VAEEC member Charlottesville is encouraging local businesses to participate in the Charlottesville Better Buisness Challenge, being offered this year by the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative. Started by a partnership with Better World Betty and LEAP (the Local Energy Alliance Program- a VAEEC Associate Member) in 2010, the Challenge has provided Charlottesville organizations with a way to participate in a friendly competition while cutting energy costs and leaving a positive impact on their community. From local schools and businesses such as Albemarle Baking Company to national, larger brands like Whole Foods and Plow and Hearth, the Better Business Challenge is fit to serve organizations of all sizes.
This Challenge is open to veterans of the green business game as well as people who may just be warming up to the idea. It provides an entry point to a fast-growing network of businesses who not only care about their bottom line but also their community impact. Last round’s 78 participants saved an average of $185,000 per year while taking 4,270 cars off the road, reducing CO2 by 1,823 tons!
So, why do businesses join? Business leaders across the nation have begun to realize that when you optimize energy use and transition to renewable energy, it just makes good business sense. For example, Plow and Hearth saved over $93,000/year in electricity bills with a lighting overhaul and Virginia Eagle Distributing saved $33,000 annually after instituting recycling and installing solar panels on tractor trailers.
The Challenge is easy and flexible to suit the busy schedule of companies and businesses. Every player is equipped with the tools necessary to cut costs and increase their bottom line. Participation grants access:
- to an Energy Scorecard with 46 action items to help reduce and improve energy use
- an Energy Catalyst Toolkit which is an easy-to-use digital toolkit to tailor the solution to your business needs
- catered “Lunch n’ Learns” that highlight key topics to stay ahead of the curve
- a challenge coach who works with your schedule to get things done, and
- an energy walkthrough to uncover further opportunities to save.
In addition, during the last Challenge, there were 35+ positive publicity outreaches to potential customers, members, and supporters. Participant businesses also received 850,000 local audiences “touches” through social media and other channels about their actions for becoming more green.
Any business, non-profit, or church located in Fluvanna, Louisa, Albemarle, Augusta, Nelson, and Greene County may register and participate in the Challenge. Click here to find out more about how to get started in the Better Business Challenge.
Pool parties, cookouts, and other home gatherings will begin to pop up on your calendar as the weather rises into the summer. Whether it be for Father’s Day, a graduation party, Independence Day, or just a summer cookout, practicing energy-efficient steps can still help you save on your bills. Here are some tips on how to make your next gathering more energy-efficient:
Plan Ride-Share/Carpool Groups
Planning out carpools can save gas money for everyone involved. Have guests that live relatively close to one another either choose a designated driver or split a ride with businesses like Lyft or Uber.
Sharing rides cuts down on overall traffic on the road as well. Researchers at MIT developed an algorithm that found 3,000 sedans would be able to take care of almost all taxi demand in New York City, “with an average wait time of only 2.7 minutes.”
Use Fans to Cool the Room
Ceiling fans and portable fans are an easy way to keep cold air circulating in your room and save money on energy. While fans don’t actually cool the air, moving air evaporates moisture from the skin at a faster rate than normal, cooling the body. This is known as the wind-chill effect.
Using the AC in conjunction with the fan can save you money while maintaining the same level of comfort. Increasing the thermostat 2° F during the summer while using the fan to better circulate the air can result in a 15% reduction in air conditioning energy use.
Plan Parties for the Evening
Avoid the daytime heat surges by opting for an evening gathering instead. As temperatures cool, air conditioning won’t have to work as hard to reach your optimal setting. When weather permits it, you can open windows to cool the house and turn off the thermostat altogether and use the wind-chill effect from the breeze and/or fan.
Remember to turn off the air when you open the windows; many people forget to turn off the AC when the windows are open, which actually wastes more energy.
Plan Refreshments Efficiently
If you are planning to prepare food for your gathering, look into how you can save energy using alternative techniques.
- Use the correct eye size for the pot when you’re cooking on the stovetop. Using an 8-inch burner on a 6-inch pan wastes over 40% of heat energy to the air.
- Covering a pot when boiling water will cut the wait time, and energy use, in half.
- Instead of having guests constantly opening the refrigerator to grab drinks, pack them in a cooler or other container filled with ice. This will keep the internal temperature and humidity of the fridge consistent and prevent it from working overtime.
On May 10th, we held our Spring Meeting at the University of Richmond Jepson Alumni Center. A huge thank you to our sponsors for making our event possible, and a thank you to all those who attended and made it a success!
