Be Recognized. The Virginia EE Leadership Awards are Back.

Summer is here and with it comes the opening of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership (VEEL) Awards application. Held in conjunction with the VAEEC Fall Forum, the VEEL Awards Luncheon will be held on Thursday, November 14th at the University of Richmond’s Jepson Alumni Center.

2018 VEEL Awards

For the fourth consecutive year, the awards showcase energy efficiency champions across the Commonwealth. These entities are helping businesses, governments, homeowners, and schools save money on energy bills while reducing energy consumption – all while stimulating Virginia’s job growth and our economy. 

This year, submissions will be placed into one of six categories. Submitted projects will be sorted based on the sector served: Academic, Commercial, Government, Low-Income, and Residential. Submitted programs will be placed into their own category. Projects can include, but are not limited to, retrofits, new construction, and innovative technologies or products. Past winning programs include Chesterfield County’s Energy Management Program, Columbia Gas of Virginia’s WarmWise Home Audit program, and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy’s Virginia SAVES program.

2018 Awards Winners

The quick and free online application process opens on Monday, July 15th and will run through Monday, September 16th. Nominate an acquaintance, a colleague, a role model, or yourself! The only criteria are that the project or program is based in Virginia and is reducing energy consumption. Extra points are given for innovation and creativity, the degree of difficulty in overcoming challenges, and scope of work. 

Still have questions? To help you submit your application, we have compiled a guidance document, which includes submission requirements, the application of a previous awards winner, the scorecard with rubric, and frequently asked questions. 

We look forward to learning about your energy efficiency contributions. Best of luck! 

For a recap of our 2018 VEEL Awards, check out this blog post.

Future is Bright for VAEEC After Completing Triennial Strategic Planning Retreat

Back in 2017, VAEEC conducted a Strategic Planning Retreat to help the VAEEC staff and Board set goals and priorities for the organization that helped us strengthen our operations, focus our resources, and assess our direction over the last two years. Fast forward to 2019, and it is time to start the process over again. 

VAEEC Strategic Planning RetreatVAEEC is now in the midst of creating a strategic plan for the next three years. During our Spring 2019 Forum, attendees participated in an interactive session designed to provide feedback as we began this process. Participants self-selected into one of four breakout groups: Emerging Technologies, Grid Modernization and Transformation Act (GTSA) Implementation, the Intersection between Solar and Energy Efficiency, and Local Government Collaboration. Questions discussed included: 

  1. Why is this topic important to Virginia’s EE industry?
  2. What are the opportunities?
  3. What are the barriers?
  4. What role should VAEEC play?

VAEEC Strategic Planning RetreatInformation gathered from this session was used to inform VAEEC staff and Board during our 2019 Strategic Planning Retreat held on June 5th. During this full-day event, we partnered with Floricane, a Richmond-based facilitation group, to better define the four topics and to come up with outcomes and strategies for each.

The graphic below depicts where we currently are in the process of finalizing our strategic plan, as well as what steps remain. VAEEC staff will work over the summer to create tactics and metrics for each of the four strategic outcomes. Once the plan is in draft form, the Executive Committee, comprised of Board officers, will review the plan and offer feedback. The goal is to have the strategic plan finalized by our quarter three Board meeting on September 11th. Once approved, we will share the final plan with our members at our Fall Forum & Awards Ceremony and begin to execute it through 2022.

 

Building Code Updates

The update process to the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) has begun*. This is a two year process, which will wrap up at the end of 2020. The Board of Housing and Community Development will hold a public hearing on July 22, 2019 and we encourage our members to attend in support of improvements to the energy code section of the USBC.

This spring, DHCD staff established smaller subgroups on key areas of interest, including energy, for the purpose of building consensus on some of the proposals already submitted. VAEEC and several of our members are participating in the energy subgroup, which has already met once. The following energy proposals, which would bring the USBC inline with the 2018 model code, have been reviewed by the subgroup:

  • Energy codes for existing buildings (several proposals): ongoing discussion
  • Ceiling and wall insulation: moving to workgroup for review as non-consensus
  • Air leakage testing: ongoing discussion
  • Commercial fenestration: ongoing discussion
  • Replacement fenestration: moving to workgroup for review with consensus
  • REScheck: ongoing discussion
  • Certificate: ongoing discussion

Regarding the existing building energy code proposals, the discussion centered around where the proposals should live within the USBC. Some code officials argued that they should live solely in the Existing Building (VEBC) section of the USBC, while other officials argued they should live in both the energy conservation codes and the VEBC. Another issue was that several proposals that attempted to strike existing building language from the energy conservation code actually weakened existing requirements. A small subset of subgroup members will work together to come up with a solution that works for everyone prior to the next subgroup meeting. As long as the existing energy code requirements remain intact, VAEEC does not have a position on which chapter is the right place for these proposals to live.

