A lot of progress has been made on updating the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) since our last blog post. First, the update that was finalized last year (the 2015 update for anyone who gets really into the weeds on this topic), went into effect earlier this month. Our friends over at Viridiant made a terrific infographic outlining the energy changes in that update and are hosting several compliance trainings across the state.
Over the summer, VAEEC and some of our members attended DHCD energy subgroup meetings to identify areas of consensus among stakeholders on the current update (the 2018 update for anyone who gets really into the weeds on this topic). You can read about all of the proposals discussed in the initial subgroup meeting in our last blog post on building codes.
We are pleased to announce that VAEEC and our members were able to successfully reach a compromise with the Homebuilders Association of Virginia, and other stakeholders, on several key proposals. The biggest gain is that blower door testing will now be required on all new homes that are constructed after this update goes into effect. Two smaller proposals also made it into the draft USBC- updating REScheck software and requiring a certificate on the electrical box that includes various energy details of the home. These proposals were voted on at the final workgroup meeting and went before the Board of Housing and Community Development who voted to include them in the draft USBC on September 16th.
While our insulation proposal was deferred until next year, we have an agreement with the homebuilders to do a couple of information sessions throughout Virginia with homebuilders to help them better understand what would be required with an increase in the insulation R-value. We hope to see some improvements to the insulation requirements in the final USBC.
So, what’s next? We are waiting for the draft USBC to be placed in the Virginia Register, which will kick off a 30-day comment period. Then, next year, the entire process begins again as we move into the final phase of this update. The USBC update process is described in detail on our Building Codes page. We even have a handy graphic to explain it.
This week is National Clean Energy Week! Established in 2017, NCEW focuses on advancing support of our nation’s energy sector through new methods of market development, policy change, and technological innovation. Virginia was the 5th state to formally recognize the event in 2019 in a state proclamation made by Governor Northam.
The Governor made bigger waves in clean energy last week with his announcement at the VA Clean Energy Summit on Executive Order 43, which set forth ambitious goals for the Commonwealth’s energy future. The three part plan includes:
- Objectives for statewide energy production, with the goal of 30% of Virginia’s electric system powered by renewable energy by 2030 and 100% carbon-free power by 2050.
- Lead-By-Example targets for increasing the energy efficiency of Commonwealth agencies and executive branch institutions, with the goal of procuring at least 30% of the power used by those facilities from renewable sources by 2022.
- Development of an energy workforce plan that supports the growing needs of the energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors.
“This is a positive step forward for the energy efficiency industry in Virginia,” said our Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish. “We applaud the Governor for prioritizing workforce development and advancing energy efficiency jobs across the Commonwealth.” The energy efficiency industry currently accounts for over 78,000 jobs in Virginia, and is projected to continue growing by 7.8%.
The Executive Order was just one of the many topics discussed at the VA Clean Energy Summit (VACES). The sold-out inaugural event brought together over 400 professionals from every part of the clean energy industry to learn and network, with 14 breakout sessions, two plenary panels, and two keynote speakers. VAEEC was one of the five host organizations that put on the Summit. In the first plenary panel of the day, Virginia’s Transforming Electricity Grid, David Farnsworth from Regulatory Assistance Project said, “As far as what [work] needs to happen when, I say efficiency first, always.”
Now that the VACES has passed, what can you do to celebrate NCEW?
- Register for the VAEEC Fall 2019 Forum to learn even more about the industry’s future
- Apply for a Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Award by Friday
- Call your Senators and Delegates and let them know you support the Executive Order and clean energy in Virginia
- Share pictures and impressions from the VACES and tag #vacleanenergysummit and VAEEC on social media
- Switch to LED light bulbs and install a smart thermostat in your home or office
- Visit one of the LEED certified attractions in VA
Andrew Grigsby of VA-REA said, “The California and Hawaii grids were not built for clean energy saturation, but they have been able to get there because it’s not just renewables. It’s all these pieces (of the industry) working together.”
