Spring 2024 Forum Recap

Virginia’s energy efficiency industry gathered together on May 5th to learn and connect at the VAEEC’s annual Spring Forum. With over 100 energy efficiency professionals in attendance, this was our largest Spring Forum since the pandemic. Thanks to our sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making the event a great success! A special thank you to Henrico County for providing the venue.

The Spring Forum kicked off with an opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish, who provided an update about Virginia’s energy efficiency industry and the organization’s accomplishments throughout the past year. We also conducted a live audience poll to get real-time feedback from attendees about what benefits and topics they’d like to see more of.

    • In light of recent federal and state funds and legislation, what are the top three technologies you feel the VAEEC should focus on?
      • #1 Heat pumps 
      • #2 Data center efficiency technologies 
      • #3 (tie) Heat pump hot water heaters 
      • #3 (tie) Solar-ready/EV-ready construction 
      • #3 (tie) Commercial/Industrial decarbonization strategies 
    • The VAEEC has a strategic goal to diversify membership to better reflect the racial and geographic diversity of the state. What are the top three outreach strategies you feel the membership committee should focus on? 
      • #1 Community events 
      • #2 Workforce development outreach 
      • #3 Locality engagement 
    • The VAEEC hosts two biannual forums per year, in addition to webinars, round tables, and workshops. What are the top benefits you’re like to see more of? 
      • #1 Networking 
      • #2 Icebreakers and/or opportunities to get to know other members
      • #3 More interactivity

Next was a keynote address from Paula Glover, President of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE). With ASE’s focus on advancing federal energy efficiency policy, Paula provided an inspirational message about the importance of working as a team. She used the metaphor of running as a team and creating winning strategies for this long and complex race we are all running to advance energy efficiency forward. Paula encouraged us to team up and use our strengths towards a greater goal. 

Next, VAEEC Board Chair Leigh Anne Ratliff led the business meeting, which started off with our 2024 Board of Directors election.

VAEEC members re-elected one board member:

    • Michael Hubbard, Dominion Energy (3rd full term)

Members then voted to elect three new directors to the Board:

    • Raye Elliott, FLIPP Inc.
    • Megan McMillen, Community Housing Partners
    • Nam Nguyen, Virginia Tech

We are thrilled to add new voices to our leadership and to continue working with our current Board members. 

Attendees were next treated to a round-robin of updates and successes from our members before moving into a networking break. After reconvening, the plenary session began. Over the last few years, we have seen many changes to the energy efficiency industry – energy efficiency legislation, new State Corporation Commission (SCC) commissioners, unprecedented funding from federal and state programs, new model building codes, the ongoing fight over Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and more. This panel, Exploring the Energy Efficiency Landscape in 2024 & Beyond, explored how these changes affect Virginia and strived to answer the question: what’s next?

Speakers included:

    • Chelsea Harnish, Virginia Energy Efficiency Council: Along with moderating the session, Chelsea provided applicable policy updates from the 2024 General Assembly session. 
    • Will Cleveland, Lighthouse Policy & Law: Will discussed the Commonwealth’s regulatory landscape and changes to the State Corporation Commission.
    • Hadja Doumbouya, Virginia Energy: With ample federal programs providing funding to the Commonwealth, Hadja provided an overview of the Home Energy Rebate Programs (HOMES and HEAR) guidelines, updates, and eligibility. 
    • Sean Shanley, Viridiant: Sean provided an update on Virginia’s residential building code policy, including changes from the past year and what we can expect moving forward. 
    • Meghan McMillen, Community Housing Partners: As the Director of Weatherization with CHP and Board President of the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, Meghan discussed the current status of weatherization across Virginia and what we can expect in the near future.

Once the event wrapped up, nearly 50 people joined us for an off-site happy hour where the networking continued well into the evening. Networking opportunities are still one of the key benefits our members value, and we are happy to provide these opportunities for connection and collaboration.

As always, this event would not have been possible without our sponsors, speakers, and attendees. We would also like to thank the VAEEC Education & Events Committee for helping staff plan such a successful event.

Be sure to save the date for our fall Energy Efficiency Forum– October 2nd (virtual) and October 3rd (in-person, University of Richmond). We hope to see you there.

Additional event information, including speaker biographies and sponsor features, can be found in the event program. Event attendees received a PDF of the event’s presentation in the post-event email. Contact info@vaeec.org if you did not receive it. Events photos can be viewed in the photo gallery below.

Dominion Phase XII DSM Filing Updates

Last December, Dominion Energy filed their latest DSM application (Phase XII) with the State Corporation Commission. The company is proposing four new programs and seeks to modify two current programs. The VAEEC is a respondent in the case, with our Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish, providing expert testimony..  

The four new programs are: Residential New Construction (EE), Residential Smart Thermostat Purchase (EE), Residential Smart Thermostat (DR), and Non-residential New Construction (EE). They also requested to update the eligibility criteria for the Phase VIII Small Business Improvement Enhanced Program to allow for businesses with more than five locations to participate, and to change the Phase VIII Non-residential Energy Efficiency Midstream Program to offer more up-to-date program measures, such as ice makers and dishwashers.  

We fully support Dominion’s application. However, we identified several areas for continued improvement


Support for the Phase XII Filing as Necessary but not Sufficient to Meet VCEA targets

The programs and alterations proposed are necessary steps for Dominion to achieve their energy efficiency goals. However, it is still very unlikely that they will go far enough to meet the VCEA EERS targets. Chelsea said in her testimony, “Since this filing is the last opportunity for the Company to propose new programs before the end of 2025, it will need to deploy other resources including: increasing participation rates, utilizing Commission approved, portfolio level marketing funds to increase consumer awareness, and do more to leverage the functionalities of Advanced Metering Infrastructure or AMI.” 

Dominion will also need to launch all of its previously approved programs to start accumulating the energy savings needed to meet the VCEA targets, as well as continuing to utilize the stakeholder group to build out implementation plans for the four key recommendations from the Hearing Examiner’s Report. As it currently stands, and depending on the metric used, Dominion will only achieve 3.2% savings in 2024 and 3.7% in 2025, which are significantly short of the mandated 3.75% and 5%, respectively. However, it is critical that the SCC does not address this shortfall by reducing the EE targets – meeting the targets that were adopted in the VCEA, and continuing to mandate stronger goals, are critical to promoting an energy-efficient economy, combating climate change, and providing a safe and healthy environment for all Virginians. 

In regards to the New Residential Home Construction Program, we raised concerns about the version being utilized in the program. The Dominion program only requires that new homes are built to Energy STAR 3.1 standards, however, the standard was recently updated to 3.2, which is required for home builders to receive the federal 45L tax credit. Since it has been confirmed by EPA that homes built to 3.2 do meet the standards in 3.1, we asked the Commission to ensure that Dominion allows homebuilders building to version 3.2 can also participate in their program. 


Analysis of the Long-Term Plan, Project Management Report

In late 2022. Dominion released a long-term plan (LTP) outlining how the company would meet the energy savings goals in the VCEA. In last year’s filing, the company did not provide specific metrics or quantifiable data on tracking this progress so the Commission recommended they include an LTP Progress Report with this year’s filing. Unfortunately, the report in the current filing continues to be vague while also reporting that the company is making “considerable progress” on the recommendations set forth in the LTP. We provided examples of metrics the company issued in interrogatories, as well as the EE stakeholder group, and asked the Commission to explicitly require quantifiable metrics in future filings so that stakeholders can better assess the true progress that is being made towards the VCEA goals. 