The proposal on insulation would have brought Virginia’s code up to the 2012 model code requirements. This proposal was opposed by the Homebuilders Association of Virginia, so it was marked as non-consensus. Their arguments were that it would “price someone out” of the market, that codes should be a minimum, and that there would be diminishing returns despite the proposal impact statement stating that this change would garner 6% in energy savings for homeowners, which is the greatest energy savings of any single proposal. We are disappointed that this proposal is moving forward as non-consensus, which effectively kills the proposal.

While we are pleased that the air leakage proposal did not suffer the same fate as the insulation proposal, the debate was just as spirited. VAEEC member Viridiant presented the initial findings from DOE Field Study they conducted in conjunction with another VAEEC member, Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, which highlighted that 25% of new homes being built to code are failing to meet the five air changes per hour requirement in the current USBC. If I could read the tea leaves, I think it might be possible for the blower door test to become part of the next USBC update, but the change from five air changes per hour to three will not move forward.

Next up were the two window fenestration proposals, which would bring the USBC up to the model code standard. While the window replacement proposal moved forward with consensus, the commercial proposal was concerning to the Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) due to implications for multi-family units. The AOBA official is taking the proposal back to his membership for review and will provide feedback at the next meeting.

The last two proposals were more administrative in nature. Because of some of the weakening amendments in Virginia’s code, Virginia builders, designers, and contractors cannot use the DOE REScheck software, to ensure code compliance on new construction, additions, or renovations. One of the proposals would remove language that refers Virginia builders, designers, and contractors to guidance documents DHCD has offered as an alternative. However, other proposals, such as the insulation and window fenestration proposals, would need to be approved as well. The other administrative proposal would require a permanent certificate within the structure, which would provide details on the thermal envelope, including insulation ratings and window U-values. VAEEC member Think Little explained that this would be extremely helpful in their work when they are working with a client to replace their HVAC system. Typically, they have to guess many of these data points, which could cause them to incorrectly size the new HVAC system. There was a lengthy discussion on where the certificate should be housed- particularly as it pertains to multi-family and commercial buildings. A smaller group of attendees are going to work out the details prior to the next subgroup meeting. This proposal should eventually move forward with consensus.

The subgroup will meet once more in early to mid summer to continue discussions on the remaining proposals and to determine if consensus can be reached on any of them before the proposals are reviewed by the workgroup. All workgroup activities will wrap up by the end of the summer. After that, all proposals will be reviewed by the DHCD Board who will then vote on all of the proposals that went through the workgroup process. All proposals approved by the DHCD Board will form the draft USBC, which will be reviewed and voted upon in the fall. The draft USBC will then go to the Virginia Register for a public comment period, and the process will begin all over again next year.

*You can visit the main building codes page on the VAEEC website to learn more about the development of the federal model code as well as the Virginia update process.

Spring 2019 Forum Recap

The Spring 2019 Forum was held on May 9th at the University of Richmond Jepson Alumni Center. Almost 100 people from every facet of the energy efficiency industry attended, making it one of our most successful events to date! We want to offer a huge thank you to our sponsors for their support, and to everyone who came to the Forum.

Executive Director Chelsea Harnish formally opened the event with her annual presentation on VAEEC’s accomplishments and updates. Many of the 2018 highlights are in our annual report, which you can view hereShe also discussed the incredible momentum VAEEC and the industry as a whole is gaining. The SCC Final Order approving all 10 of Dominion’s proposed energy efficiency programs is a big part of this progress, as is the C-PACE budget recently passed in Alexandria.

Next, Vice Chair John Morrill, with Arlington County, introduced the current Executive Committee and recognized the service of Bill Greenleaf and Cynthia Adams as they transition off of the Board of Directors, as well as David Steiner for stepping down as the Board Chair. Before electing new Board members, John announced the VAEEC 2019 Executive Committee: David Koogler, Board Chair; John Morrill, Vice Chair; and Mark Jackson, Secretary.