Virginia is home to a huge selection of attractions and locations to visit and spend your leisure time, many of which offer the added benefit of being energy-efficient! As the summer winds down, you’re probably considering a last-minute vacation for the Labor Day weekend. Read up on a few special locations that have been awarded LEED certification for their efforts in energy-efficiency.
Brock Environmental Center
Located in the City of Virginia Beach, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation(CBF)’s Brock Environmental Center has been described as a must-see destination for anyone who is interested in seeing how infrastructure and nature can thrive side by side. The Brock Environmental Center serves as the CBF’s regional base of operations to offer its award-winning environmental education programs to 2,500 students and teachers each year and provides space for other local conservation partners, community meetings and special events.
The project has seen some truly remarkable feats. “In the past year, the Center has produced about 83 percent more energy than it has used. The building also uses 90 percent less water than a typical office building of its size. And as a result . . . uses 80 percent less energy than a typical building that size.”
The building has achieved LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute. Platinum certification designates the Center has scored 80+ points across categories that include: Location & Transportation, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation and more. The Living Building Challenge certification requires a building to produce more energy than it uses over the course of 12 consecutive months and maintains strict criteria for water use, location, health, materials, equity, and beauty.
3663 Marlin Bay Drive, Virginia Beach, VA
Clark Hall – University of Virginia
While visiting the University of Virginia (UVA) campus in Charlottesville, be sure to ask your tour guide for a look inside Clark Hall, a historic that went through a series of retrofits and renovations as part of the university’s pledge to energy-efficiency. Once home to the school of law, the current Department of Environmental Sciences “serves as an unsurprising candidate to lead UVA’s energy conservation efforts by example.”
Within Clark Hall, UVA began its Better Buildings Challenge by converting all of the building’s 5,000 interior and exterior lighting fixtures from fluorescent to LED, installing low-flow toilets and faucets, re-calibrating air handling units and upgrading HVAC controls. The resulting impact saved UVA about $770,000 in energy and water savings, and 3,000 tons of carbon emissions per year! Quite fitting for the building that houses the Department of Environmental Sciences.
291 McCormick Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Virginia Beach Convention and Exhibition Center
Located within walking distance of the beach, the Virginia Beach Convention Center (VBCC) is publicly owned and maintained by the City of Virginia Beach. Having earned a LEED Gold in the Existing Buildings category, its when renovations helped better serve its capacity of 18,000 while more effectively manage its carbon footprint. 85 percent of the work done to achieve LEED certification was completed by the City of Virginia Beach staff, a testament to the manpower Virginia Beach has to offer.
“The upgraded building automation system provides real-time thermographic color images to illustrate occupant comfort and provides live energy use data. In addition, an on-site vegetable garden, improved water efficiency, and the annual diversion of more than 140 tons of waste from the landfill helped VBCC earn necessary certification points.”
Address: 1000 19th St, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Trips to the vineyard are an excellent way to enjoy the surrounding community one glass at a time, and knowing it was managed in an energy-efficient manner should put your mind even more at ease. You’d achieve exactly that when you delight in a glass of Noche at Cooper Vineyards LEED Platinum certification in 2012 for their environmentally-friendly tasting room. As the Green Badger described it, “the architectural design of the tasting room, with two complete walls of glass that extend up for two stories, makes the visitor experience that of an “indoor/outdoor” space regardless of the weather.”
Cooper Vineyards boasts a nearly 5,000-square-foot building that deserves recognition for its strides in energy efficiency as well. The building holds the vineyard’s offices, kitchen, and tasting room mentioned earlier, and includes a 3,000-gallon tank rainwater harvesting system, a Structurally Insulated Panel System (SIPS), solar power panels, and several 30-foot indoor solar-light harnessing tubes.