Review of Cost-Effectiveness Test Results

Virginia law requires proposed utility EE programs to pass three out of a possible four cost-effectiveness tests in order to be approved by the SCC. These four tests are:

  • Participant Cost Test
  • Utility Cost
  • Total Resource Cost and
  • Ratepayer Impact Measure (“RIM”) 

 These tests were designed in the 1980s and do not take into account any of the technologies or modernizations of the intervening decades. Moreover, the tests vary widely from state-to-state or even program-to-program, with the inputs heavily weighted towards the costs to the utility without considering many of the benefits. 

As our members are likely aware, the VAEEC formally supported the SAVE Act in the 2024 General Assembly Session, which requires the Commission to develop a single cost-benefit test following the guiding principles of the National Standard Practice Manual (NSPM). The Governor added an amendment, which will also require the utilities to perform the TRC test in addition to the new test. While this amendment is not perfect, there are opportunities to address the issues this could raise before the new test is implemented in 2029. On April 17th, the General Assembly reconvened for “veto session,” and formally accepted this amendment. 

Adopting a new cost-effectiveness test following the guiding principles of the NSPM would ensure that all investor-owned utilities in Virginia are using the same inputs in a transparent and balanced analysis that is forward-looking and aligns with the energy policy goals of the Commonwealth.


Discussion of Net/Gross Savings Metrics 

The VCEA codifies “total annual energy savings” as the method-of-choice for determining energy savings, which includes savings from both new measures installed in a given program year, as well as measures installed in previous years that are still actively providing energy savings. 

However, there has been an ongoing debate on whether the utilities can use net or gross savings to meet the VCEA targets. Dominion and SCC staff say the utilities should be able to use gross savings while environmental experts state that only net savings should be counted. While the VAEEC does not have a position on this issue, we felt compelled to weigh in this year when the company provided definitions for the two terms that do not align with industry standards. 

Gross savings are the difference in energy consumption based on the savings from a particular measure or project vs the baseline consumption without that measure in place – and net savings, is essentially gross savings minus “free riders,”- or customers who would have installed the measure without participation in a utility program, per the EPA Guidebook for Energy Efficiency Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification.  

In simpler terms, gross savings are calculated as the energy savings attributable to a particular measure—for instance, by comparing the energy usage of a high-efficiency dishwasher to the energy usage of the ordinary dishwasher it replaced. 

In Dominion’s Legal Memorandum on the matter, the company stated the difference was related to whether or not the savings were from a program or specific measure. 

“Simply stated, gross savings are the savings from the energy efficiency measure (e.g., savings from a high efficiency light bulb or air conditioner upgrade) while net savings are the savings from the energy efficiency program (e.g., the Residential Home Energy Assessment Program or Non-residential Heating and Cooling Efficiency Program).” Not only is this not an industry-recognized definition, but it is also contradictory to the technical reference materials used in Dominion’s own 2023 EM&V report. 

When considering whether to use gross or net savings to calculate progress towards the VCEA goals, the SCC will need to rely on correct definitions cited in industry standard manuals.  


Celebrating Womens History Month

As Women’s History Month winds down, we recognize the innovation, achievement, and leadership of women across the energy efficiency industry. Here at the VAEEC, the work women do to advance energy efficiency is obvious – we’re an all women team, with several additional women serving on our Board of Directors and in Executive Leadership. To celebrate, we are recognizing three VAEEC members who lead the pack of women-owned businesses.  

Raye Elliott is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of FLIPP Inc a 501c3 nonprofit headquartered in Dillwyn, VA that exists to reduce employment barriers for disadvantaged populations and to empower low-income communities with renewable energy training. Ms. Elliott serves on the board of the Virginia Renewable Energy Alliance (VA-REA), and more notably skyrocketed FLIPP Inc’s annual revenue from under $50,000 to more than $2.3 million within ten months of being appointed as the Executive Director in 2022. Raye holds a master’s degree in information technology, has a background in Hydropower with the US Army Corps of Engineers, and in Construction and Federal Government Contracting with the Department of Defense. Raye recently designed a renewable energy worker-centered sector strategy that was grant funded in 2023 by the USDOL-ETA just shy of $2 million. She has led FLIPP Inc to be the 2023 recipients of the C3 “Energy Equity Award” & the United States Green Building Council-Virginia Chapter’s 2023 “Community Impact Organization of the Year Award”. Raye believes in an “equity in energy” industry strategy, being a great bridge for the barrier ridden, returning back into the workforce and the un-employed individual that needs meaningful employment within a rapidly growing industry.

Jennifer Jesse is the visionary force behind Quick AC Quote (QUACQ), a distinguished SWAM designated Class A contractor licensed in Virginia and West Virginia, where she serves as both founder and Chief Financial Officer. Under Jennifer’s dynamic leadership, QUACQ has earned a sterling reputation for excellence, specializing in large-scale multi-family HVAC replacement projects with a workforce of 20 dedicated employees. With a remarkable capacity to replace 30-40 heat pump systems weekly, QUACQ also extends its expertise to single-family homes, offering comprehensive weatherization services and addressing diverse heating and cooling needs with unparalleled precision. With over 18 years of dedicated service as a Registered Nurse and a further 9 years as a Realtor, Jennifer’s unwavering commitment to helping others has remained steadfast. Whether providing compassionate care to oncology patients, facilitating significant home purchases, or pioneering energy-efficient solutions since 2019, Jennifer’s passion for making a positive impact shines through in every endeavor. A lifelong learner, Jennifer’s love of acquiring new skills and knowledge fuels her success, a trait she attributes to her consistent dedication to growth and innovation.  

Driven by a constant commitment to excellence and sustainability, Jennifer continues to lead QUACQ with distinction, empowering her team to reach new heights of success. Through strategic initiatives aimed at employment, education, and certification, Jennifer ensures QUACQ remains at the forefront of the industry. With ambitious plans to expand into multiple East Coast states by the end of 2024, Jennifer’s vision for QUACQ transcends mere business goals; it’s about building a better, more sustainable future for generations to come.

Sandra Leibowitz is the Founder and Owner of Sustainable Design Consulting, LLC (SDC), operating from offices in Richmond, Virginia and Washington, DC.  Prior to founding SDC in 2002, Sandra served as Sustainable Design Specialist for three Washington, DC-area architecture and consulting firms, after earning a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Oregon. 

Sandra draws from over 30 years of advanced experience with hundreds of sustainable design projects and dozens of organizational programs to serve institutions, building owners, design, construction and property management professionals with expert green building consulting and process management.  She leads SDC’s team of experienced and credentialed professionals integrating sustainable design, construction, operations, maintenance, measurement, and reporting concepts into projects of varying size and complexity. 

When and why did you start/buy this business? 

Sandra Leibowitz: I founded Sustainable Design Consulting (SDC) in 2002.  By that point, I had been in the DC-area for some six years, working for three architecture and consulting firms.  At that time and in that place, the ideal firm I would have wanted to work for didn’t really exist, so I concluded that I had to either make it myself or just go and join another architecture firm, which would have been the easier path, by far.

Raye Elliott: In September 2020, FLIPP Inc was birthed by myself and my cousin AJ; we started out simply wanting to change mindsets and ended up transforming lives. Our inspiration for the company’s mission was a combination of personal passion and wanting to provide high-quality progressive career avenues for all. The ongoing fight the Historic Union Hill community had to prevent the Dominion Energy ACP from polluting our community was definitely a catalyst event (where we lived our entire childhood lives at), the stagnation observed of the Buckingham County Economic Development and the lack of opportunity in the area.

