2021 Achievements

Despite the ongoing challenges due to COVID-19, the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council helped advance the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency programs and policies throughout 2021. We worked to facilitate the deployment of energy-efficient technologies that improve indoor air quality in schools as they prepared to welcome students in person, many for the first time in 18 months. We supported legislation to expand public building performance standards and advocated for an update to the Virginia Energy Conservation & Environmental Standards. We also saw the first C-PACE project in the state become a reality. Additionally, we established a dedicated technology committee to identify innovation and needs.VAEEC staff successfully worked with DHCD to establish a new weatherization deferral and repair program using funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s carbon auctions. By participating in proceedings before the SCC, we ensured that the energy efficiency goals set forth in the Virginia Clean Economy Act remain achievable

Check out our top five achievements in 2021 below. View our 2021 Annual Report to learn more about the organization and our work.

All of this progress was made possible by the support of our members. We are excited to work with you in the new year to create, implement, and share energy efficiency solutions that improve the quality of life throughout the Commonwealth.

Dominion EM&V Hearing Update

On October 27th, the SCC released the final order for the Dominion Energy EM&V proceeding. For this proceeding, the VAEEC acquired expert witness, Mark James, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Energy and the Environment and adjunct professor at Vermont Law School to testify on our behalf. Additionally, staff from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy also provided technical assistance to our legal counsel and expert witness. In their final order, the Commission elected to adopt all of the recommendations in the Hearing Examiner’s report, which was released in July. 

Below is a summary of all of the Hearing Examiner’s findings and recommendations to the Commission with additional details on key recommendations. We have listed the page numbers in the report for the discussion on each recommendation so the reader can easily dive deeper into any recommendation of interest.

  1. The focus of this proceeding is on adopting a more rigorous and accurate EM&V, and not on whether the Company’s current EM&V meets industry standards (p 44-50); VAEEC maintained “nationally-recognized TRMs that follow industry best practices, along with new commitments on EM&V that the Company is making in its post-hearing brief, can and will provide the accuracy that the Commission rightly demand”; 
  2. The Commission should direct Staff to participate in the stakeholder process as a stakeholder to work with the Company and others to develop more rigorous and accurate EM&V data (p 50-53); James said, “With the newly established EM&V subgroup, the stakeholder process offers the opportunity for transparent presentation and discussion of options outside of a Commission proceeding. The recommendations generated by the EM&V subgroup would still be subject to Commission approval, but the products of the stakeholder group would be created through a transparent, collaborative, and consensus-driven process. Furthermore, using the stakeholder group allows for greater participation from interested parties and energy efficiency experts.” While SCC staff was concerned that participation would undermine their credibility, the Commission stated that they speak only through their Orders, not through Staff. 
  3. The Commission should adopt the dashboard proposed by Company witness Frost in his rebuttal testimony (p 53-55), and attached to this Report as Attachment 1 (p 78); “The Company’s proposed dashboard represents an executive summary of high-level metrics that is easy to read and understood

at a glance. It focuses on spending, savings, metrics noted in the VCEA (such as carbon emission reductions and bill savings), and progress towards the GTSA and VCEA targets.” 

  1. The Commission should adopt the reporting requirements committed to by Dominion Energy as further outlined in the Discussion (p 55-57); Adoption by the Commission should provide all interested parties clarity concerning the information to be provided by the Company and when that information will be provided. The provisions for using formats proposed by VAEEC witness James (or formats substantially similar) provides some flexibility as to the final format for these filings. Going forward changes in format or in the information provided can be addressed in future DSM proceedings.
  2. The Commission should direct Dominion Energy to file the May EM&V Report in the Company’s December DSM filings (p 57-58); If the entire EM&V Report from May were also filed at the beginning of the new DSM proceeding, at the time of filing, it would represent the most current EM&V Report.
  3. Deemed input values meet the measured and verified standard for determining compliance with the energy-saving requirements of the VCEA (p 58-62); VAEEC argued that, because it is impossible to measure electricity not consumed, all EM&V methods rely on extrapolations and have some margin of error and uncertainty. Indeed, VAEEC maintained  “the use of Virginia-specific inputs as recommended by Staff might prove to be less accurate than results based on deemed values.” VAEEC extended this to utility-specific data that may be less accurate and reliable than deemed values based on limitations of the utility-specific sample as compared to deemed values based on larger populations over longer periods of time. VAEEC recommended the Commission adopt the Company’s updated EM&V approach

as it is more rigorous and accurate than what was reviewed in 2019.

