Virginia ranked 10th in the nation in overall clean energy hiring, according to a new Clean Energy Jobs report published by the Energy Entrepreneurs (E2). With 42% of all energy jobs and 24% of construction jobs in energy efficiency, Virginia is among the leading states that are creating more opportunities for energy efficiency nationwide. E2 hosted a webinar to review their job report in addition to the 2018 US Energy and Employment Report (USEER) that were both released earlier this year.
According to the reports, “EE jobs rose to 2.35 million in 2018. Of all 152,000 U.S. energy jobs added last year, 76,000 were in energy efficiency.” This means the sector has created 275,000 EE jobs over the past three years. And energy efficiency is projected to continue growing by 7.8% in 2019. Clean energy jobs have also outperformed the economy as a whole for the last four years, which is great news for our industry!
The only real limiting factor to energy efficiency job growth is the availability of workers. Phil Jordan, one of the participating webinar speakers from BW Research Partnership, said, “Young people lack interest in construction”, which is the largest segment of energy jobs. Pat Stanton, Director of Policy for E4TheFuture and speaker in the webinar, added that certifications for energy efficient installations can be another barrier to hiring. Here in Virginia, VAEEC Member Community Housing Partners (CHP) offers weatherization and certification training through their Research and Training Center in Christiansburg, which provides hands-on experience in energy efficiency strategies and technologies.
Stanton also said that, while retrofits can be daunting and time consuming, communities should not just look to new construction and technology for energy efficiency improvements “Existing housing stock is in pretty poor shape from an energy use standpoint, so we have to address that to really have a cleaner future.”
Jordan emphasized the effectiveness of apprenticeships to bridge the gap of understanding in the workforce, especially as training for many construction jobs can take two to five years. One out of every six construction jobs currently in the US are in energy efficiency, which underscores how important that sector is to all aspects of energy and life.
Dave Foster, the third speaker on the panel from Energy Futures Initiative, said that, in talking with people in the industry, “the President of United Steelworkers really captured the spirit of the 2019 USEER report. “We don’t have to choose between clean energy and jobs. We can and will have both.”
March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, we’re doing a Q&A spotlight on the three women behind the scenes here at the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council.
Chelsea Harnish is the Executive Director of VAEEC, which serves as the voice for the energy efficiency industry in the Commonwealth. Since 2015, Chelsea oversees all VAEEC operations and strategic initiatives, including programs, policy, communications, membership, and events. With over a decade of Virginia energy policy experience, Chelsea regularly engages with decision-makers, partners, and members to advance energy efficiency policies and programs that will help grow the industry throughout the Commonwealth. Prior to joining the VAEEC, Chelsea worked for several environmental nonprofits, honing her skills in campaign planning, communication and advocating for clean energy policy initiatives. Chelsea lives in Richmond with her husband, three-year old daughter, and two cats.
Jessica Greene joined VAEEC in September 2016 and serves as the Outreach Director. Jessica has diverse experience in the environmental field, including the areas of campaign planning, consulting, education, energy policy, organizing, and research. Prior to joining the VAEEC team, she devoted her time to campaigns and strategies focused on implementing clean, renewable energy at both the federal and state levels. Jessica lives in Richmond with her husband and their dog, Evie (and their soon-to-arrive twin boys, coming this summer!).
Rebecca Hui joined VAEEC as Administrative Assistant in October 2018. She brings her passions for writing and data analysis to the non-profit sphere to promote energy efficiency in Virginia. Prior to joining VAEEC, Rebecca honed her skills in a variety of roles, from agriculture to customer service to IT and communications, and feels committed to making a difference through the work she does. She lives in Richmond with her husband and two daughters.
Why are you passionate about EE?
JESSICA: Not only is energy efficiency a simple way to reduce pollution, conserve resources, and improve indoor air quality, but it also saves consumers money. Furthermore, it isn’t a solution only available to those of higher economic status; you don’t have to invest a lot of money to see improvements. There are plenty of no-cost, low-cost measures that can make a noticeable difference in your living environment and utility bills.