Jennifer Jesse: Several years ago, I embarked on the journey of founding a HVAC company in Virginia. Our inception as an HVAC enterprise stemmed from a deep-seated desire to aid individuals in need, aiming to provide them with enhanced energy-efficient heating and cooling solutions for their residences. As our commitment to serving our community intensified, our company evolved to encompass a broader spectrum of energy efficiency weatherization measures, meticulously designed to not only optimize home comfort but also alleviate the financial burden associated with homeownership.

What are some ways women can access leadership roles in EE? 

Jennifer Jesse: Women can access leadership roles in the energy efficiency (EE) industry through a combination of education, experience, networking, and mentorship. Seeking out opportunities for hands-on experience, volunteering, and professional development can help build skills and credibility. Networking with other women in the industry, joining professional organizations, and seeking out mentors can also provide valuable support and guidance on the path to leadership.

Sandra Leibowitz: You can do what I did: launch your own consultancy, but starting and maintaining a small business can be very challenging in and of itself.  These days, there are many existing opportunities in EE policy and practice, both in the public and private sectors.  When climbing one of those ladders toward leadership, becoming known externally as a subject matter expert, professional advocate and/or community leader can be very helpful.  Of course, some leadership roles are more about organizational management, so if that’s a skillset of yours, as it is among mine, then show your worth by taking on higher and higher levels of internal responsibility.

Raye Elliott: Creating an environment “from the top down” within an organization that encourages women obtaining leadership roles, making gender diversification a NECESSITY and not a PERK, awareness of these roles and proper engagement.  

What advice would you give women who are trying to enter the industry? 

Raye Elliott: Be persistent, gain experience, get credentialed and master the art of networking. 

Jennifer Jesse: My advice to women entering the energy efficiency industry is to be confident in your abilities and passionate about your mission. Don’t be afraid to pursue opportunities, take on challenges, and advocate for yourself. Seek out like minded individuals who can offer support and guidance along the way. Remember that your unique perspective and experiences are valuable assets that can contribute to the industry’s success.

Sandra Leibowitz: Spend at least a few months checking out the types of organizations that you think you might want to work for and read the job descriptions that are offered.  Join professional and/or local community organizations and pour some of your time and energy (don’t overdo it!) into initiatives that excite you.  Send out resumes to the employers that interest you and request informational interviews, because you never know when the perfect opportunity may open up – it’s so helpful to employers to already have a pipeline of promising candidates at their fingertips when an opening occurs.  And don’t forget to keep your LinkedIn profile updated!

What barriers and opportunities do you perceive for women in EE? 

Jennifer Jesse: Women in the energy efficiency industry face both barriers and opportunities. Some barriers include gender bias, lack of representation in leadership roles, and limited access to resources and opportunities. However, there are also opportunities for women to excel in the industry, such as the growing demand for sustainable solutions, the emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and the increasing recognition of the importance of women’s contributions. By advocating for gender equity, supporting one another, and leveraging our strengths, we can overcome barriers and create a more inclusive and equitable industry.

Raye Elliott: Barriers for women in EE I’ve observed are 1. stereotypes as to what jobs women ‘should’ do, 2. systemic inequality of opportunity and 3. Just being in a “male-dominated” industry is deemed as a danger to the men because we are a minority and viable competition. 

Opportunities are 1. We are many times under-estimated and are able to easily surpass our male counterparts, 2.  Where there’s threats there are always opportunities – due to the high disparity there’s an increased emphasis on women in leadership roles and 3. I’ve begun mentoring other women to enter into the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector. If we support, mentor, create avenues for advancement and empower one another, we help ease the transition together.

Sandra Leibowitz: Depending on the specific job and work environment, EE can still be very male-dominated.  That’s really not true of sustainable design or green building anymore, so in this case I’m speaking less from direct experience than I am from an observer’s viewpoint.  Also, employers know that women tend to be adept at organizing people, programs, and initiatives – which can be a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, doing what comes naturally can help raise your profile and get you a seat at the table.  On the other hand, women shouldn’t step into or stay in roles just because men won’t – or still assume that it’s ‘women’s work’.

Tell me a little about your background. How did you get into the EE industry?

Raye Elliott: I have a background in hydropower and solar workforce development; renewable energy placed me on a path to learning how integral energy efficiency is and its importance. I had my in-depth exposure with energy efficiency when I worked with the Department of Defense as a construction contracting official and our armory renovations as well as our newly constructed Joint Forces Headquarters buildings had to be LEED certified. I was surprised and fascinated with how much work and the consideration that went into ensuring a “Green Building” was achieved by focusing on the holistic approach to minimize its environmental impact.

Jennifer Jesse: With a background of being a Registered Nurse and Realtor and an understanding of business, I was fortunate enough to step into a platform inside the EE industry that allows me to keep assisting those in need.  It has always been my desire to help and extend out a hand when possible to ensure those who are in need are heard and taken care of.  Energy Efficiency has allowed me to not only help people but also help this wonderful planet we live on.  It has felt like a true blessing to do something so meaningful.

Sandra Leibowitz: I started in this direction – which I guess was originally called ‘environmental architecture’ – way back in 1992 as I was graduating college, where unfortunately I learned little about all this at that time.  I did so because I loved architecture, yet considered myself an environmentalist, so put it together for myself by choosing architecture as my environmental career.  After grad school at the University of Oregon, where I immersed myself in what we then called ‘ecological design’, I moved to DC, where we instead tended to call it ‘sustainable design’.  Over several years working for others, I began what would become my ultimate professional career as a ‘green building’ consultant / consulting firm leader.  Living in Richmond for many years further expanded my community into the Central Virginia region.

What is something you wish people of other genders knew about your experiences? 

Sandra Leibowitz: Women leaders seem to be expected to make everyone happy all the time.  Besides being impossible generally, it’s both unrealistic and unfair to think that others’ happiness is under our control.  Furthermore, we don’t tend to burden male leaders with that expectation.

Raye Elliott: It’s extremely hard breaking into an industry that is both white-washed and male dominated. Folks that aren’t clear on my experience and contributions (and those that are clear), have judged, discriminated, and tested me two or three times more than the guys. I personally have been held to a higher standard and had to prove myself more than men I am acquainted with, within the EE and renewable sectors.

Jennifer Jesse: I wish people understood the resilience, determination, and perseverance required to navigate these challenges and succeed in leadership positions as a woman. It’s not just about breaking through the glass ceiling; it’s about constantly pushing against barriers, advocating for oneself and others, and overcoming stereotypes and biases that can undermine our credibility and contributions. Overall, I wish people of all genders would recognize the importance of supporting and empowering women in leadership roles, not just for the benefit of individual women but for the success and resilience of businesses and organizations as a whole.

What’s your favorite EE tip? 

Raye Elliott: Turn off the lights when they’re not in use. This is approximately 12% of a usual residential utility bill.

Jennifer Jesse: My favorite EE tip would be to regularly maintain and tune up your HVAC system with the easiest being checking and replacing your filter regularly. Proper maintenance ensures that your heating and cooling equipment operates at peak efficiency, reducing your energy bills, improving comfort, and reducing your carbon footprint. Regular maintenance and smart usage practices are key to maximizing the efficiency and performance of your HVAC system. 