  1. To increase the rigor and accuracy of the EM&V process, the Commission should adopt a combination of the Company’s proposed framework and the Staff’s proposed hierarchical framework, with both frameworks as further modified herein (p 62-73);
  2. The Commission should direct the Company to document the baselines used during program design and all subsequent adjustments or changes to the baselines, and provide the documentation to Staff and the other parties upon request (p 73-75);
  3. The Commission should direct the Company to increase the coordination between DNV and the program designer(s) consistent with their commitment in this proceeding (p 75); and
  4. The Commission should direct the Company to undertake at least one baseline study based on Staff’s input. In the final order, the Commission required Dominion to select two programs to use in baseline studies to establish their own baselines for energy savings. The Company has ninety days from the final order to present this information to the SCC. 

2021 Energy Efficiency Forum

View the event program for details

Virginia’s energy efficiency community came together on November 15th and 16th for the VAEEC’s 2021 Energy Efficiency Forum. A big thank you to our sponsors, speakers, awards winners, and attendees for making this event a great success!

Day one primarily consisted of breakout sessions on timely, educational topics. Due to COVID-19 and an effort to make the event accessible to those near and far, this portion of the event was offered over a virtual platform. 

Getting Smarter with Energy Efficiency Technology: Smart technologies have advanced by leaps and bounds. This panel explored how these technologies work together to make communities cleaner, safer, and closer – while increasing energy efficiency. The session was sponsored by Virginia Natural Gas. Speakers included Keven Brough (Google), Phil Markham (Southern Company), and Damian Pitt (Virginia Commonwealth University), and KC Bleile (Viridiant, VAEEC Board) moderated.

Opportunities & Insights for Energy Performance Contracting: This panel discussed the ways Energy Performance Contracts, or EPCs, can address post-COVID needs, case studies, potential legislative solutions for ongoing challenges, and a look at what comes next. The panel was moderated by Chrissy Sherriff (ABM Industries), and speakers included Marc Lipschultz (VA Dept. of Transportation), Nam Nguyen (Virginia Energy), and Barry Wilhelm (Schneider Electric). 

Advancing Virginia’s Energy Efficiency Workforce: As the energy efficiency industry grows year by year, there is a demonstrated need for a trained workforce to fill those jobs. This panel discussed the opportunities and challenges in meeting those needs and highlighted the federal, state, and local programs working to fill the gaps. The session proved to be quite timely as states are beginning to receive massive amounts of federal relief funding through the American Rescue Plan Act. Speakers included Brandi Frazier Bestpitch (Virginia Energy), Matt Kellam (Dominion Energy, Virginia Energy Workforce Consortium), and Kim Strahm (Community Housing Partners), and Carrie Webster (Henrico County) moderated. 

Improving Building Performance Across Sectors: According to the US Department of Energy, over 70% of carbon emissions come from commercial and residential buildings across the US. This panel discusses how energy efficiency can not only address existing building stock, but move the industry into the future. This session was sponsored by VEIC. Speakers included David Nemtzow (Dept. of Energy Building Technologies Office), Christian Placencia (DC Sustainable Energy Utility), and Jennifer Rosenthal (TRC Companies) and was moderated by Liz Beardsley (US Green Building Council, VAEEC Board). 

Attendees gathered in person for day two, which took place at the Dorey Recreation Center in Henrico County. The second day began with an opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish. Attendees were updated on the industry’s accomplishments and updates over the past two years.  