Registration and networking kicked off our meeting at 10:00a.m. As attendees filed in, we started our opening presentation and business meeting portion of our agenda. Chelsea Harnish, our Executive Director, gave a recap of some of the accomplishments and updates VAEEC’s had in the past year. Some of these updates included highlights from our Annual Report, which can be viewed here.
Chelsea Harnish presents the opening remarks.
Key 2017 Updates:
- 1 New Board Member
- 1 Publication, “Why Energy Efficiency is a Smart Investment for Virginia”
- 5 Videos Produced
- 4 Webinars Hosted
- 6 Sponsored Events
- 2 In-District Site Visits with Legislators
- 18 Award Winners at 2nd Annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards Ceremony
- 125+ Attendees at Awards Ceremony
- Membership grew nearly 25%
After Chelsea’s updates, members voted on three Board Members up for reelection: Richard Caperton–Oracle, John Morrill–Arlington County, and David Koogler–Rappahannock Electric Coop. Members also voted on one new Board Candidate, Michael Hubbard–Dominion Energy, to replace former Board Member Tom Jewell. Each passed unanimously.
Following the Board election, we had our Remarkable Member Updates and Membership Poll. For our membership poll we tried something new, and included a question for non-member attendees. We used PollEverywhere to collect real time responses from the audience, displaying answers on the screen. We asked these questions:
- Currently, the VAEEC is focused on commercial PACE and residential building codes and utility programs. What additional topics would you like the VAEEC to focus on or address during 2018?
- Would a job opening and resume board posted on the VAEEC’s Members Resources page be beneficial to you or your organization?
- What additional benefits would you like included in your VAEEC membership?
- For Non-Members: What is preventing you from joining VAEEC?
One of our most memorable responses to our additional benefits questions was “more happy hours.” While we’re not sure we can deliver on “the happiest hour ever”, we appreciate everyone who participated and gave us valuable feedback to work with moving forward. In fact, the overwhelming positive response to the idea of a job board led us to immediately add one in our Member Resources Page.
Our group then broke up for breakout sessions. Attendees could choose between a Residential Utility Programs panel or a panel on Commercial Building Automation. The Residential Utility Program panel was held in the Quigg Room with Michael Hubbard (Dominion Energy) and Zack Bacon (Appalachian Power Co.) as speakers and Chelsea Harnish as Moderator. The second panel was held in the main room on Commercial Building Automation, with speakers Philip Agee (Viridiant), Cindy Zork (USGBC), George Holcombe (Capital One), Amanda Jenkins (Johnson Controls) and Jessica Greene as Moderator. Both panels hit a snag in the middle as the fire alarm went off and the building was evacuated.
The panel on Residential Utility Programs gave quick updates on both Dominion Energy and ApCo’s programs proposed to the State Corporation Committee. At the time, these plans were still under consideration however just a few days after the meeting, the SCC released their final order on ApCo’s programs. Three of their residential programs were approved and one was denied. All of the commercial programs were approved. Dominion Energy’s Low-Income Program was approved May 15, though with a reduced budget and at a three-year timeframe instead of the proposed five-year program.
The Commercial Building Automation breakout session holds their Q&A in the courtyard.
The Commercial Building Automation panel discussed how implementing building automation can save money, consume less energy, use less water, use fewer resources and provide better indoor environmental quality. These benefits are also the categories that buildings are scored with on how effective their automation is. While the fire alarm was disruptive, for the Commercial Building Automation panel, it provided a chance for attendees and panelists to interact in a more informal setting and they held their Q&A portion outside in a courtyard.
After the breakout sessions, we took a quick lunch break before listening to our Keynote Speaker Angela Navarro, the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade. Angela talked about Governor Ralph Northam’s various energy efficiency policies and his priorities moving forward.
For our final portion of the meeting, we asked our attendees to break into four groups based on the topic that most interested them. The choices were: Commercial-PACE, Local Government, Residential EE and Utility Programs. We had attendees participate in discussions about the challenges each of these sectors are facing and what solutions we can implement to overcome them. After discussion, each group presented a short summary of what they talked about to the rest of the attendees. The notes for the Interactive Session can be found here.
While certainly not perfect (considering our fire alarm disruption) we’re still thrilled we were able to try new things with positive reviews from our attendees. Participation in our membership poll was the highest we’ve had to date, and the feedback on the Interactive Session from our post-event survey shows attendees found it was not only useful but enjoyable; meaning it’s sure to stay for future events. Again, thank you to all in attendance for making the 2018 Spring Meeting a success!