13372 Shannon Hill Rd, Louisa, VA 23093
Henrico County Public Libraries
Henrico County Public libraries are essential information hubs for their communities. They offer access to resources that can change lives, at no additional fee. Maintaining a library’s many books, computers, videos, conference spaces, learning programs, and more can be energy-intensive. Four of Henrico’s libraries have created a benchmark on implementing energy-efficient practices into their building implementation; the Gayton Branch Library, Glen Allen Branch Library, Libbie Mill Area Library, and Varina Area Library have all reached LEED certification for multiple designs.
After a renovation project that included building automation HVAC systems, high-efficiency sink fixtures, alternative transportation parking, and environmentally conscious material selection, each library was able to reduce water consumption by an average of 42% and energy consumption by 32% with its renovations. Additionally, 90% of construction waste was diverted from landfills! Glen Allen Branch Library was the first of the four to finish renovations in 2010. with Varina finishing up in 2016 and was recognized in 2017 by the American Institute of Architects and the American Library Association for excellence in library design. The new library offers Varina area residents many new and improved services in a beautiful setting while reinforcing Henrico County’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
10600 Gayton Rd, Henrico, VA 23238
10501 Staples Mill Road, Glen Allen, VA 23060
2100 Libbie Lake East St,
Henrico, VA 23230
1875 New Market Road
Henrico, VA 23231
Baseball fans and Washington D.C. natives alike will be familiar with the home to the MLB team, the Washington Nationals. Nationals Park has the distinction of being the first Major League Baseball stadium with LEED certification!
Built on a brownfield, a lot of care was put into incorporating the stadium into D.C. while minimizing its energy use and resource waste production. Efficient field lighting, external shading, additional shading, low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets, a 6,300-square-foot green roof over the left-field concession and restroom areas, and stormwater filtration systems help improve the efficiency and quality of the experience offered to its 1,000,000+ sqft. Campus.
1500 S Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003
While you enjoy your next vacation or weekend adventure in Virginia, be sure to learn about how it provides the quality service you love, with the attention to energy and resources that benefit everyone! Know about a location/attraction that has taken strides to remain energy efficient? Email us at email@example.com
Back in 2017, VAEEC conducted a Strategic Planning Retreat to help the VAEEC staff and Board set goals and priorities for the organization that helped us strengthen our operations, focus our resources, and assess our direction over the last two years. Fast forward to 2019, and it is time to start the process over again.
VAEEC is now in the midst of creating a strategic plan for the next three years. During our Spring 2019 Forum, attendees participated in an interactive session designed to provide feedback as we began this process. Participants self-selected into one of four breakout groups: Emerging Technologies, Grid Modernization and Transformation Act (GTSA) Implementation, the Intersection between Solar and Energy Efficiency, and Local Government Collaboration. Questions discussed included:
- Why is this topic important to Virginia’s EE industry?
- What are the opportunities?
- What are the barriers?
- What role should VAEEC play?
Information gathered from this session was used to inform VAEEC staff and Board during our 2019 Strategic Planning Retreat held on June 5th. During this full-day event, we partnered with Floricane, a Richmond-based facilitation group, to better define the four topics and to come up with outcomes and strategies for each.
The graphic below depicts where we currently are in the process of finalizing our strategic plan, as well as what steps remain. VAEEC staff will work over the summer to create tactics and metrics for each of the four strategic outcomes. Once the plan is in draft form, the Executive Committee, comprised of Board officers, will review the plan and offer feedback. The goal is to have the strategic plan finalized by our quarter three Board meeting on September 11th. Once approved, we will share the final plan with our members at our Fall Forum & Awards Ceremony and begin to execute it through 2022.
The update process to the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) has begun*. This is a two year process, which will wrap up at the end of 2020. The Board of Housing and Community Development will hold a public hearing on July 22, 2019 and we encourage our members to attend in support of improvements to the energy code section of the USBC.