The plenary session, Supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Energy Efficiency Sector, was next. Energy efficiency growth is a tale told in numbers – dollars saved, households served, jobs provided. However, when it comes to business and hiring needs, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Panelists discussed the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the energy efficiency industry and how it will help advance our aligned values. Speakers included Willie Fobbs (Dept. of Housing & Community Development), Esi Langston (City of Norfolk), Leigh Anne Ratliff (Trane Technologies, VAEEC Board), and Harrison Wallace (Climate & Equity Foundation). Chelsea Harnish (VAEEC) moderated.

Three Virginia-based projects were recognized next during our sixth annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards ceremony. Projects were placed within one of three categories based on the sector served: Academic, Commercial, and Government. For information on each winning project, visit our 2021 Awards page

Finally, after two years of only being able to gather virtually, the event ended with an in-person happy hour at Triple Crossing – Fulton in Richmond. We’ve heard loud and clear that networking is one of the biggest benefits of a VAEEC membership, so we were excited to be able to safely offer this in-person opportunity. It was a pleasure to connect with many of our members face-to-face again.

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, awards winners, and event attendees for making this one of our best events to date. Click here to view photos of the event. Additional event information, including speaker biographies and sponsor features, can be found in the event program.

Event attendees received recordings for each of the four, virtual breakout sessions in the post-event email. Presentation PDFs can be viewed at the links above.

Innovating the Building Envelope

It’s no secret that technology has changed many aspects of the energy efficiency industry. From building automation systems to LED lighting, there have been many strides in improving the energy use of the inside of a building. But what about the structure itself? The thermal envelope, and the materials used to construct it, account for a large portion of a building’s energy use, contributing to an estimated $372 billion in heating and cooling costs each year. 

On September 21st, we held a panel with companies who have created innovative materials that are helping address these issues while improving building efficiency, providing resident comfort, and reducing energy costs. 

First, we heard from Mike Lyon with Aerobarrier, which is an inert sealant based on permeable waterborne acrylic. The product is aerosolized in a pressurized space and monitored continuously with proprietary software to achieve maximum efficiency. Originally invented in 1993, the Aeroseal and Aerobarrier products have sealed over 100,000 homes to improve their efficiency, indoor air quality, and comfort. Aerobarrier was able to scale this technology nationwide by using a franchised certified dealer network, which allows the corporate home base to keep advancing both the sealant and the software. “This partnership model allowed us to scale up very quickly, reaching 40 states and Canada in the last five years,” said Lyon. 

Next, we heard from Dr. Aashay Arora, a co-founder of Enkoat, which addresses insulation needs from a different perspective. This Arizona based startup, backed by the National Science Foundation, has developed a thermal coating that can be applied like a traditional construction paint to plaster, stucco, and wall panels. Founded by Dr. Arora and Dr. Matthew Aguayo in 2018, Enkoat focuses on developing sustainable solutions for the construction industry. By using their Active Insulation technology, pilot homes were able to reduce their energy use by 30% over a year. Dr. Arora notes that, while the building industry is very conservative, they are “moving slowly towards materials that are carbon neutral, sustainable, and have longer life.”

Finally, we heard from Zack Mannheimer with Alquist 3D, which works to address the housing shortage across rural and suburban America by creating affordable 3D printed concrete homes, including two homes in collaboration with Virginia Tech located in Williamsburg and the greater Richmond area. With the compound problems of COVID-19, skyrocketing materials costs, and rapidly inflating housing prices, more than 30 million people are expected to move away from major cities by 2023 – and they’re going to need somewhere to live. By reducing the upfront costs of building, and carefully controlling the materials needed to produce a home, Alquist 3D is able to address these needs. They are also working with One Vision Holdings to move toward hemp-based concrete and insulation, reducing the carbon impacts of concrete. 

To learn more about these technologies, watch the recording of our recent webinar, Innovating the Building Envelope

Benchmarking Best Practices

Benchmarking has been gaining a lot of attention across the Commonwealth, but it is not a new concept. At its core, benchmarking is the practice of measuring a building’s energy usage and comparing it to the average of similar buildings. It provides building owners with the ability to understand their relative energy performance and identify opportunities to reduce energy waste. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2018, buildings accounted for 39% of total U.S. energy consumption.  