Sandra Leibowitz: Bigger isn’t necessarily better – that can be said of buildings themselves, their equipment, and the organizations that own and occupy them.  Take a ‘right-sizing’ approach to EE and life in general!

Celebrating Black History Month in Energy Efficiency

Black history is American history, and while we celebrate this every February, the contributions of the Black community shine year round. This is particularly clear in the energy efficiency industry, where innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders have paved the way for adoption and advancement for centuries. Lewis Lattimer revolutionized indoor lighting in the 1800s by refining the filament used in light bulbs, turning them from an expensive luxury to an everyday necessity. David Crosthwaite filed more than 43 patents for heating and air conditioning equipment in the 1920s and 30s, and was the first Black man to become a fellow in the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers. And even more recently, Lisa P. Jackson served as the first Black administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2009, prioritizing indoor air quality and climate change. 

As a broad coalition of industry leaders, the VAEEC sees the amazing work our Black colleagues do on a regular basis. To highlight their insights and voices, we asked four members to share their experiences in the energy efficiency field.   

Royce Brooks is a Member Service Specialist at Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) where she has been employed for the past 25 years. She manages the PJM Demand Response Program for ODEC’s member-owner distribution cooperatives to ensure they are properly registered in the PJM program. She also works with Demand Response and Energy Efficiency (DR/EE) and Strategic Electrification (SE) teams ensuring the successful implementation and verification of programs, supports ODEC’s 11 member-owner distribution cooperatives Load Research program, and helps plan, coordinate and facilitate member education efforts. Royce is a member of the Generation & Transmission (G&T) Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Systems Working Group.  She has a BS Degree in Business Administration from Virginia Union University.

McKenna Dunbar is a steadfast advocate for equitable clean energy transitions in frontline and rural communities, with a focus on the intricate intersections of environmental justice, green workforce development, and net-zero building policy initiatives. As the Building Electrification Staffer at Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, McKenna leads a team dedicated to advancing building electrification and reducing fossil fuel dependence. They are also a member of the VAEEC Board of Directors. 

Maggie Kelley Riggins is the Senior Program Manage at Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) and has devoted her career to developing innovative and holistic approaches to understanding and solving gnarly problems faced in the South around climate and energy. Maggie currently manages the building portfolio as SEEA, where she is laying the landscape for equity through climate and workforce in energy efficiency. She manages SEEA’s energy efficient building code and standards work and the building-oriented pilot project models for local governments to increase energy efficiency as a solution for residential, commercial, and municipal buildings. Maggie is leading the nation’s work in drawing direct connections from building energy codes and standards to racial justice, opening new pathways to achieve affordable, healthy, and sustainable housing for everyone.

Anitra Watson is the Energy Conservation Program Manager at Dominion Energy. In her role she oversees the implementation of the Income and Age Qualifying Programs for Virginia and North Carolina, the residential Manufactured Housing Program, and the residential and commercial Multifamily Programs for Virginia. She monitors program progress, quality controls, and financial oversight. Anitra assists with testimony prep, discovery development and provides strategic recommendations. She works closely with Implementation Vendors, the Weatherization Service Providers, and Independent Contractors to ensure successful program implementation. 


Why are you passionate about energy efficiency? 

Royce:  I am passionate about energy efficiency because it helps us save money. And who doesn’t like to save money, especially energy, the one thing we can’t live without! It’s a growing industry from lighting, appliances, renewable energy, beneficial electrification, and weatherization. Having efficient homes and buildings is the key to improving lifestyles.

Maggie: To me, energy efficiency is a way to support people in having a higher quality of life. Improving the energy efficiency of someone’s home or business directly relates to their economic opportunity, their health, and the resilience of their structures – all things that are very important in the Southeast. Getting to work in the energy efficiency and buildings sector affords me the opportunity to have a direct impact on the day to day lives of people and communities.

Anitra: Our health and our living conditions are intimately intertwined. If living conditions are not standard, it can weigh on the physical and mental stability of the individual. By providing energy efficiency we are improving living conditions, changing lives, and so much more. I am passionate because it provides a healthy environment for our customers and a sustainable approach in our industry. 

McKenna: My passion for energy efficiency stems from its unique position at the intersection of innovation, equity, and environmental stewardship. This sector represents a fertile ground for technological advancement, where creative solutions can significantly reduce energy consumption, lower utility bills, and contribute to a more sustainable planet. 

But beyond the technology, what really does excite me is the potential for energy efficiency to democratize access to clean, affordable energy. By focusing on how to make energy efficiency more accessible and affordable, we can ensure that the benefits of renewable energy and modernized infrastructure reach all communities, not just the affluent ones. This focus on equity ensures that our efforts in energy efficiency can help bridge the gap between different socioeconomic groups, making it a powerful tool for social change.


What brought you to the energy efficiency industry? 

Maggie: I am fortunate to have gone to school in the time where energy policy was a degree pathway. I have been interested in sustainability, climate change, and the role of communities since I was in high school and was able to study this further in college at Georgia Tech. The impact keeps me in the energy efficiency sector. Being able to directly support and empower communities, uplift community perspective and voice, and be a champion for better outcomes for folks in the Southeast is a privilege I get to experience every day in this sector.

Royce: When I came to work at Old Dominion Electric Cooperatives(ODEC), I started in IT. When an opportunity came available in Member Services to work with our member-owner distribution cooperatives and facilitate the Energy Efficiency programs, I thought it was a great opportunity to learn about the energy side of the business.

McKenna: My journey into the energy efficiency industry was sparked by my work in building electrification and workforce development in the solar industry. Initially, I was fascinated by the technical aspects of how buildings could be transformed to use energy more cleanly and efficiently. This work opened my eyes to the broader implications of energy use in our daily lives and the potential for systemic change through smarter energy practices. As I delved deeper into this field, I became increasingly aware of the critical role that energy efficiency plays in combating climate change, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and promoting a healthier environment.

The more I learned, the more I recognized the interdisciplinary nature of the challenge. It was not just about engineering and advocating for better systems but also about understanding the economic incentives for adoption, the regulatory environment, and the social impact of energy policies. This complexity made the field incredibly appealing to me, as it offered the chance to engage with a variety of stakeholders, from policymakers and business leaders to community organizers and homeowners.

Furthermore, the equity aspect of energy efficiency deeply resonated with me. I saw how targeted efficiency improvements could make a significant difference in low-income communities, often the most affected by high energy costs and pollution. This realization solidified my commitment to the sector, as I wanted to contribute to making energy efficiency solutions accessible and beneficial to all, regardless of their economic status. It’s a sector where I believe my efforts can contribute to meaningful, positive changes in the world, making it an endlessly inspiring field to be a part of.

Anitra: In my former role working with Home Revitalization Programs, I would refer my clients to the Energy Conservation Program once the Home Revitalization was completed. This became part of my program process. So, when the opportunity became available, I embraced it. I saw the impacts of energy efficiency and how small changes made a difference. 


What do you think the biggest challenges and opportunities are for Black workers entering the field? 

McKenna: For Black professionals entering the energy efficiency field, navigating the landscape comes with its own set of unique challenges and opportunities. A significant challenge many face, including myself, is overcoming systemic barriers. One of the most pressing issues is underrepresentation, which complicates finding mentorship and role models. This lack of representation can make it harder to navigate the industry and find the support needed to thrive.