CHELSEA: Energy efficiency is the lowest-cost resource- the kilowatt saved is a penny earned. Energy efficiency doesn’t get as much attention as other forms of clean energy but it can make a big impact with little to no upfront costs. Since 2015, energy efficiency has been getting more notice from decision-makers, particularly with the passage of the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018. The opportunities to expand energy efficiency are boundless, so it is important that we make the most of it.
REBECCA: Coming from both the agriculture industry and IT, I’ve learned that the smallest changes can often make the biggest difference. Something as simple as thermal curtains or lightbulbs can reduce a family’s energy burden substantially, so it’s important to both the planet and its people that we share solutions that are attainable no matter where or how someone lives.
What brought you to the industry?
CHELSEA: I had been working on energy issues for over a decade when I joined VAEEC in 2015. My entire career has been spent in the nonprofit sector supporting a variety of clean energy technologies, including offshore wind and solar. I was excited to have the opportunity to lead an up and coming organization focusing on an industry that doesn’t get as much love as it should.
JESSICA: I majored in Environmental Science in college, which was really my first introduction to energy efficiency. However, it wasn’t until working on implementing the Clean Power Plan during a previous job that I realized the widespread, bipartisan benefits of energy efficiency.
REBECCA: It’s always been very important to me that the work that I do makes a quantifiable difference in the world around me, but joining VAEEC was really equal parts good timing and really good luck. Being able to learn about what energy efficiency really is and how it can help so many facets of people’s lives has been a huge opportunity for me, and the team is fantastic.
What are some of your hobbies?
CHELSEA: Right now, I don’t have very many hobbies because when I’m not leading my amazing team at VAEEC, I am chasing after my very active toddler at home. She has inherited my love for spending time outdoors, so you can usually find us outside at a local park or playground. I also enjoy running, reading, and traveling.
REBECCA: Like Chelsea, I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies as I have two daughters, ages 5 and 9, who constantly keep me on my toes. I am an avid baker thanks to my recent obsession with the Great British Baking Show, and I love reading, going to farmer’s markets, and travelling. We’re actually planning a family trip to Hong Kong in just a few months!
JESSICA: Traveling, concerts, and outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing are hands down my favorite hobbies. However, on a day-to-day basis, I enjoy walking my dog, Evie, through one of Richmond’s many parks alongside my husband or friends (and our soon-to-arrive twin boys, due this summer!)
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
REBECCA: My very first job in high school was working for a frozen yogurt stand at the mall, where we also served smoothies. I frequently ended up with fruit in my hair or on the ceiling because the blender lids would bust off mid-blend!
CHELSEA: I don’t consider this job weird but my most unique job was working in a full-scale public aquarium as an Aquarist right after college. It was my responsibility to feed all of the marine life, which included diving in a 55,000-gallon Pacific coral reef tank that was home to sharks, eels, and more.
JESSICA: I’ve held an assortment of jobs, but my most random one is probably being a residential and commercial painter for 10 years. It was a summer job I held from high school through graduate school.
What’s your favorite energy efficiency tip to share when people ask?
JESSICA: After moving into a 1940s house a few years ago, my number one tip is air sealing! You can start with small measures like using caulk and weather stripping to seal cracks. However, sealing our entire crawlspace made a noticeable difference in our house’s humidity levels. Our home is finally comfortable even in the middle of summer.
CHELSEA: I love my Nest Learning Thermostat! I like that it has learned our behaviors and that I can control it from my phone. Plus, collecting green leaves each month appeals to my competitive side.
REBECCA: Motion-sensitive light switches are amazing for my house. They save energy effortlessly and are much less expensive than smart home systems. Plus, no one has to say “turn off the lights!” every morning, which is a big win in my book.
The Dominion DSM case was held Wednesday, March 20th before the three Commissioners of the State Corporation Commission (SCC). This was the first case being heard by the new Commissioner, Judge Patricia West. Our previous blog post on the DSM application went into detail about the programs themselves so this post will only focus on the proceeding. You can review all proceeding materials on the SCC webpage for this docket.