Presentations can be viewed below:
If you’d like to view photos from the event check out our album. Feel free to use them on your own social media!
The recent election in Virginia had the highest voter turnout in two decades for a gubernatorial race (which occur in off-years) and brought the balance of power in the House of Delegates to a nearly even split between Republicans and Democrats. What does that mean for statewide energy efficiency policies and initiatives? As we continue to analyze the scenarios, we are actively engaging with the next Governor and his transition team.
These are our first thoughts on what to expect:
- Both Governor-elect Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring currently hold statewide office, which means there won’t be a steep learning curve on all topics all at one time.
- Northam has been lauded as an environmental and clean energy champion, with strong backing from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters among others. Energy efficiency isn’t necessarily his “pet project,” but we expect to find an open ear given his stance on related issues and statements like this: “Dr. Northam, as a scientist, understands the importance of energy efficiency. As a state senator, Northam supported stricter energy efficiency standards, including incentivizing companies to invest in energy efficient programs. He believes energy efficiency not only helps to combat environmental damage and climate change, but also makes business sense by saving homeowners and businesses energy costs.”
- With a plethora of new members in the House of Delegates, there is an opportunity to educate them on key energy efficiency policies.
- Depending on recounts, there will be 4-6 new members on the House Commerce and Labor committee, which reviews all energy legislation. VAEEC will be working with the new and returning members to educate them on the value of energy efficiency in the Commonwealth, including resuming our site visits with legislators in the spring. We led two successful tours in October which you can read about here. We’ll also share with all incoming legislators our new series of short videos on key EE policies. Watch those here.
VAEEC will continue to advocate for the Governor elect to build on the progress being made by Governor McAuliffe — who we recently honored with an Award of Excellence for his leadership and support of energy efficiency in the Commonwealth — on carbon regulations, which include a 5% carve out for EE programs.
Stay tuned for more insight into how the political landscape is shaping up for our energy efficiency priorities in Virginia, including a briefing on the upcoming General Assembly session in January.
Make sure you are signed up for our monthly e-newsletters (contact firstname.lastname@example.org) and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep up to speed.
Energy efficiency programs are on the Congressional chopping block.
The House of Representatives will vote in the coming days on spending cuts to several of the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency programs such as ENERGY STAR and the Weatherization Assistance Program. The House Appropriations Committee advanced the cuts earlier this month, adding them to the docket for a vote. The cuts, if passed would be applied to fiscal year 2018.
Merged with a larger budget bill, the cuts would slash funding for several Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy programs by more than half. If passed the office would see funding fall from $2.1 billion to $1.1 billion. The current administration has proposed numerous cuts to energy efficiency programs over the last six months, including eliminating the highly successful ENERGY STAR program. While no programs have specifically been called out for elimination in the House bill, the severe cuts will force the DOE to evaluate spending, which could include the elimination of entire programs.
While the proposed spending cuts in the House are massive, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced its Energy and Water Development appropriations bill on July 20, maintaining the current level of funding for energy efficiency programs.
The House and Senate may disagree on the total amount for energy efficient spending, however both are an improvement from the initial proposals put forth by the current administration earlier this summer which would have gutted federal energy efficiency budgets. While wholesale elimination in FY18 is off the table for now, federal energy efficiency initiatives still face the prospect of unprecedented spending cuts.
It’s unclear whether or not the Senate Energy and Water Development appropriations bill will be voted on before the August break, due to prioritization of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Successful energy efficiency programs bring both economic and environmental benefits, producing jobs and savings. Promotion of these programs has historically been bipartisan and their continuation is important for the U.S. to remain competitive in the energy industry.
The agricultural industry consumes massive amounts of energy. In 2015 alone, farmers paid 10 billion dollars collectively in energy bills. Agricultural facilities expend energy in refrigeration and materials handling, pumping and heating, lighting, and fans.
In mid-June, VAEEC hosted a webinar with presenters Josh Ludgate from Energy Exact Inc. and Erin Puryear from Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. In 2012, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and its nine Virginia distribution electric cooperatives, collaborated with the state energy office, Exact Energy, James Madison University, US Dept of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA-Rural Development, and Virginia Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop a plan for offering information, education, and opportunities in energy efficiency for the agricultural sector. During the webinar, Josh and Erin share what this plan has entailed, the challenges and successes, and how they plan to move forward.