On the other hand, the energy efficiency (EE) industry is brimming with potential, particularly as it begins to prioritize diversity, equity, and environmental justice. This shift is opening up avenues for Black professionals to take the lead and drive innovation. There’s a real chance here to develop sustainable energy solutions, policies, and businesses that not only improve the state as a whole but also specifically uplift communities that are disproportionately affected by energy challenges—like rural, BIPOC, and low-income areas (comprised of leaders who encompass these identities). The industry’s push towards embracing new technologies and tackling climate issues also creates a rich environment for entrepreneurial ventures and innovative projects.

What’s encouraging is the emergence of a support network dedicated to breaking down these systemic barriers and enhancing the representation of Black professionals in the field. However, it’s important to recognize that not all support efforts are created equal. Just because something looks like a bird and sounds like a bird, does not a bird make. True, justice-oriented support will be the key in providing meaningful mentorship, specialized training, and broader career opportunities for Black professionals in the EE industry.

Royce: The biggest challenge is identity. We need to see more African Americans working and operating in their own communities. 

Anitra: I think the biggest challenge for any worker entering the field is transparency on how to get started, and where to go for resources. 

Maggie: One of the largest challenges I faced was being able to see myself in a role. There are some incredible Black trailblazers in this industry, many of which are now being celebrated, honored, and valued at the federal level. When I came into the industry though, there were fewer individuals who were championing this space, and getting the recognition they deserved in doing so. I’m grateful to have the platforms I have, and to elevate voices of other Black leaders, so that younger Black folks and those who may want to transition to this space see that there is room for them here.


What is one thing about the industry you would like to see change? How can other groups help make that change? 

Anitra: I would like to see workforce development opportunities for General Contractors in Energy Efficiency. By providing the opportunity to bridge the gap with licensed and insured contractors, we are paving the way for more experts working in the industry. Other groups can help make the change by design thinking, creating a seamless way to ensure opportunities through education and certification are met and General Contractors are incentivized with work opportunities upon certification completion.

Royce:  I would like the industry to recruit from HBCUs, community colleges, and high schools to inform and educate people about the opportunities in the industry.  It’s an evolving industry with never ending opportunities and there is so much to learn. 

Maggie: I love the shift that is happening for investing in and working alongside communities who have been historically intentionally discriminated against, whether that is through the Justice40 lens or from other equity commitments or companies and organizations. There is so much further to go to meaningfully engage and support communities across the country to realize a clean energy and energy efficient future, though. One thing organizations and companies could do that I would love to see improved is paying people for their time. Community expertise is just as important, if not more important at times, as technical expertise. To do this work well, we need to ensure that when we write community groups, organizations, or representatives into our plans, that we also include them in our budgets.

McKenna: A pivotal shift I envision for the industry revolves around enhancing the inclusivity and justice orientation of entities within the energy efficiency (EE) workforce, ensuring they genuinely reflect the communities they serve. The challenge lies in the distribution of statewide formula funding from federal initiatives, which historically has favored organizations that, intentionally or not, have maintained a monopoly, sidelining partners from disinvested and historically disenfranchised communities. To foster a more equitable distribution, a concerted effort from all stakeholders is imperative. Federal and state agencies could revise funding criteria to prioritize inclusivity and collaboration. Meanwhile, industry leaders and funding bodies should facilitate platforms for dialogue and partnership, ensuring environmental justice and DEIJ-rooted community-based organizations are not just participants but leaders in shaping and implementing EE initiatives. This approach not only democratizes energy efficiency efforts but also amplifies their impact across the commonwealth, fostering a more inclusive and just energy transition.


What’s your favorite EE tip? 

McKenna: One of the most effective EE tips I can offer is to consider installing a heat pump in your home. Heat pumps are a versatile and efficient solution for both heating and cooling, operating on the principle of transferring heat rather than generating it, which makes them incredibly energy-efficient. This means they can really help lower your energy bills and cut down on your carbon footprint. They’re good for both heating and cooling, adapting well to different climates, so you stay comfortable all year round. I encourage people to  get an energy audit done to assess whether this technology is a right fit for their home! 

Anitra: Change your filters, so your HVAC system does not work harder to keep you comfortable.

Maggie: My favorite EE tip is that small things add up. Weather stripping, changing out light bulbs, making sure your attic insulation is up to par, etc. can make huge differences in not just energy bills, but also the comfort and health of your space!

Royce: Cooking on the grill on warm days!! Good food and fun!!


What advice would you give to another member of the Black community when entering the field? 

Maggie: I advise everyone to reach out to people in the industry that inspire you. Shoot your shot, as they say. There are so many incredible people who would be more than willing to connect with you, serve as mentors, and see you shine in this industry. This doesn’t have to be a lonely experience – we want to help you!

Royce: The industry is evolving so quickly and there is so much to learn, and the industry provides job security and stability. I have worked in the industry for 25 years and I continue to grow and develop.

McKenna: Keep believing in the heart of the mission, no matter what fluff you see surrounding you. The mission can be personal. For me, I believe energy efficiency is an important tool in the clean energy transition toolbox. It means that this tool has the collective power of alleviating and mitigating the suffering of millions across the country, much less hundreds of thousands in the Commonwealth. 

It means that in your own unique way, the work you are engaged in means something to someone out there. Stay motivated by the difference your contributions make, however big or small, knowing that each step forward is a stride towards a justice-oriented world. Believe in your voice and ask yourself and your collaborators, what is our vision if we cease to believe in the mission?

Anitra: The work in this field changes lives, the assistance you provide will have an impact on the lives of others.


What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had? 

Anitra: When I was working in the field, I spent the day with my Energy Auditor. We visited a home that applied for the Department of Social Services Crisis program, they had no heat. When we arrived at the home, the father replaced the flue on the wood stove with a dryer vent hose. He created a fire in the wood stove using gasoline. The gas containers were between the wall and the back of the wood stove.  Due to age, the entire unit was glowing. I am so glad we were able to prevent a bad situation escalating to something worse.

McKenna: Reflecting on the most unconventional role I’ve had, working as a mortician’s assistant stands out. This role, while initially seeming “weird,” offered profound insights into the cycles of life and death, teaching me invaluable lessons about authenticity and purpose. The experiences gained in this position- observing the finality of life and the importance of living with intention—have profoundly influenced my approach to social impact work, especially in areas like energy justice and climate mental health. It underscored the significance of embracing each day with purpose and has guided my career trajectory in meaningful ways.

Royce: The weirdest job I ever did was to go out in the field to probe a meter.

Maggie: I thankfully haven’t had many weird jobs, but in high school I volunteered in school collecting people’s old shoes for recycling. Very smelly work!

VAEEC Goes to the General Assembly!

On Thursday, February 8th, the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council Board and staff were invited to be recognized on the House of Delegates floor in support of the House Joint Resolution to designate October 4th as Energy Efficiency Day! While Chelsea has been camped out at the GA to help with legislator education, Jessica and Rebecca took their first field trip to the new building. We were excited to meet so many legislators and staffers throughout the day. 

Four Board members joined us at the House chamber gallery during the Morning Hour, which is the first hour of the Session, while Delegate Sullivan, a long-time champion for energy efficiency, introduced the VAEEC. We appreciate his ongoing support of our organization. You can view the video of our recognition below! 

VAEEC GA Recognition  

We later learned that the HJ6, the resolution to designate EE day, passed on an 83-7 vote. Now Virginia has joined dozens of other states in recognizing the value and importance of energy efficiency, not just on one day, but every day. 

Check out our photo gallery below. 