The proceeding was broken up into three main sections:
- Public Testimony
- Oral Arguments on Legal Memo
- DSM Proceeding
At the beginning of the proceeding, the Commissioners heard oral arguments on whether or not lost revenues should be considered as part of Dominion Energy’s commitment to propose $870M worth of energy efficiency programs over the next ten years, as part of the 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act. Counsel for VAEEC reiterated the position, as stated in our legal brief, that lost revenues should not count towards the $870M, since the the statute that states this commitment does not mention lost revenues. Walmart, environmental respondents and the SCC staff agreed with our arguments. In addition, while the Attorney General’s office took no official position, they did mention in their oral arguments that no one- in either oral arguments or public comments (written and oral)- supported the Company’s position that lost revenues should be included in the commitment to propose $870M in energy efficiency programs over the next decade. The Commissioners asked a lot of questions during oral arguments and are anticipated to make a ruling on this issue in their Final Order for the DSM proceeding.
During the proceeding, VAEEC, environmental respondents (Appalachian Voices and Natural Resources Defense Council), and Sierra Club supported all ten of the proposed EE programs (11 demand response programs in total). The SCC staff and the AG’s office were “unopposed” to seven programs and had “remaining concerns” about the other four.
During the hearing Dominion Energy staff stated that due to a calculation error regarding higher-than-expected participation rates for the Residential Engagement program, the Company had reduced their overall budget request to $203.9M.
VAEEC witness, Rachel Gold, with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, took the stand in support of the proposed programs and explained the value of benchmarking to evaluate whether or not the target set by the General Assembly- for Dominion Energy to propose $870 million in energy efficiency programming over the next decade- is achievable. The good news is, according to the results of that analysis done by ACEEE, this target should be easily attainable.
The seven programs with unanimous support were:
- Appliance Recycling Program
- Efficient Products Marketplace Program
- Smart Thermostat Management Program (DR)
- Smart Thermostat Management Program (EE)
- Non-Residential Window Film Program
- Non-Residential Lighting Systems & Controls Program
- Non-Residential Small Manufacturing Program
Initially, SCC staff stated that they were “unopposed” to the above programs. However, after further pressing by Commissioner Christie, SCC Staff stated that they did, in fact, support these programs. One interesting thing to note during this back and forth is that the Commissioners were expressing frustration with both Staff and the Company regarding the lack of analysis based on real energy savings. They argued that Staff should be able to take positions on proposed programs that are based on previously-approved programs since there would be real-energy savings data captured for those programs. While this data is provided by the Company in their annual EM&V filings, the Commission felt that the data could be provided in an more easy-to-digest format. Commissioner Christie directed the Company to produce a spreadsheet on previously approved programs to show the actual program costs and actual kWh savings. The Company asked for a one-week deadline to submit that table into evidence.
The inclusion of this type of table in future filings can bolster future applications by showing just how much savings are being realized by these programs, which could help win approval more easily. While the Commissioners are skeptical of energy efficiency programs and the projected savings they can achieve, that skepticism can potentially turn to support if strong energy-savings numbers are achieved in prior program iterations.
As mentioned above, SCC staff had concerns regarding the four remaining programs, which were:
- Home Energy Assessment Program: SCC staff was concerned that payout incentives were greater than material costs for individual products, which could lead to abuse. In rebuttal testimony, Dominion Energy pointed out that those assessments did not include labor costs.
- Customer Engagement Program: SCC staff were concerned about non-response rates and wanted the Company to provide traditional savings analysis for this program, which the Company did not do. An employee of the vendor took the stand to explain that behavioral programs cannot be analyzed in the way Staff was requesting, which was the reason the Company was unable to provide analysis. He then walked through how a behavioral program is assessed. According to our expert witness, Rachel Gold, who has worked for another leading company in this field, what he described is a standard practice used to evaluate these types of programs across the country.
- Non-Residential Heating and Cooling Efficiency Program: Staff’s concerns regarding this program were twofold; the TRC test score and participation rates. The Company rounded the TRC test score from 0.9965 to 1.00 in their application. Staff argued that 0.9965 was not “1” and therefore this program did not pass three of four cost tests as required by the statute. Judge Jagdman asked a clarifying question on the exact language of the statute indicating that she, at least, may be inclined to approve this program. Staff also stated they had concerns regarding the Company’s projected participation rates for the proposed program because the actual participation rates in the current program are far below the projected rates, and the new projected participation rates are even higher than the projected rates for the current program.