2020 legislation mandated the benchmarking of Virginia’s public buildings, which is no small task. There are 10,888 buildings with 117 million square feet of space in the state’s building asset portfolio. In an effort to “lead by example”, the state energy office has developed an energy data warehouse to track and manage this building data. Using energy management dashboards, they are able to highlight energy conservation champions and benchmarking best practices. By pin-pointing areas needing efficiency measures, staff is able to offer support to get innovative technologies implemented, which then help the Commonwealth achieve its energy efficiency goals. Additionally, the state energy office is willing to help interested localities by sharing their energy tracking software. 

Individual localities have also taken steps to benchmark buildings. Back in 2010-2011, Arlington County instituted the Arlington Green Games, a friendly competition for commercial office buildings to boost energy- and water-savings, waste reduction and recycling, and transportation demand management. This voluntary program had over 100 commercial tenants participating. Scorecards kept track of actions taken, and property managers benchmarked buildings for energy and water usage. After just one year of the competition, the County saw an estimated $2 million in energy and water savings. The County gleaned some important takeaways about voluntary benchmarking from this program. 

  • Commercial property owners/managers were eager to participate when prizes were awarded and if they could show off their energy-efficient properties
  • However, this effort did not achieve market transformation
  • Property owners/managers admitted to not including their energy-intensive buildings. This demonstrates the appeal of benchmarking mandates as a public policy tool in order to achieve lasting change through energy-efficient climate action
  • It was also labor-intensive to achieve high engagement rates with property owners  

Several Virginia localities are already benchmarking their government facilities, including Fairfax County. The live results are publicly available in the County’s energy dashboard. Benchmarking has provided several tangible benefits:

  • Internal tracking and recordkeeping, trend analysis, etc.
  • Ability to identify opportunities for improvements and to measure and verify savings
  • Leading by example
  • Provides the platform for long-term awareness, internal and public accountability, and actionability

Beyond Virginia, cities and counties across the country mandate benchmarking for commercial and public buildings. Just to our north, the District of Columbia passed legislation in 2008 requiring all private buildings greater than 50k square feet and all public buildings greater than 10k square feet to report their annual energy and water use. This program is run through the D.C. Dept. of Energy & Environment (DOEE) in partnership with the D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU). All data is reported through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. DOEE also uses the Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Program to centralize energy benchmarking data. SEED allows the DOEE to track compliance, enforcement, and communications with building owners and managers. 

Additional legislation passed reduces the size threshold of the building required to submit annual benchmarking reports. In 2022, buildings greater than 25k square feet will be required to report, and in 2025, buildings greater than 10k square feet will be required. This legislation also established a third-party verification requirement for all covered buildings every three years. 

Throughout this process, DOEE and DCSEU have pinpointed several best practices for benchmarking commercial buildings. 

  • Data quality emails
  • Automation
  • Trainings/webinars
  • Enforcement
  • Customer service

Additionally, there have been several challenges faced along the way.

  • Staffing (at the start of the program)
  • Outreach and engagement
  • Reliable data sources
  • Access to tools
  • Lack of benchmarking knowledge/ no national standard process

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council is working with Del. Rip Sullivan on commercial benchmarking legislation for the 2022 General Assembly session. The legislation will allow localities to mandate commercial benchmarking programs within their jurisdiction. We hope to set up the legislation in a way that is beneficial to localities. Therefore, we are facilitating conversations with our local government members who are interested in this topic. We have also met with several benchmarking experts to glean their best practices. Stay tuned for more information, or contact Jessica Greene if you have any questions. 

To learn more about benchmarking and any of the programs mentioned above, check out the VAEEC’s Benchmarking Best Practices webinar held in June 2021.

Dominion EM&V Hearing

The Dominion Energy proceeding on Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification (EM&V) before the SCC will be held next week. The VAEEC is formally participating in this hearing in support of EM&V measures that will help ensure the energy efficiency goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) are met. EM&V is a critical first step in quantifying the value of energy efficiency programs, which allows demand-side management resources, like energy efficiency, to compete with supply-side resources, such as a natural gas plant, in meeting future energy needs in a cleaner, healthier way. 