2023 Achievements

Throughout 2023, the VAEEC worked with our members to advance energy efficiency policies and programs in Virginia. Check out the graphic below to see our top 10 accomplishments. 2023 began the first year of our new, three-year strategic plan, which builds off of the tremendous progress we’ve made over the last several years. We are excited to begin the next chapter on solid ground with endless opportunities.

2023 Energy Efficiency Forum Recap

The Commonwealth’s energy efficiency community gathered on October 4th and 5th for the VAEEC’s annual Energy Efficiency Forum. Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, award winners, and attendees for making this event a great success!

Day one was fully virtual in an effort to make the event more accessible and to provide a diverse array of speakers from across the country. It consisted of a keynote address and four breakout sessions:

Keynote Address: Dr. Bob Holsworth is a Managing Partner at DecideSmart, a consulting firm that provides strategic solutions for complex challenges. Bringing decades of experience in the political sphere, he provided an analysis of Virginia’s election landscape and what that can mean for the Commonwealth’s clean energy future. 

“Regardless of the election results, there will be a slate of new legislators. Education will be important.” – Dr. Bob Holsworth, DecideSmart


Technology: What’s New and What’s Next?: The panelists in this session discussed heat pumps and heat pump hot water heaters, demand response AI programs, and data center cooling technologies. The discussion helped to sift facts from fiction and suss out what the on-the-ground realities are, and what we can look forward to in the future. Speakers included Richard Anderson (Siemens), Millie Knowlton (CPower), Andrew Grigsby (Viridiant), and Adam Sledd (Dominion Energy Innovation Center, moderator).

“The question we try to answer is, how can we leverage technology to help humans?” – Richard Anderson, Siemens


Implementing Green Building Policies in a Dillon Rule State: As a Dillon Rule state, Virginia localities are limited as to what they can and cannot mandate. However, jurisdictions are finding creative ways to make progress happen in their communities. Join speakers from Arlington County and the City of Alexandria as they discuss their green building policies and programs,  and how they have established minimum standards for new development and major renovations. This was an interactive session where audience members were encouraged to engage with speakers to learn how to implement their own green building policies. VAEEC Board member, Bill Eger (Arlington County), moderated the panel, which included Arlington County’s Paul Roman and the City of Alexandria’s Valerie Amor, and Robert Kerns.

“The idea of ‘business as usual’, ‘we’ve always done it this way’, is one of the biggest challenges in getting developers on board. We’ve got to embrace new ways of doing things to implement green building strategies.” – Valerie Amor, City of Alexandria


Rural Energy Efficiency: No Town Left Behind: According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 88% of Virginia is considered rural. However, this population is often overlooked in energy efficiency policy and programs. This panel focused on how to reach rural communities and what opportunities are available to them. Speakers included Adia Holland (U.S. Department of Agriculture), Lance Hostutler (Optimum Building Solutions LLC), Will Payne (Energy Delta SWVA), and VAEEC Board Vice Chair, Leigh Anne Ratliff (Trane Technologies, moderator). 


Case Study Session: Green Building Certifications: Green buildings are environmentally responsible, resource-efficient, and create healthier, more comfortable spaces. Numerous certification systems exist to assess a building’s sustainability and designate it as a green building. This case study session was designed for attendees to benefit from shared knowledge and experience through presentations and audience Q&A. The certifications featured included EarthCraft, Zero-Energy Ready, and Pearl Certification for single-family homes, multifamily buildings, and whole communities. The session was moderated by VAEEC Board member, Bryna Dunn (Moseley Architects), and speakers consisted of Stephen Dareing (Viridiant), Jay Epstein (Healthy Communities), and Casey Murphy (Pearl Certification).

“I want to make low-performing homes the green avocado refrigerators of 2023.” – Casey Murphy, Pearl Certification 


After the virtual day wrapped up, attendees had the opportunity to join one of two regional happy hours to further connect with other energy efficiency professionals. This was the first time we have offered a regional happy hour in conjunction with a virtual event. What a great way to spend 2023 #EnergyEfficiencyDay!

Attendees gathered in person for day two at the University of Richmond Jepson Alumni Center in Richmond. The day began with an opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish. Attendees were provided with updates on the organization’s 2023 accomplishments and our 2024 priorities, as well as an overview of the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency industry. The day also included a keynote address, a plenary panel, the eighth annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards ceremony, and an on-site reception.

Keynote Address: Attendees were then treated to a keynote address from Dr. Karma Sawyer, Director of Electricity Infrastructure & Buildings (EI&B) Division at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL). In this role, Dr. Sawyer is responsible for shaping and managing a vision and strategy to ensure that PNNL addresses the U.S. Department of Energy’s most important energy efficiency, clean energy, and electricity infrastructure challenges. She discussed energy efficiency as it relates to cutting-edge research, building codes, market transformation, federal funding, and emerging technologies, with a specific focus on equity.


The Energy Efficiency Workforce Initiative: A Holistic Path to Workforce Development: After a break for networking and snacks, attendees came back together for the plenary session focused on the VAEEC’s Energy Efficiency Workforce Initiative. For the last two years, the VAEEC has been developing the EEWI to address Virginia’s growing workforce needs. This panel provided updates from staff and our expert partners as we build out each piece of the puzzle – recruitment, training, placement, and sustainable retention. Speakers included Laura Hanson (Tidewater Community College), Phil Hull (CHP Energy Solutions), Michael Flanagan (Quick AC Quote), Crystal McDonald (D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility), and Rebecca Hui (Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, moderator). 

Energizing Efficiency Campaign & Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards Ceremony: Next, we had the honor of hosting our eighth annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards ceremony. We started off by highlighting the 18 submissions to our inaugural Energizing Efficiency Campaign. Case studies can be viewed for each of these participating projects or programs on our 2023 Energizing Efficiency Campaign page. From these 18 submissions, five were chosen by the VAEEC’s Education & Events Committee to receive a 2023 Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Award for their incredible energy efficiency contributions. For information on each winning project or program, visit our 2023 Awards page

The event concluded with an on-site networking reception sponsored by Dominion Energy. It is always a pleasure to connect with many of our members and others in the industry face-to-face, and this was no exception. 

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, award 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 will receive recordings for each of the four breakout sessions in the post-event email. Presentation PDFs can be viewed at the links above.

Dominion Phase XI DSM Hearing Observations

Last December, Dominion filed an application with the State Corporation Commission (SCC) for its proposed Phase XI DSM programs. This filing included three new energy efficiency programs, four new EE program “bundles,” one demand response program, and one EV telematics pilot program. The company requested a $149M budget cap with a 15% variance. In addition to the new programs, Dominion asked to permanently close its appliance recycling program and expand its agricultural program to residential customers who run small, family farms. The Company requested to close an additional seven other programs whose measures were being rolled into the proposed program bundles. 

Our Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish, filed testimony on behalf of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC) in support of the Phase XI programs with a few concerns and suggestions for improvement. 

Here is a summary of other highlights from our testimony:

  1. Leveraging functionalities of AMI to enhance the effectiveness of DSM programs
  2. Expanding program offerings to dual-fuel customers (those with gas heat and electric AC)
  3. Quantifying whether funding from the Inflation Reduction Act could lower program costs
  4. Including Non-Energy Benefits (e.g., Social Cost of Carbon) in cost/benefit test scores
  5. Requiring BPI certification for the Residential Home Retrofit Program Bundle

On May 17, 2023, the case was heard before the Hearing Examiner assigned to oversee the case. The Examiner was very supportive of the stakeholder process and stated several times that parties were “on notice” to vet new program ideas and areas of concern through the stakeholder process. This is the first time that a Hearing Examiner has put such an emphasis on the value of the stakeholder process. We hope the Commission’s Final Order reflects this same sentiment.