- Non-Residential Office Program: The issue with this program was related to the building size used in the modeling for the program. SCC staff stated that the Company was using office space of 100,000 sq. ft., which they were concerned was unrealistic and would therefore result in overstated cost-savings estimates. A Company witness from the vendor for this program testified that the program was modeled using 80,000 sq. ft. buildings, not 100,000 sq. ft., and that, 80,000sq. ft. was, in fact, a typical office building size in Dominion Energy’s service territory.
The Commission has until June 3rd to make their decision. We will be sure to let our members know the outcome once we have a chance to review the Final Order, so stay tuned for updates.
Future DSM Filings
During the hearing, VAEEC Board Member, Michael Hubbard, with Dominion Energy, announced that the Company had released their RFP for their next DSM filing the week before for 15 new programs. We have had a chance to review a summary of the RFP which includes some exciting new programs such as:
- Residential EE Retrofit
- Residential New Construction
- Home Energy Management System
- Residential Multi-Family EE Program
- Residential Manufactured Housing Program
- Residential EE Kits
- Residential Energy Advisor Program
- Residential Electric Vehicle Program
- Residential Enhanced Behavioral Program
- Non-Residential Behavioral Program
- Non-Residential Targeted-Sector Program
- Non-Residential Upstream and Midstream Efficient Products Incentives
- Non-Residential New Construction
- Non-Residential Strategic Energy Management
- Agricultural Energy Efficiency
We will continue to keep our members apprised of how these programs shape up for the next DSM filing in October 2019.
In October 2018, Dominion Energy proposed eleven new Demand-Response (DR) programs, ten of which are for energy efficiency, as part of their ten year commitment to energy efficiency programs under the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018 (GTSA). The application totals $225.8 million of the $870 million committed under the GTSA, and includes six residential programs and five non-residential programs:
- Appliance Recycling Program: would incentivize consumers to recycle eligible freezers and refrigerators.
- Home Energy Assessment Program: would facilitate a walk-through energy assessment and incentivize efficiency upgrades based on the findings.
- Smart Thermostat Management Program (DR): would provide consumers who already have an eligible smart thermostat an annual incentive to enroll in a peak demand response program.
- Smart Thermostat Management Program (EE): would provide a one-time rebate for customers who purchase an eligible smart thermostat.
- Efficient Products Marketplace Program: would establish a rebate program for qualified efficient products purchased through participating retailers or an online marketplace.
- Customer Engagement Program: would provide consumers with energy use data and energy saving suggestions.
- Heating and Cooling Efficiency Program: would provide an incentive to qualifying customers to implement high efficiency heating and cooling technologies.
- Lighting Systems & Controls Program: would provide an incentive to qualifying customers to implement efficient lighting technologies with verifiable savings.
- Window Film Program: would incentivize customers to install solar reduction window film.
- Office Program: would offer incentives for installation of a variety of energy efficiency measures related to building systems to small office facilities.
- Small Manufacturing Program: would offer incentives for installation of a variety of energy efficiency measures to small manufacturing companies, primarily regarding compressed air systems.
If you are a VAEEC member, be sure to sign up for our webinar on March 5th for a deeper dive into the filing and a tutorial on how to prepare your own comments on these programs.
VAEEC has once again formally intervened in support of these programs in the proceeding before the State Corporation Commission (PUR-2018-00168) with Rachel Gold from the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) acting as our expert witness. We have again retained counsel from the UVA Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic in support of the Company’s application.
In our pre-filed testimony, we provided strategies to improve the overall portfolio, provided analysis of the Company’s spending on EE programs as compared to other utilities in their peer group, and their progress towards spending $870M.
As part of our testimony, ACEEE performed a gap analysis to determine what other programs should be included in future DSM filings to reach $870M. This gap analysis identified five major program areas for future inclusion: Multi-Family, New Construction, Commercial & Industrial, Strategic Energy Management, and Midstream programs. These suggestions are listed in more detail on page 19 of our pre-filed testimony.
Our testimony includes additional analysis of Dominion’s spending on EE programs as compared to other utilities in their peer group, which is a group defined by the SCC. This group consists of six other southeastern utilities, including Duke Energy, APCo, and South Carolina Electric and Gas. According to that analysis, only the last two utilities listed spent less than Dominion on energy efficiency programs as a percentage of revenues in 2017, indicating that there is ample room for program expansion and a strong feasibility in meeting the $870M commitment.