The inherent challenge of evaluating energy efficiency programs is that there is no simple “meter” to record kilowatt-hours saved. As a result, a baseline needs to be established to identify what would happen in that program’s absence. However, there must be a balance between the cost of evaluation and the benefits of obtaining more precise data, as the pursuit of precision can siphon funds from the actual implementation of that energy efficiency program without adding significant benefit. To accomplish that balance, most utilities use deemed savings, or reasonable and unbiased estimates of energy and cost savings based on standard industry methods.  

During their pre-filed testimony, the SCC staff questioned the use of deemed savings and non-Virginia data and recommended establishing customized baselines for each individual program currently underway, despite this being against industry best practices. The VAEEC has serious concerns about this recommendation. Every dollar spent on EM&V is a dollar that cannot be spent on providing actual program services to customers. A requirement to use only Virginia-specific data or a rejection of deemed savings estimates can drive up EM&V costs without always providing improvement in EM&V data.

We have several recommendations that would ensure the best use of program dollars without unnecessary spending on duplicate data gathering. 

  • Join the Mid-Atlantic Technical Resource Manual (TRM): A TRM provides the value of previous evaluation efforts while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to local- or utility-specific conditions such as lifespan estimates for specific measures, operating hours, baseline conditions, and local climatic conditions. When performing EM&V on their programs, Dominion already defers first to the Mid-Atlantic TRM, then factors in Virginia-specific data when appropriate. Formally joining the Mid-Atlantic TRM would provide uniformity in evaluation across all Virginia utilities and would further increase transparency into the process itself.
  • Allow Flexible, Portfolio-Level EM&V Spending: The Commission should set spending caps at the portfolio level to allow for greater flexibility and additional energy-saving benefits. After reviewing EM&V data, a utility should be able to shift funds between programs (e.g., 10 percent to 15 percent) without having to seek additional approval. Removing these caps would permit greater flexibility, which can ultimately boost the energy savings generated from the portfolio without imposing additional costs on customers.
  • Stakeholder Input: Allow the stakeholder group to assist in developing consensus for EM&V methods. With the newly established EM&V subgroup, an opportunity is provided to present and discuss options for EM&V methods and protocols outside of a Commission proceeding. By using the Mid-Atlantic TRM for this purpose, the stakeholder group would avoid the unnecessarily burdensome process of developing and approving the specifics of every measure-specific or program-specific baseline. The recommendations generated by the EM&V subgroup would still be subject to Commission approval, but the products of the stakeholder group would be created through a transparent, collaborative, and consensus-driven process.
  • Dashboard: We support the requirement of both a quarterly “dashboard” and “annual summary”. A dashboard should provide a program-by-program snapshot of key activities, such as participation numbers and program spending, in order to track how the company’s energy efficiency portfolio is progressing throughout the year. The annual summary would contain audited and finalized savings for the company’s DSM programs to ensure compliance with the GTSA and the VCEA.

If you want to dive into this a little more, you can read our expert witness’ pre-filed testimony here.

Spring 2021 Forum Recap

Virginia’s energy efficiency industry virtually gathered together to learn and connect at the VAEEC’s Spring 2021 Forum. Over 100 energy efficiency professionals participated in the event, which included three educational sessions, dedicated networking sessions, and our annual member meeting with Board elections. Attendees were treated to timely topics, including energy management systems, Virginia’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auctions and Housing Innovations in Energy Efficiency program, and how the industry is still coping with the impacts of a global pandemic. We want to extend a huge thank you to our sponsors and speakers for their support, and to everyone who attended.

The event kicked off with our annual member meeting. This is a dedicated time where not only do we get to share VAEEC’s updates and accomplishments, but it’s a time for members to share their successes. Many of the organizational highlights can be found in our 2020 annual report, and our 2020 accomplishments blog post and video. Additionally, Board Chair John Morrill (Fairfax County) led our 2021 Board of Directors election. VAEEC members re-elected Michael Hubbard (Dominion Energy), David Koogler (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative), and John Morrill (Fairfax County). We also welcomed Tim Bernadowski (Siemens Industry) who took over Rick Counihan’s (Nest) seat, Carla Dix (Columbia Gas) who took over Susan Larsen’s (Columbia Gas) seat, and Carrie Webster (Henrico County) who took over Tom Nicholas’s (City of Virginia Beach) seat. We are excited to add these new voices to our leadership. 