Erin introduced the Energy-saving steps, arranged by cost/benefit improvement pyramid. The base of the pyramid is Energy Analysis:
- Energy analysis must be made to identify costs and find opportunities where energy use can be reduced. Erin explained that after the energy analysis is made, agricultural facilities can achieve their cost/benefits achievement goals through the following:
- Energy conservation is the most cost beneficial approach an agricultural facility can take. It involves finding behavioral changes that can be implemented to increase energy saving.
- Energy efficient equipment is the next most cost beneficial approach an agricultural facility can take and includes fans, pumps or lights.
- Time of use management is the third most cost effective approach and includes using energy at an off peak hour to save money and electricity.
- Lastly, using Renewable energy, such as solar power, wind power, hydropower, biofuels, is helpful but it is the least cost beneficial.
Erin also discussed funding options, such as grants and loans through the USDA and education and awareness initiatives held in rural Virginia.
After Erin’s presentation, Josh with Exact Energy, reviewed a case study for poultry breeders and growers. Many growers had expressed skepticism to try energy savings technologies because of the perceived risk of high bird mortality. Growers were concerned the new bulbs would confuse the birds and affect yields. Typically, growers use either 100 W incandescent or CFL bulbs or 150 W High Pressure Sodium lamps. In this case study, energy monitoring systems and 23 W compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs were installed in three houses to test several flocks. The lighting electrical consumption dropped by 80% and the average savings of the three houses was $522.99. Growers were overly pleased with the equipment installed, and the case study found that though there is room for advancements, there were no increases or decreases in bird production after implementing the recommendations.
In a state with over 6,000 poultry farms, there is a huge potential to access cost and energy savings for the agricultural sector.
For more information, view the entire presentation or listen to the audio recording.
VAEEC Supports New Efficiency Programs Proposed by Dominion Energy:
This past spring 2017, the State Corporation Commission heard oral arguments in support of energy efficiency programs, which were part of Dominion Energy’s 2016 Demand-Side Management (DSM) filing (Case Number PUE-2016-00111).
As part of this filing, two new energy efficiency programs (Phase VI programs) were proposed to replace Phase II programs, which expired last month:
- Residential Home Energy Assessment Program- bundled a home energy audit with direct install measures such as LED light bulbs, weatherstripping, heat pump tune-ups and adding hot water pipe insulation
- Non-Residential Prescriptive Program- incentive program for non-residential customers who do not qualify for other Dominion energy efficiency programs; includes installing ENERGY Star appliances, HVAC tune-up and commercial duct sealing and testing
The VAEEC formally intervened in support of the proposed programs during the proceedings this past spring. Our members recognize the incredible value that cost-effective energy efficiency programs provide to our local communities and all ratepayers within the utility’s service territory. We also bring a unique perspective to the conversation, representing our members who work in the field implementing these programs. During the two-day hearing, our attorneys with the UVA Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic argued for the Commission to consider the economic benefits these programs provide to the communities they serve. According to Virginia code, it is unquestionably within the Commission’s discretion to consider these economic development benefits among the “other factors” evaluated, in addition to the cost-effectiveness tests. The Attorney General’s office rendered an opinion on this in their closing statements agreeing with our assessment. Our closing arguments go into further detail, which you can read here.
Unfortunately, earlier this month, the Commission denied the Residential Home Energy Assessment Program and approved the Non-Residential Prescriptive Program at half of the requested budget.
Dominion Energy had also requested a two-year extension for their Residential Heat Pump Upgrade Program through May 2019, which was also denied despite the fact that the utility was not seeking additional funding for this program.
In their ruling, the Commission based their decision entirely on the cost-effectiveness scores of these programs. This ruling was surprising for a number of reasons but especially since both of these programs had previously been approved by the Commission and this was not the recommendation from Commission staff. The staff had concerns about the programs but they did not recommend rejecting them outright.
It was also evident that they did not take into consideration our arguments that the economic benefits these programs create should be considered in addition to the cost-effectiveness tests.
So, what’s next? Right now, the Commission is soliciting feedback on how to establish protocols for Evaluating, Measuring and Verifying (EM&V) energy efficiency programs and the savings associated with them. The Commission decided to establish these much-needed protocols after receiving feedback from a variety of stakeholders last year, including the VAEEC.
As stated in our new report, “Why Energy Efficiency is a Smart Investment for Virginia”:
Establishing EM&V protocols for Virginia utilities will enable them to develop energy efficiency programs with a strong, data-driven foundation from which to expand their offerings to customers. Robust protocols assure that customers receive the benefits that energy-efficiency programs are designed to deliver.
We will continue to keep our members apprised of important regulatory issues as they arise.
