive to make building improvements now.

How are mortgage lenders involved?

Since C-PACE is secured by a special assessment, a corresponding lien is placed on the property. This is similar to how localities fund public infrastructure projects, such as sewers. The assessment is senior to all commercial liens, including mortgages. Therefore, property owners must obtain consent from their mortgage lender before the project can be approved. 

To date, over 200 mortgage lenders across the nation have consented to C-PACE assessments for a variety of reasons. In partnership with MAPA, VAEEC has put together a directory of mortgage lenders who have consented to C-PACE in the Mid-Atlantic region. If you are looking to utilize C-PACE financing, you can check this directory to see if your mortgage lender is on the list.

Don’t see your mortgage lender listed? MAPA has put together a guide highlighting the top six reasons a mortgage lender would consent to a C-PACE assessment. The Case for Lender Consent: A C-PACE guide for mortgage lenders & property owners is an excellent way to engage your property’s senior lender(s) to assess their receptiveness to C-PACE early on in the project.

Stay tuned to learn more! MAPA will be holding a webinar, Financing C-PACE with Regional and Local Lending Partners, in the near future. 

Our Fall 2019 Forum in Review

Virginia’s energy efficiency community gathered in Richmond on November 14th for the VAEEC Fall Forum & Awards Luncheon. A big thank you to our sponsors, speakers, awards finalists, and attendees for making this event a great success!

Keynote Speaker: Patrick Bean of Tesla

The event kicked off with an opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish. Attendees were updated on the organization’s newly released three-year strategic plan and 2019 accomplishments and updates. This portion of the event was followed by a keynote address from Tesla’s Patrick Bean. Patrick wowed the crowd by sharing Tesla’s vision for strategic electrification and the role energy efficiency plays in making that vision a reality. For example, Tesla engineers were able to increase the driving range of their Model X by 10% solely through the use of more efficient materials! 

Afterward, participants headed to the first breakout session of the day where they could attend an hour-long panel, Energy Efficiency and Emerging Technologies, or two thirty-minute snap sessions, Utility Energy Efficiency Updates and Community Housing Partners’ Heat, Air, and Moisture (H.A.M) House Demo

Energy Efficiency and Emerging Technologies: Back by popular demand, this session focused on up-and-coming innovations in the realm of energy monitoring, building controls, wastewater concentration, and home performance. Panelists also spoke about how their company works with the organizations in attendance and can help Virginia meet its energy goals. Speakers included Cynthia Adams (CEO and Co-Founder of Pearl Certification), Alexander Bazhinov (CEO and Founder of Lumin), and Karen Sorber (CEO of Micronic Technologies), and Marco Rubin (Senior Investment Director for the Center for Innovative Technology) moderated the panel. This session was sponsored by the Center for Innovative Technology. 

Utility Energy Efficiency Updates: During the first snap session of the event, Virginia’s two largest investor-owned utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company (APCo), provided brief overviews on their current and proposed energy efficiency programs. Attendees were able to learn how their businesses can take advantage of these programs. Speakers included Michael Hubbard (Manager, Energy Conservation for Dominion Virginia / North Carolina Power) and Don Nichols (Manager of Energy Efficiency and Alternative Energy for APCo), and Susan Larsen (Director of Business Policy for Columbia Gas of Virginia) moderated the panel. Columbia Gas of Virginia sponsored this session. 

H.A.M House Demo: Community Housing Partners’ (CHP) H.A.M House demonstrates how Heat, Air, and Moisture move through a building. Understanding these interactions is crucial in the design, building, and retrofitting of houses for higher efficiency and health and safety. VAEEC staff and Board were wowed by this demonstration last year during a visit to CHP’s training center, so we were thrilled to be able to present this opportunity to event attendees. This session was led by CHP’s Andrew Woodruff. 

2019 VEEL Awards Winners

After a plated lunch, twelve Virginia-based projects or programs were recognized in the following categories: Academic, Commercial, Government, Low-Income, Residential, and Programs. We also presented the first-ever Founders’ Award to two of our founding members, Cynthia Adams of Peal Certification and Bill Greenleaf of Virginia Community Capital. This award honored their dedication to our work. For info on each winning project or program, visit our 2019 Awards page

The second breakout session proceeded the Awards Luncheon. Participants chose to attend either the Preparing People for Progress in the Workforce panel or two snap sessions: 2020 Legislative Forecast and CHP’s H.A.M House Demo.

Preparing People for Progress in the Workforce: Growth in the clean energy industry is often stymied by the lack of available workers. This panel discussed the existing opportunities to foster the necessary skills in our communities, and how these programs can drive further changes. Speakers included Shawn Fenstermacher (General Manager for VEIC’s Mid-Atlantic Region), Mark Jackson (Executive Director at CHP), and Todd Estes (Virginia Community College System), and Carrie Webster (Energy Manager with Henrico County) moderated the panel. The session was sponsored by VEIC.

H.A.M House Demo: CHP’s Andrew Woodruff offered a second demonstration on how Heat, Air, and Moisture move through a building and how they affect our living environment. 