VAEEC’s biannual forums are known for their ability to bring together Virginia’s energy efficiency leaders to make valuable connections. Even with this year’s Spring Forum being virtual, we wanted to continue to provide this opportunity. Our virtual networking session allowed participants to join breakout rooms based on different topics: Building Codes & Performance, Innovation & Technology, Legislation & Policy, and Local Government Collaboration. Lively conversations arose and beneficial connections were made. Thank you Virginia Energy Sense for sponsoring this popular session. 

Next, participants were able to attend one of three concurrent sessions: Using Energy Management Systems for Whole Building Efficiency, Making a Difference in Low-Income Housing: How the RGGI Auctions Affect EE Work, and Pandemic Problem Solving: Facing Energy Challenges Across Sectors. Click on a session title below to view the corresponding presentation. All attendees will receive an audio recording of each session. 

Using Energy Management Systems for Whole Building Efficiency, moderated by Dawn Oleksy (City of Richmond), discussed the biggest challenges and opportunities with the installation, operation, and maintenance of energy management systems and the strategies for overcoming those obstacles. Panelists shared new trends and the future of energy management systems, including grid-interactive buildings. Speakers included Tim Bernadowski (Siemens Industry, VAEEC Board member), Lee Dunfee (Cushman & Wakefield), and Christopher Perry (ACEEE). This session was sponsored by the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development

Be careful of misinterpreting ASHRAE guidelines to mean you should simply bring a lot of outdoor air into your building, Tim Bernadowski of Siemens Industry says on our Whole Building Efficiency panel. More accurate: “Make sure you’ve got the correct outdoor air for your design.”

The Virginia RGGI auctions provide enormous potential to improve the Commonwealth’s low-income housing stock. During the session, Making a Difference in Low-Income Housing: How the RGGI Auctions Affect EE Work, panelists provided insights on program management, development, and the weatherization assistance and Affordable & Special Needs Housing programs. Speakers included Dan Farrell (Virginia Dept. of Housing & Community Development), Sunshine Mathon (Piedmont Housing Alliance), and Kerri Walker (Project:HOMES) and Lesley Fore (Community Housing Partners) moderated. The session was sponsored by the Piedmont Housing Alliance

The COVID-19 pandemic has had wide-reaching effects on all sectors of the energy efficiency industry. During Pandemic Problem Solving: Facing Energy Challenges Across Sectors, panelists discussed the challenges and opportunities faced over the past year, and what they anticipate going forward. Speakers included Benjamin Knopp (Think Little), Cathy Lin (Arlington Public Schools), and Aaron Schneider (Metrus Energy), and Legih Anne Ratliff (CPower Energy Management) was the moderator. This session was sponsored by VEIC

“There’s more money than ever for green projects,” says Aaron Schneider of Metrus Energy — from the government, asset managers and capital markets. It’s a “massive shift.”

As with all of our work, this event would not have been possible without the continued support of our members and sponsors. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s Spring Forum for helping us push energy efficiency toward an even brighter future.

We strive to make each event better than the last. To achieve this goal, we rely on feedback from our event attendees. Please take a moment to share your thoughts and suggestions with us in this brief survey


Save the date. Our Fall 2021 Forum will be held in Richmond on November 16th. The event will feature the Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards Ceremony and an industry Trade Show. We hope to see you there!

Celebrating Earth Day 2021

This week marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. But for many VAEEC members, every day is Earth Day! Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to reduce fossil fuel dependence and preserve natural resources. In honor of the holiday, we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to save energy and help the planet. 

 

Schedule a Home Energy Audit

Home Energy Audits are a great first step to improving your home’s energy efficiency. Whether you go through your local utility or work with a provider like Viridiant, the energy audit will help determine what upgrades your home needs to save energy and money.