Meeting the Goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act

As part of the application, company witnesses shared the progress towards meeting the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). According to Dominion, the Commission has not made it clear whether they should calculate Gross savings (all savings achieved in a given year) or Net savings (all savings achieved in a given year minus free riders), so they provided calculated savings for both. As seen in the table below, provided by company witness Nate Frost, the company has met the 2022 goal either way but is only able to achieve the 2023 goal with gross savings calculations. For the 2024 and 2025 goals, the company is projected to not meet either goal under either scenario.


Year VCEA Target % MWh savings Projected/ Actual Gross Savings Projected/ Actual Net Savings
2022 1.25% 852,892 MWh 1.9% 1.4%
2023 2.5% 1,705,783 MWh 2.6% 2.1%
2024 3.75% 2,558,675 MWh 3.1% 2.4%
2025 5% 3,411,567 MWh 3.6% 2.9%


In pre-filed testimony, SCC staff witness Andrew Boehnlein noted that Dominion will have a projected shortfall of 1180 GWh in meeting the 2025 energy-savings goal. Mr. Boehnlein also calculated that the proposed Phase XI programs would only cover 5% of the shortfall in 2024 and 7% in 2025. Given that there are no further opportunities for new programs in 2024, the company must prioritize implementing recommendations from its long-term plan filed as part of last year’s filing (Phase X) to bridge the gap in 2024.

Company witnesses identified several market barriers they believe are impeding the company’s success in meeting its goals. These challenges include declining potential and updated building codes. The VAEEC questioned the extent to which these were barriers during the proceeding. For instance, current building codes should only be used as the baseline for determining the savings potential for new construction programs since it is unlikely that homes constructed prior to the last 3-5 years would meet more stringent energy codes. In interrogatories, company witnesses confirmed they only use current building codes for new construction programs. Since the company only has one residential new construction program, current energy-efficient building codes are unlikely to severely affect the company’s ability to meet its EERS goals.

All utilities experience declining potential, the continual reduction of savings opportunities out in the market, especially for lighting products as federal regulations have required more efficient product manufacturing. However, declining potential is not the same for every utility. Utilities that have been implementing programs over several decades find that declining potential can severely affect new program opportunities. However, for Dominion, who only began offering energy efficiency programs in 2009, and has low participation numbers in most of their programs, there is still a lot of potential energy savings to be captured.

As mentioned, Dominion’s participation numbers are low. SCC staff witness Mr. Boehnlein summarized data from the Company’s 2022 EM&V report. In 2021, the average residential program achieved approximately 45% of expected participation and 57% of estimated energy savings. For the non-residential programs, the average was 43% of expected participation and 32% of estimated 2021 savings. Staff surmised that based on previous program performance, the Company’s projected participation rates for the proposed Phase XI programs are higher than any program that has been implemented to date. In other words, the proposed programs will cover less than 5% of the estimated shortfall in 2024 and 7% in 2025.

Mr. Boehnlein also noted that the 2022 EM&V report stated portfolio bill savings for customers were approximately $26.6M while program costs were more than double at about $59.8M with 43% of those costs being administrative in nature.

Hearing Examiner’s Report and Recommendations

On June 16, 2023, the Examiner issued his recommendations to the Commission, which included approval of all programs, with the $149M budget cap and 15% variance, with no program expiration date. While the budget variance request and not having a predetermined closure date are standard in other states, in Virginia, these requests were typically denied by the SCC up until last year. 

The Hearing Examiner was thorough in his review of the case and analyzed all of the remaining issues one by one. In most instances, the Examiner validated suggestions and concerns brought up by the VAEEC and recommended the SCC direct the company to address each one via the stakeholder group and require the company to report on these issues in their next DSM filing. These issues include:

  • Cost-effectiveness testing: VAEEC recommended analyzing non-energy benefits, such as the societal cost of carbon and health benefits
  • Allowing dual-fuel customers to participate in most programs: VAEEC recommended allowing customers who use gas furnaces to heat their homes and electric AC to keep their homes cool should be allowed to participate in most, if not all, programs. The Examiner not only recommended this become a stakeholder discussion but also noted that if the company is projected to miss their 2024 and 2025 VCEA goals, then expanding customer eligibility could have an “immediate and measurable impact on achieving those savings targets….”
  • Accelerating program consolidation: In last year’s filing, VAEEC expressed concern with the Company’s plan to not begin bundling programs until existing contracts with implementation vendors end (i.e. 2025 at the earliest). The company took this feedback and offered four new bundled programs in this year’s filing. Other respondents expressed the need to continue bundling programs into the seven overarching programs laid out in the long-term plan, which the company agreed to discuss where practical. The Hearing Examiner agreed that acceleration was critical in order to pursue, “immediate and measurable impact on achieving those savings targets….” in 2024 and 2025.
  • Exploring and incorporating full AMI functionality into DSM programs: VAEEC recommended the company leverage AMI functionality in DSM programs. The company is committed to exploring these functionalities via its grid modernization applications. The Examiner noted what little time is left to increase participation levels and savings in the company’s DSM programs to achieve their 2024 and 2025 goals, stating, “I believe the Company does not have the time to sit back and address the issue as part of its grid transformation program, and for that reason, I am recommending that the issue be referred to the Stakeholder Group for consideration and analysis over the upcoming year.” The Examiner also went on to recommend a pilot program to deploy in areas with high concentrations of AMI deployment.

Additionally, the Hearing Examiner made recommendations on the following key issues as well:

  • BPI certification- The Hearing Examiner provided an alternative recommendation to what the VAEEC, the environmental respondents, and public witnesses recommended. He recommends that BPI certification should not be required for HVAC measures, but appears to require this certification for contractors performing ductwork in addition to continuing to require BPI certification for thermal envelope measures. In terms of the VA Residential Energy Building Analyst License, the examiner stated that the statute is clear that this license is required for any type of residential energy assessment and suggested the company consult with the VA Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation in regards to whether such license would be required for contractors performing assessments as part of the Residential Home Retrofit Bundle. 
  • Implementation plan- the environmental respondent witness, Jim Grevatt, recommended the Commission require Dominion to demonstrate how it could meet its EERS goals by filing an implementation plan within 90 days of the release of the Commission’s Final Order. The Hearing Examiner largely agreed with Mr. Grevatt but provided an alternative recommendation suggesting the Commission require Dominion to prepare a Project Management Plan and Risk Management Strategy consistent with the Commission’s Final Order in the 2020 DSM Case detailing completed tasks, tasks to be completed within the next twelve months, and tasks that remain to be completed in order to fully implement the LTP.
  • Net vs. Gross calculated savings- Environmental Respondents and Dominion argued over how the EERS goals in the VCEA should be calculated- as either “gross” or “net” savings. In Mr. Grevatt’s testimony, on behalf of the environmental respondents, he argued that the Commission provided direction on this in the Final Order last year stating that, “specific savings that can be reasonably identified, and that were not achieved as a result of Dominion’s programs and measures,” should not be counted towards the EERS goals (i.e. the savings should be calculated as “net”). Dominion disagreed, arguing that the ruling was not clear and that the analysis of “gross” and “net” savings is complex and should be deferred until the first EERS compliance case next year. While the Hearing Examiner agreed with environmental respondents that the Commission explicitly state that the EERS savings should be calculated as “net” savings, he also agreed with the Company that in light of the complexity of the issue, the decision should be deferred until next year, “in a case where the issues are fully developed in an evidentiary record.”  