VAEEC members earn points and show support for the Paris Climate Agreement
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its annual report evaluating and ranking America’s largest cities for their energy efficiency. The City Energy Efficiency Scorecard is based on policy and program efforts and includes recommendations for improvement. The scores are given for five categories: local government operations, community-wide initiatives, buildings policies, energy and water utilities, and transportation.
ACEEE ranked energy efficiency in America’s largest cities.
Virginia and its localities demonstrate a commitment to leading energy efficiency and climate change policy. In the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, Virginia has declared that it will continue efforts to mitigate climate change.
On June 5th, Governor Terry McAuliffe joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of states in solidarity to uphold the goals of the Paris accord.
“As the first state in the Trump era to take executive action to limit carbon emissions and create clean energy jobs, Virginia is proud to join this alliance of states, cities and businesses. President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement does not speak for the states and cities that are committed to fighting climate change and paving the way for a new energy economy. If the federal government insists on abdicating leadership on this issue, it will be up to the American people to step forward — and in Virginia, we are doing just that.” –Gov. McAuliffe
In addition to support at the state level, as of June 3, 2017, more than two hundred mayors of U.S. cities have indicated support for the objectives of the alliance. Among them are VAEEC members Alexandria, Richmond, Charlottesville and Arlington County.
Virginia leaders from both the public and private sectors are joining forces to fight climate change and uphold the Paris accord.
These locations, as well as Virginia businesses, Randolph College and the University of Richmond (another VAEEC member), have signed the “We Are Still In” agreement.
Among the 51 cities ranked in the ACEEE scorecard, Richmond and Virginia Beach ranked 28th and 36th respectively. In addition, Richmond was one of three cities to earn a perfect score for municipal energy efficiency-related goals. The Scorecard and rankings act as a marker for progress and encourages cities to further energy efficiency efforts.
Arlington County and Charlottesville were also listed on the Scorecard website as unranked cities. They used the ACEEE criteria to create a self-score equivalent to the Scorecard’s ratings and were highlighted for their efforts and commitment to energy efficiency.
All four of the Virginia locations listed are VAEEC members. In fact, ACEEE awarded points for VAEEC membership. In their view, as an advocate for higher energy standards, membership with the VAEEC reflects a commitment to improving efficiency.
Here’s the breakdown of each city’s ACEEE score.
Virginia’s capital scored 37.00 out of 100 possible points. Richmond earned high marks in the local government category, outlining numerous policies for energy goals and strategies to reduce usage. One of the more ambitious goals began in 2014 with the RVAgreen Annual Progress Report. A goal was set to reduce the government greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 using 2008 as a baseline. Though this is a significant reduction rate, the ACEEE says Richmond is on track to achieving its goal. The report centered its recommendations for improvements in the energy and utility category, as well as transportation.
Virginia Beach scored 31.50 out of 100 possible points. Scoring similarly to Richmond, Virginia Beach was recognized for its Sustainability Plan which outlines some of the energy-efficiency related policies for its government operations. Virginia Beach also benchmarks 100% of local government buildings in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. In addition, Virginia Beach has several community-wide initiatives, including the adoption of an urban heat island mitigation goal to achieve 45% urban tree canopy cover citywide by 2023. Like Richmond, Virginia Beach’s opportunities for improvement were in energy and utilities, and transportation.
Though Arlington was not officially scored, the self-score generated was 64.50 out of 100 points. This places Arlington on par with some of America’s largest, most energy efficient cities. The county has outlined comprehensive strategies to reduce energy consumption and the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy oversees the implementation of these policies. Arlington also scores impressively in both building policies and transportation, with a Master Transportation Plan that aims to promote more pedestrian and bicycle transit. Though scoring high in most categories, room to grow can be found most in energy and utilities.
Charlottesville also self-scored and earned 49.00 out of 100 points. Of the Virginia locations scored, Charlottesville earned the most points for energy and utilities with a funded partnership with, another VAEEC member, the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) and rebates for water conservation initiatives. Charlottesville also has green building requirements for municipal buildings and works through LEAP to fund the limited time 0% Power Saving Loan Program as part of its initiatives for efficient buildings. Charlottesville’s community-wide initiatives and local government operations are where improvements can be made most.
To see the full breakdown of scores for each city visit the ACEEE’s website.
Don’t see your town on the City Scorecard? Click here to try the updated Local Energy Efficiency Self-Scoring Tool, and see how your community stacks up! The Self-Scoring Tool is based off the 2015 City Scorecard.