This spring, DHCD staff established smaller subgroups on key areas of interest, including energy, for the purpose of building consensus on some of the proposals already submitted. VAEEC and several of our members are participating in the energy subgroup, which has already met once. The following energy proposals, which would bring the USBC inline with the 2018 model code, have been reviewed by the subgroup:
- Energy codes for existing buildings (several proposals): ongoing discussion
- Ceiling and wall insulation: moving to workgroup for review as non-consensus
- Air leakage testing: ongoing discussion
- Commercial fenestration: ongoing discussion
- Replacement fenestration: moving to workgroup for review with consensus
- REScheck: ongoing discussion
- Certificate: ongoing discussion
Regarding the existing building energy code proposals, the discussion centered around where the proposals should live within the USBC. Some code officials argued that they should live solely in the Existing Building (VEBC) section of the USBC, while other officials argued they should live in both the energy conservation codes and the VEBC. Another issue was that several proposals that attempted to strike existing building language from the energy conservation code actually weakened existing requirements. A small subset of subgroup members will work together to come up with a solution that works for everyone prior to the next subgroup meeting. As long as the existing energy code requirements remain intact, VAEEC does not have a position on which chapter is the right place for these proposals to live.
The proposal on insulation would have brought Virginia’s code up to the 2012 model code requirements. This proposal was opposed by the Homebuilders Association of Virginia, so it was marked as non-consensus. Their arguments were that it would “price someone out” of the market, that codes should be a minimum, and that there would be diminishing returns despite the proposal impact statement stating that this change would garner 6% in energy savings for homeowners, which is the greatest energy savings of any single proposal. We are disappointed that this proposal is moving forward as non-consensus, which effectively kills the proposal.
While we are pleased that the air leakage proposal did not suffer the same fate as the insulation proposal, the debate was just as spirited. VAEEC member Viridiant presented the initial findings from DOE Field Study they conducted in conjunction with another VAEEC member, Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, which highlighted that 25% of new homes being built to code are failing to meet the five air changes per hour requirement in the current USBC. If I could read the tea leaves, I think it might be possible for the blower door test to become part of the next USBC update, but the change from five air changes per hour to three will not move forward.
Next up were the two window fenestration proposals, which would bring the USBC up to the model code standard. While the window replacement proposal moved forward with consensus, the commercial proposal was concerning to the Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) due to implications for multi-family units. The AOBA official is taking the proposal back to his membership for review and will provide feedback at the next meeting.
The last two proposals were more administrative in nature. Because of some of the weakening amendments in Virginia’s code, Virginia builders, designers, and contractors cannot use the DOE REScheck software, to ensure code compliance on new construction, additions, or renovations. One of the proposals would remove language that refers Virginia builders, designers, and contractors to guidance documents DHCD has offered as an alternative. However, other proposals, such as the insulation and window fenestration proposals, would need to be approved as well. The other administrative proposal would require a permanent certificate within the structure, which would provide details on the thermal envelope, including insulation ratings and window U-values. VAEEC member Think Little explained that this would be extremely helpful in their work when they are working with a client to replace their HVAC system. Typically, they have to guess many of these data points, which could cause them to incorrectly size the new HVAC system. There was a lengthy discussion on where the certificate should be housed- particularly as it pertains to multi-family and commercial buildings. A smaller group of attendees are going to work out the details prior to the next subgroup meeting. This proposal should eventually move forward with consensus.
The subgroup will meet once more in early to mid summer to continue discussions on the remaining proposals and to determine if consensus can be reached on any of them before the proposals are reviewed by the workgroup. All workgroup activities will wrap up by the end of the summer. After that, all proposals will be reviewed by the DHCD Board who will then vote on all of the proposals that went through the workgroup process. All proposals approved by the DHCD Board will form the draft USBC, which will be reviewed and voted upon in the fall. The draft USBC will then go to the Virginia Register for a public comment period, and the process will begin all over again next year.
*You can visit the main building codes page on the VAEEC website to learn more about the development of the federal model code as well as the Virginia update process.