 

Switch Out Your Lighting and Appliances

Incandescent light bulbs and older appliances can waste a lot of energy around your home. Change your bulbs to energy efficient LEDs and recycle that old refrigerator to make a significant dent in your energy use. The Dominion Energy Marketplace and Rebate Programs and Appalachian Power Energy Savings sites have discounts and rebates available for lighting and appliance upgrades.You can also contact your locality to see if there are savings programs available in your area. The Virginia Energy Sense Residential Incentive Directory compiles many of the current energy efficiency programs from around the state to make it easy to identify energy efficiency opportunities. .  

 

Get Smart at Home

Smart appliances come in all shapes and sizes, and some are great for effortlessly reducing your energy use. Smart bulbs make it easy to turn off all the lights at once, and a smart thermostat can use machine learning to adjust the temperature based on occupancy and peak demand. 

 

Seal That Leak

Windows and doors can lead to a lot of energy waste, especially in older homes. While the best long term solution would be to replace drafty, leaky windows with a more efficient variety, that’s not always an option for homeowners. Caulking around windows or adding weather stripping can reduce the energy waste without breaking the bank. 

 

Let the Sunshine In

Blinds and blackout curtains are great tools to optimize the heat and natural light from the sun. Keep the curtains open during very sunny days to take advantage of the warmth and light, then close them in the evening to keep that heat inside. Curtains also can help block outside air from drafty windows, helping maintain a comfortable temperature in the room. 

 

Kill Off Energy Vampires

Appliances still draw power when not in use, so all those laptop chargers and kitchen gadgets can add up to a lot of energy wasted. Unplug your small appliances when finished using them, or invest in a smart power strip that will cut power when not in use. Power strips also help ensure that your electronics don’t get fried in a storm or power surge, so it’s a good idea to have anyway. 

Celebrating Women’s History Month

Women have been at the forefront of energy innovation for over a century. From Katharine Burr Blodgett, who invented the monomolecular glass coatings that make solar panels and LED bulbs possible, to Beatrice Hicks, who developed environmental sensors for heating and cooling systems, the contributions of women in energy efficiency are everywhere.

Here at the VAEEC, the work women do to advance energy efficiency is obvious – we’re an all women team, with five additional women serving on our Board of Directors. In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked several of them – Board Secretary Liz Beardsley, and Board member Leigh Anne Ratliff, and Executive Director Chelsea Harnish, about their roles in the energy efficiency industry and their views on the industry itself.

 

How did you get into the energy efficiency industry? 

Liz: I was drawn towards environmental issues from my childhood love of nature… and towards engineering from my interest in math and science. So environmental engineering was a natural fit in college. Through my career this eventually led to environmental policy, including using policy to reduce energy consumption and its impacts through efficiency.

Leigh Anne:  I got into the energy efficiency industry from working with the PJM energy efficiency rebates. This program afforded me the opportunity to work with owners, contractors, engineers and architects on the many energy efficiency initiatives around the Commonwealth – from LED upgrades to specialized industrial equipment upgrades. I’m lucky – I get a bird’s eye view of this exciting industry.

Chelsea: As a policy manager for an environmental advocacy group, I had a basic understanding of energy efficiency and its benefits for creating a cleaner, healthier world. When the opportunity to lead the VAEEC became available, I jumped at the chance to really dive deeper into understanding this industry and its challenges and opportunities.

 

What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for women in the energy efficiency field? 

Liz: There can still be some unfortunate and inaccurate stereotypes about women in technical fields so perhaps a challenge in some circumstances is being underestimated. By and large however I see many opportunities for women in energy efficiency and each individual, woman or man, will do well to understand and leverage their own strengths.

Leigh Anne:  I think the biggest challenge for women in the energy efficiency field is that a good part of it lies within the realm of STEM and women are still only 28% of the STEM workforce. When I went to engineering school it was a rarity for women to be in the classroom – but that was in the 1980’s. I can’t believe that there is still such a disparity. That being said, the smaller numbers of women in this field is an opportunity as well – employers see the value of diversity and women are succeeding in leadership roles in the energy industry. It’s a fun time to watch LinkedIn and see which women in energy are getting promoted to the highest levels in their company.