Additionally, we do not support the Company’s inclusion of lost revenues in the $225M spending cap for energy efficiency programs since they are not costs associated with these specific programs. As stated in Ms. Gold’s testimony, “Lost revenue is not a cost of energy efficiency for the simple reason that these revenues still exist and are recovered by the utility from customers, even without any efficiency programs at all.” Including lost company revenues in the spending cap greatly reduces the amount of spending on actual energy-saving programs that benefit both the consumer and the companies that provide those services.
Finally, our pre-filed testimony also provided suggestions to maximize the effectiveness of the stakeholder process that was established under the GTSA last year. Building on the Stakeholder Framework VAEEC created last year in partnership with other groups like ACEEE, our testimony recommends setting clear objectives for the stakeholder group, focusing on three main areas: program design, evaluation, and policy. We also make recommendations based on the successful passage of SB 1605 and HB 2293, which will clarify the duration of the stakeholder process in addition to providing accountability measures for the group itself.
While our testimony has been filed, there is still ample time for non-intervenors to participate. The timeline below highlights some key dates, including due dates for written and oral public comments. We hope you will sign up for our webinar on March 5th to learn how to prepare your own comments for submission.
February 15th: SCC Staff report due
March 5th: VAEEC members-only webinar, featuring Rachel Gold from ACEEE
March 13th: Written public comments due
March 20th: Proceeding before the SCC Commissioners, including public testimony
Late May/ Early June: SCC Final Order
Sign up today for our March 5th webinar!
If you are interested in researching further into this filing, you can use the search feature on the SCC website to read through public documents in the proceeding. Make sure to use the case number, PUR-2018-00168.
The Department of Energy plan to roll back federal energy efficiency light bulb standards will have wide-reaching consequences in Virginia and nationwide. ACEEE released this statement yesterday, positing that the decrease in regulatory standards would lead to an additional 80 billion kWh of energy usage per year, “about the combined usage of all households in Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” as well as pollution increases equal to, “the annual CO2 emissions of more than seven million cars.”
An estimated 115,000 jobs were predicted to come from Phase 2 of the Residential Lighting Program, with the average household saving roughly $100 dollars per year in energy costs.
Moreover, study after study has shown that low-income populations are consistently hit hardest by both energy costs and health effects. 8.5% of all Virginia residents suffer from asthma, with low income communities and young children affected at the highest rates. The environmental ramifications of deregulation will reverse the decreasing trend of asthma-related hospitalizations in the state.
Not only does this have negative consequences moving forward, but the standard that is now being rescinded was the basis of several SCC decisions to reduce energy efficiency program budgets in 2018. Appalachian Power was driven to withdraw one of the five proposed residential energy efficiency programs based on the SCC staff interpretation of the federal lighting standards. The SCC also reduced Dominion Energy’s low-income program from five to three years on the same basis. If implemented, these programs would have expanded LED installations, and other measures, across the state, saving money and conserving energy for the consumer.
As ACEEE stated, the draft rule “will almost assuredly draw legal challenges,” since the current roll back is most likely illegal, based on a federal law prohibiting the DOE from weakening energy efficiency programs on products like light bulbs.
2019 has just started, which means it’s time to ring in those new year resolutions! What better way than to boost your support of energy efficiency. If you are not already a member of VAEEC, your first step is to join. It’s really quick and, as a member, you receive benefits like access to exclusive resources such as legislative updates, networking events, the membership directory, and our job-opening board. If you are already a member, you can use your voice and get involved with the Board or one of our three advisory committees. Help us move the Virginia Commonwealth even further with Energy Efficiency this year!
In addition to our Fall Meeting and Awards Luncheon, VAEEC had a busy fall season partnering with our members to host site visits for legislators to see energy efficiency “in action” in their districts. Similarly to the site visits we did last year, we wanted to highlight for decision-makers how impactful policy decisions they make can be for their constituents.