The Spring 2019 Forum was held on May 9th at the University of Richmond Jepson Alumni Center. Almost 100 people from every facet of the energy efficiency industry attended, making it one of our most successful events to date! We want to offer a huge thank you to our sponsors for their support, and to everyone who came to the Forum.
Executive Director Chelsea Harnish formally opened the event with her annual presentation on VAEEC’s accomplishments and updates. Many of the 2018 highlights are in our annual report, which you can view here. She also discussed the incredible momentum VAEEC and the industry as a whole is gaining. The SCC Final Order approving all 10 of Dominion’s proposed energy efficiency programs is a big part of this progress, as is the C-PACE budget recently passed in Alexandria.
Next, Vice Chair John Morrill, with Arlington County, introduced the current Executive Committee and recognized the service of Bill Greenleaf and Cynthia Adams as they transition off of the Board of Directors, as well as David Steiner for stepping down as the Board Chair. Before electing new Board members, John announced the VAEEC 2019 Executive Committee: David Koogler, Board Chair; John Morrill, Vice Chair; and Mark Jackson, Secretary.
VAEEC members re-elected three Board members:
- Mark Jackson of Community Housing Partners
- Susan Larsen of Columbia Gas of Virginia
- Tom Nicholas of the City of Virginia Beach
They also elected five new Board members:
- Elizabeth Beardsley of USGBC
- KC Bleile of Viridiant
- Rick Counihan of Google
- Bill Eger of the City of Alexandria
- Stephen Evanko of Dominion Due Diligence Group
We are excited to add these new voices to our organization as we move into this year’s strategic planning process.
Next, Tom Nicholas with City of Virginia Beach and Chair of the Membership Committee, lead the Membership Spotlight session and Membership Poll. Following last year’s positive reception, we used PollEverywhere to collect real-time responses to our four questions:
- What is the most valuable aspect of VAEEC membership to you or your firm?
- What additional benefits would you like to see included in VAEEC membership?
- Would you like VAEEC events to offer continuing education credits?
- What topics would you like to see covered at our Fall 2019 Forum?
Representatives from 2RW Consultants, Think Little, Community Housing Partners, VEIC, Viridiant, Dominion Energy, C-Power, LEAP, City of Virginia Beach, and Trane all shared their accomplishments during the spotlight session, so make sure to check out our Member Success Stories page in the coming weeks. We appreciate everyone’s participation in both the poll and spotlight and will incorporate the information gathered into our future plans.
After the Membership Spotlight, participants attended one of two breakout sessions: Blending Technologies to Maximize Building Efficiency and Working Together to Increase Efficiency. The Blending Technologies panel featured Eric Oliver (2RW Consultants, Inc.), Rodes Boyd (Siemens), and Nick Lange (VEIC) with George Barnes (Trane) moderating. The speakers discussed the benefits and challenges surrounding current and upcoming smart building technologies that monitor energy usage and identify areas of waste.
The Working Together session focused on how local governments and higher education institutions can cooperate across departments to increase energy efficiency and incorporate successful IT solutions. Chris Smeds (UVA), Nell Boyle (City of Roanoke), and John Morrill (Arlington County) formed the panel of speakers, with Bill Eger (City of Alexandria) moderating.
The final session of the day was an interactive session where participants chose four topics to discuss, then split into groups to consider the opportunities and barriers for each, as well as the role VAEEC could play in that work. The topics were:
- Emerging Technologies
- Grid Modernization and Transformation Act Implementation
- The Intersection between Solar and Energy Efficiency
- Local Government Collaboration
The information we gathered from this session (view summary here) will form the foundation of our upcoming strategic plan, so everyone’s participation and feedback were truly invaluable.
As with all of our work, the Spring Forum would not be possible without the continuing support of our incredible members and sponsors. Thank you to everyone who attended for helping us push energy efficiency in Virginia toward an even brighter future.
Presentations can be viewed here:
Please share our event photos across your social media networks!
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 20, 2019 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.