2020 Legislative Forecast- What’s Next: During this snap session, attendees heard from two seasoned lobbyists on what the results of November’s election mean for the upcoming 2020 General Assembly session, as well as the probability for advancing legislation to help our industry grow. We were even able to provide attendees with a just-released, exclusive update on the new chairwoman of the Commerce and Labor Committee in the House. Speakers included Carmen Bingham (Affordable Clean Energy Project Coordinator with Virginia Poverty Law Center) and Andrew Vehorn (Vice President of Government Affairs for the Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives), and the panel was moderated by Chelsea Harnish (VAEEC). Old Dominion Electric Cooperative sponsored this session.

Speakers on the Final Panel discussing the relationship between EE and resiliency

After the breakout session, attendees enjoyed refreshments during the Networking and Snack break before heading into the last panel of the day, Exploring Energy Efficiency’s Role in Resiliency Efforts. Due to last-minute, unforeseen circumstances, Shelby O’Neil with Enterprise Community Partners and Joshua Saks from the Office of the Governor were unable to participate on the panel; however, two VAEEC Board members filled-in. The audience was treated to a candid discussion on what Virginia localities are doing in the realm of resiliency and how they can use Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy to help finance resiliency measures. Speakers included Abby Johnson (Executive Director of Virginia PACE Authority and President of Abacus Property Solutions), Bill Eger (City of Alexandria) and Thomas Nicholas (City of Virginia Beach). VAEEC Board member Elizabeth Beardsley (USGBC) moderated.

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, awards finalists, and event attendees for making this one of our best events to date. Click here to view photos of the event.

Mark your calendars! We hope to see everyone at our Spring 2020 Forum on Thursday, May 14, 2020 in Richmond.

Incorporating Energy-Efficiency into the Classroom

School is back in session! Children across the Commonwealth are packing their bags, readying their clothes, and preparing for a new journey in their educational career. As we enter a new academic year now is a great time to teach and incorporate energy-efficient practices into your child’s everyday learning! Kids are the future and what better way to increase awareness and make a difference than starting with our future.

Virginia Energy Sense’s third-grade energy efficiency curriculum, which won “Committee’s Choice Award” at VAEEC’s 2018 Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards, was developed in partnership between the State Corporation Commission and the Virginia Department of Education and designed to meet the Standards of Learning (SOL). Students go through interactive lessons that teach them how to easily and cost-effectively save energy as well as how to take an active role in promoting change at school and home. These interactive lessons include energy efficiency matching games, crossword puzzles, home and school energy checklists, quizzes and interactive foldable booklets and poster design plans. The knowledge that students gain through these lessons can then be transferred to their parents, friends, family members, and others outside of their classroom. You can read more about the curriculum in Virginia Energy Sense’s official press release.

Outside of the classroom, there are many resources you can use to get kids involved in energy efficiency. Interactive websites such as Apogee Interactive Energy Efficiency Kids Korner, Energy Star Kids, and EIA Energy Kids layout energy efficiency information in a kid-friendly manner and provides interactive games and activities for their entertainment. There are also many kid-friendly videos such as this short titled “Energy, let’s save it!” on Youtube.

Ensuring energy efficiency and environmental protection starts with you and the people around you. Help out our planet by learning more and raising awareness among you, your friends, and your family!

Be Recognized. The Virginia EE Leadership Awards are Back.

Summer is here and with it comes the opening of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership (VEEL) Awards application. Held in conjunction with the VAEEC Fall Forum, the VEEL Awards Luncheon will be held on Thursday, November 14th at the University of Richmond’s Jepson Alumni Center.

2018 VEEL Awards

For the fourth consecutive year, the awards showcase energy efficiency champions across the Commonwealth. These entities are helping businesses, governments, homeowners, and schools save money on energy bills while reducing energy consumption – all while stimulating Virginia’s job growth and our economy. 

This year, submissions will be placed into one of six categories. Submitted projects will be sorted based on the sector served: Academic, Commercial, Government, Low-Income, and Residential. Submitted programs will be placed into their own category. Projects can include, but are not limited to, retrofits, new construction, and innovative technologies or products. Past winning programs include Chesterfield County’s Energy Management Program, Columbia Gas of Virginia’s WarmWise Home Audit program, and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy’s Virginia SAVES program.

2018 Awards Winners

The quick and free online application process opens on Monday, July 15th and will run through Monday, September 16th. Nominate an acquaintance, a colleague, a role model, or yourself! The only criteria are that the project or program is based in Virginia and is reducing energy consumption. Extra points are given for innovation and creativity, the degree of difficulty in overcoming challenges, and scope of work. 

Still have questions? To help you submit your application, we have compiled a guidance document, which includes submission requirements, the application of a previous awards winner, the scorecard with rubric, and frequently asked questions. 

We look forward to learning about your energy efficiency contributions. Best of luck! 

For a recap of our 2018 VEEL Awards, check out this blog post.

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