Rosedale Manor Tour
In Falls Church, we partnered with VAEEC member, the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) to take Senator Richard “Dick” Saslaw on a tour of Rosedale Manor, a 96-unit affordable housing complex owned by the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA). The complex underwent a weatherization retrofit, including new attic insulation and installation of efficient LED light bulbs and faucet aerators through Energy Share, a Dominion Energy weatherization program funded through shareholder money, which was recently expanded under the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018 (SB 966).
It’s not often that you can see concrete, positive results of recent legislation with your own eyes. As part of the tour, Senator Saslaw walked through an apartment where the weatherization upgrades had been made and heard from Fairfax County officials about the projected cost-savings from these upgrades.
Additionally, VAEEC partnered with Viridiant again this year to host Senator Glen Sturtevant for a tour of the Virginia Supportive Housing, Studios II residences in South Richmond. Formerly a budget motel, this facility is a certified EarthCraft Multifamily residence, which houses formerly homeless individuals and provides them with temporary or permanent housing depending on individual needs.
Studios II Tour
Studios II has a variety of features that create a healthy and safe living environment for its tenants. The building envelope was tightened, outdated through-wall HVAC systems were replaced with ductless mini-splits, and solar panels were installed on the new flat roof to reduce the building’s energy load. Widening the existing building to increase the square footage of each unit to approximately 300 square feet ensured that each unit was able to meet accessibility requirements.
Stay tuned. VAEEC plans to host more of these legislative site visits throughout 2019. If you would like to get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A six-year anniversary may seem rather mundane. This fall, The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council will mark that milestone with no fanfare. In 2012, a dozen visionary volunteers agreed to launch the VAEEC with little more than ideas, aspirations, time and some funding.
Fast-forward, this year – 2018 – has been a great year for energy efficiency in Virginia. What comes next is up to those who choose to get involved and set a course for 2019 and beyond.
As the VAEEC Board begins to plan for next year and beyond, we rely on our committees to help guide our direction. We encourage all of our members to jump in where they want to make their contributions.
The VAEEC has three, year-round committees that are open to all current VAEEC members:
- Education & Events
We also have a temporary committee to choose award winners for the Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards each fall.
You can learn all about each of these committees on the VAEEC website.
Getting involved in VAEEC activities now affords members the opportunity to engage with VAEEC on a deeper level with the potential to join the Board next spring. We will have at least two open seats to fill during annual elections next spring, and we will look to committee members to fill those roles.
To indicate your interest to be on one of the committees, please send an email to email@example.com. (Please make sure you are a VAEEC member of good standing with dues current.)
VAEEC will begin accepting resumes in early 2019 for our open Board seats, so be on the lookout for announcements in our January and February e-newsletters.
October 5, 2018
We are less than a month away from Energy Efficiency Day 2018 taking place on Wednesday, October 5th! In lieu of this celebratory day approaching quickly, we would like to share a few ways to individually participate in energy conservation. One simple way to take action is by posting and promoting the EE Day graphics on your favorite social media platform to encourage others to join the #EEDay2018 conversation. Another great way to get involved is to ask your mayor, governor, or other elected officials to officially recognize Energy Efficiency Day through the signing of a proclamation. The official EE Day webpage provides editable templates for submission, as well as simple ways to reduce your energy bill. A majority of the steps taken toward energy efficiency are minor changes, yet have a huge impact. For example, switching to LED lighting, washing clothes with cold water, air drying dishes, turning off unnecessary appliances, and more.
Del. Ware observing insulation being blown into the walls of this single family home.
Last year in celebration of Energy Efficiency Day, we partnered with two of our members, Virdiant and Project:HOMES, to host site visits Virginia two legislators, Del. Yancey in Newport News and Del. Ware in Goochland County. The site visits offered the state legislators the opportunity to see what energy efficiency looks like in action, in their very own districts and to learn how the policies they implement (or not) directly impact their constituents. At the end of both tours, each legislator heard from VAEEC’s staff about the role they, and other VA decision-makers, play in continuing these programs. Read all about both site visits here.
In honor of Energy Efficiency Day 2018, we are planning to work with our members again to host legislative site tours similar to last year. Stay tuned for more details.
Join us in making this October even more special than the last by supporting our EE day efforts, as well as accomplishing some of your own!