In summary, the Hearing Examiner’s report details a lot of issues and opportunities for Dominion to meet its EERS goals in 2024 and 2025. The VAEEC and our members have worked diligently to provide feedback and support through the stakeholder process and the DSM proceeding and applaud the Examiner for recognizing the importance of stakeholder engagement.

We anticipate the Commission’s Final Order sometime in August. We hope to see most of these recommendations included and we will be ready to get to work.

Talking Energy Efficiency to Any Audience

Last week, the VAEEC held our first-ever Summer Workshop, Talking Energy Efficiency to Any Audience. The idea originated through staff conversations about how do you explain energy efficiency to elementary students at a career day or to our parents when they are concerned about rising utility bills.

During the event, attendees heard from three experts on how to discuss energy efficiency with your neighbors, business owners, contractors, and kids. Facilitators included:

  • Corey Argentino, EarthRight,
  • Michael Flanagan, Quick AC Quote, and,
  • Josh Woodruff, Franklin Energy.

Afterward, we self-selected into small groups to work with those facilitators on our own pitch. Key takeaways included:

  • Energy Efficiency is frequently confused with solar. Provide examples of efficiency measures (insulation, LED lighting, system controls, etc.) to distinguish the difference between the two, and explain the importance of efficiency before renewables (the cheapest kilowatt is the kilowatt saved);
  • It is difficult to sell a free service to people- they tend to be skeptical about free programs or products; and
  • Money talks. Sharing projected utility bill savings goes a long way in convincing someone to implement energy efficiency measures.

The event concluded with ample networking time for attendees to connect over food and beverages.

Thank you, Franklin Energy, for sponsoring this event.

We are hosting a second workshop, Selling the ‘Why’ of Energy Efficiency, on August 17th from 4:00-6:00 pm. Registration is open and free for VAEEC members. Not yet a VAEEC member? Join our network today, or pay $10 for workshop registration. 

Spring 2023 Forum Synopsis

View the event program

Virginia’s energy efficiency industry gathered together to learn and connect at the VAEEC’s annual Spring Forum on May 23rd. Nearly 100 energy efficiency professionals participated in the event, which included a keynote address, business meeting with Board of Directors elections, membership spotlight, plenary session, and networking time. Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making this event a great success!

Prior to the start of the event, around 20 attendees came together to tour the award-winning, LEED Gold-certified Fairfield Area Library. Opened in late 2019, the library is Henrico County’s 18th government or school building to earn LEED certification for sustainable design and construction and reduced environmental impact. Encompassing 45,000 SF, it features LED interior and exterior lighting, third-party verification of its mechanical and electrical systems, and long-term energy performance verification. Building materials include sustainably harvested wood, rapidly renewable cork, and low-emitting materials. The tour was led by Andrea Quilici and Chuck Wray from the project’s architect firm, Quinn Evans, and Carrie Webster, Henrico County‘s Energy Manager.  

The Spring Forum then kicked off with an opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish, who provided an update about Virginia’s energy efficiency industry and the organization’s accomplishments from 2022 to today. This included the VAEEC’s 2023-2025 Strategic Plan objectives and our new Energizing Efficiency Campaign.

Next was a keynote address from Theresa Backhus, Director of the Building Innovation Hub (HUB) with the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT). The HUB supports high-performing buildings across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia by connecting decision-makers, localities, contractors, building owners, and others to resources that make buildings energy-efficient and resilient. Theresa shared an overview of the resources the HUB provides, as well as the building decarbonization opportunities available through federal funding. She also gave an overview of the DMV’s building code updates and building energy performance standards with an emphasis on what Virginia localities can do to address energy efficiency in a Dillion Rule state.

“It’s important not to forget that at the end of the day, buildings are for people; they must support the community they surround.” – Theresa Backhus, Building Innovation Hub (IMT)

Approximately 1/3 of our greenhouse gas emissions are from the new and existing building stock. The HUB emphasizes the importance of transitioning from looking at buildings as the problem to looking at them as the opportunity. And above all, we cannot forget that buildings are for people, which is especially true when you consider that we spend roughly 90% of our lives in buildings. Therefore, they must support the community around them by focusing on energy efficiency, resiliency, and health and safety.

Next, John Morrill, led the business portion of the event, which started off with our 2023 Board of Directors election. VAEEC members re-elected two board members:

  • Bryna Dunn, Moseley Architects (1st full term)
  • Leigh Anne Ratliff, Trane Technologies (2nd term)

Members then voted to elect two new directors to the Board:

  • McKenna Dunbar, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter 
  • Lesley Fore, Alliance to Save Energy

We are thrilled to add new voices to our leadership and to continue working with our two re-elected members. We would also like to recognize our outgoing Board members, Maggie Kelley Riggins, with the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, and Joyce Bodoh, with Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, for their outstanding leadership to the organization.

Attendees were next treated to a round robin of updates and successes from our members before moving into a networking break. After reconvening, the plenary session began. Meeting the Moment for Building Demand touched on the how the federal climate initiatives passed by the Biden administration will change the energy landscape for decades to come, before moving into how experts from across the field are planning to implement successful programs and projects using the funds. The discussion also included how we can make this round of funding more “durable” than that of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) era to create systemic change and avoid the “one and done” projects.

“We don’t have a shortage of money, but we need an easy button now to effectively deploy it. The Inflation Reduction Act is our window of opportunity to create a unified customer experience.” – Andrew Grigsby, Viridiant

Speakers included:

  • Bettina Bergoo, Virginia Energy: Along with moderating the session, Bettina also spoke on Virginia Energy’s role and plans with the federal funding and the guidance currently available for HOMES/HEERHA. 
  • Andrew Grigsby, Viridiant: Andrew spoke on Viridiant’s success with the BENEFIT grant and how that can serve as a model for future programs. He also went into detail about the need for a unified customer experience that includes financing options available. 
  • Marco Rubin, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation: Marco discussed the startup environment since the passage of the inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including looking the economic conditions at the micro-, macro-, and Marco-levels. 
  • Joyce Bodoh, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative: Given her role as the Director of Energy Solutions and Clean Energy at one of Virginia’s electric cooperatives, Joyce focused on how federal funding can be braided with the federal funding. She also spoke to the importance of customer data access and shared how REC’s summer savings pilot program provided $12k in bill credits to customers and saved REC $70K in wholesale power. 
  • Kim Strahm, Community Housing Partners: After having developed a successful workforce development program using funds from the 2009 ARRA, Kim shared best practices and lessons learned for developing and implementing programs using federal funding. Through CHP’s position on both the demand- and supply-side of high-performance buildings, Kim kept coming back to the need for a trained workforce. 

As always, this event would not have been possible without our sponsors, speakers, and attendees. We would also like to thank the VAEEC Education & Events Committee for helping staff plan such a successful event.

Be sure to save the date for our fall Energy Efficiency Forum– October 4th (virtual), October 5th (in-person, University of Richmond). We hope to see you there.

Additional event information, including speaker biographies and sponsor features, can be found in the event program. Event attendees received a PDF of the event’s presentation in the post-event email. Contact info@vaeec.org if you did not receive it. Events photos can be viewed in the photo gallery below.

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