Chelsea: I think the opportunities for women in this field are endless. Our industry is so unique in that there are a wide range of positions from inventing new technologies or writing code to spending your days in a crawlspace, and everything in between. This industry provides the opportunity to do what you love while helping make someone’s home or workspace more comfortable.

 

What advice would you offer women entering the industry? 

Liz: Work hard, be aware of opportunities, find your voice and use it.

Leigh Anne: Listen a lot and build your skillset. Develop mentors. You’re not expected to know everything so be patient with yourself. Take notes and follow up if you hear something that interests you or you don’t understand. Be curious and brave!

Chelsea: My general advice for young women entering the workforce is to not be afraid to use your voice. You were chosen for your position as the best candidate so don’t feel that you cannot bring new ideas to the table.

 

What is your number one energy efficiency tip? 

Liz: Turning off the lights. My dad drilled this into me as a child in the 70s and I think it creates an awareness and mindset that carries into many other things with a cumulative beneficial impact.

Leigh Anne: If you haven’t installed LEDs yet, run to a store and get them right now.

Chelsea: We love our smart thermostat!

 

What is one thing about the energy efficiency industry that you would like to see change? 

Liz: Breaking down silos!  There is a lot of fragmentation. [But] when we work together, we have a stronger message and can achieve more. This is one of the great benefits of VAEEC!

Leigh Anne: I’d like energy efficiency to get more credit for the game changer that it is.

Chelsea: We need more workforce development training to provide more demand for the job creation we are seeing and hope to see further in the future.

Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code Updates

Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code Updates

The Department of Housing and Community Development Board has finalized the latest update to the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). This update puts us nearly inline with the 2018 model international energy conservation code (IECC). (The international model code comes out every three years with the 2021 update recently being finalized. More details on that below). 

The latest update to the Virginia USBC includes some major energy improvements such as:

  1. Increased fenestration, which has been included in the model code since 2012
  2. Blower door testing requirements, which has been included in the model code since 2012
  3. Increased minimum ceiling insulation from R-38 to R-49, which has been included in the model code since 2012
  4. ResCheck compliance updated to 2018 IECC, without Virginia amendments. Previously, a work around had been created for VA amendments that weakened the current IECC. 
  5. Energy certificate requirements, which has been included in the model code since 2006

These improvements, in addition to the expanded energy requirements we worked to incorporate into the last USBC update, bring Virginia nearly inline with the 2018 IECC. Along the east coast, only a handful of states have fully adopted the 2018 IECC, and only one southeastern state- Florida- has done so.

The remaining proposals from the 2018 IECC that are not included in the Virginia USBC are:

  • Increased wall insulation R-value
  • Changing building tightness from 5 ACH to 3 ACH

There is a 30-day comment period open on the Final USBC in the Virginia Register through March 31, 2021. DHCD anticipates an effective date of July 1st, and will begin the 2021 update once the 2018 update takes effect.

General Assembly Bill Update

The General Assembly also passed a bill in 2021 mandating a review of the most-updated IECC. While the original version of this bill mandated an automatic update to the latest IECC within one year, the final bill does not provide a timeline, nor does it expressly state that an automatic update is to occur. Instead, it requires the state to consider amendments that address the changes made in the model code. Since this is quite vague, it’s unclear how this will affect future update processes. 

Updates at the International Level

The 2021 IECC was also finalized this fall after a massive appeals process. According to the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the energy requirements in the final model code will account for a whopping 19% in energy efficiency gains in the residential sector when implemented.

Key changes include:

  • Envelope: fenestration and insulation increases
  • Lighting: increased efficacy to promote LED use
  • HVAC: duct leakage testing required in conditioned spaces, mechanical ventilation systems tested for flow rates, and ventilation fan efficacy increased 
  • Performance Path/ ERI: provides builders more flexibility to choose options that will work on specific projects based on their particular design, building type and location.
  • Optional zero-energy compliance pathway: provides jurisdictions an opportunity to adopt a base or stretch code that achieves zero energy in homes and low-rise multifamily buildings. 

More details about these changes can be found in this DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy presentation. 

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