VAEEC members re-elected three Board members:

  • Mark Jackson of Community Housing Partners
  • Susan Larsen of Columbia Gas of Virginia
  • Tom Nicholas of the City of Virginia Beach

They also elected five new Board members:

  • Elizabeth Beardsley of USGBC
  • KC Bleile of Viridiant
  • Rick Counihan of Google
  • Bill Eger of the City of Alexandria
  • Stephen Evanko of Dominion Due Diligence Group

We are excited to add these new voices to our organization as we move into this year’s strategic planning process.

Next, Tom Nicholas with City of Virginia Beach and Chair of the Membership Committee, lead the Membership Spotlight session and Membership Poll. Following last year’s positive reception, we used PollEverywhere to collect real-time responses to our four questions:

  • What is the most valuable aspect of VAEEC membership to you or your firm?
  • What additional benefits would you like to see included in VAEEC membership?
  • Would you like VAEEC events to offer continuing education credits?
  • What topics would you like to see covered at our Fall 2019 Forum?

Representatives from 2RW Consultants, Think Little, Community Housing Partners, VEIC, Viridiant, Dominion Energy, C-Power, LEAP, City of Virginia Beach, and Trane all shared their accomplishments during the spotlight session, so make sure to check out our Member Success Stories page in the coming weeks. We appreciate everyone’s participation in both the poll and spotlight and will incorporate the information gathered into our future plans.

After the Membership Spotlight, participants attended one of two breakout sessions: Blending Technologies to Maximize Building Efficiency and Working Together to Increase Efficiency. The Blending Technologies panel featured Eric Oliver (2RW Consultants, Inc.), Rodes Boyd (Siemens), and Nick Lange (VEIC) with George Barnes (Trane) moderating. The speakers discussed the benefits and challenges surrounding current and upcoming smart building technologies that monitor energy usage and identify areas of waste. 

The Working Together session focused on how local governments and higher education institutions can cooperate across departments to increase energy efficiency and incorporate successful IT solutions. Chris Smeds (UVA), Nell Boyle (City of Roanoke), and John Morrill (Arlington County) formed the panel of speakers, with Bill Eger (City of Alexandria) moderating.

The final session of the day was an interactive session where participants chose four topics to discuss, then split into groups to consider the opportunities and barriers for each, as well as the role VAEEC could play in that work. The topics were:

  • Emerging Technologies
  • Grid Modernization and Transformation Act Implementation
  • The Intersection between Solar and Energy Efficiency
  • Local Government Collaboration

The information we gathered from this session will form the foundation of our upcoming strategic plan, so everyone’s participation and feedback were truly invaluable.

As with all of our work, the Spring Forum would not be possible without the continuing support of our incredible members and sponsors. Thank you to everyone who attended for helping us push energy efficiency in Virginia toward an even brighter future.

Presentations can be viewed here:

Please share our event photos across your social media networks!

Using Energy Efficiency to Protect the Planet

April 22nd marks an annual event celebrated worldwide, in over 193 countries, to demonstrate support for environmental protection. On this day, let’s not forget how important energy efficiency is to protecting planet Earth. Earth Day is also a good reminder that it isn’t too late to turn those energy efficiency New Year resolutions into reality if you haven’t taken steps to do so already.

On this day, we want to take a moment to highlight how important it is to teach kids early on about the value of energy efficiency. Kids are the future and what better way to increase awareness and make a difference than starting with our future.

Virginia Energy Sense’s third-grade energy efficiency curriculum, which won “Committee’s Choice Award” at VAEEC’s 2018 Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards, was developed in partnership between the State Corporation Commission and the Virginia Department of Education and designed to meet the Standards of Learning (SOL). Students go through interactive lessons that teach them how to easily and cost-effectively save energy as well as how to take an active role in promoting change at school and home. These interactive lessons include energy efficiency matching games, crossword puzzles, home and school energy checklists, quizzes and interactive foldable booklets and poster design plans. The knowledge that students gain through these lessons can then be transferred to their parents, friends, family members, and others outside of their classroom. You can read more about the curriculum in Virginia Energy Sense’s official press release.

Outside of the classroom, there are many resources you can use to get kids involved in energy efficiency. Interactive websites such as Apogee Interactive Energy Efficiency Kids Korner, Energy Star Kids, and EIA Energy Kids layout energy efficiency information in a kid-friendly manner and provides interactive games and activities for their entertainment. There are also many kid-friendly videos such as this short titled “Energy, let’s save it!” on Youtube.

Ensuring energy efficiency and environmental protection starts with you and the people around you. Help out our planet by learning more and raising awareness among you, your friends, and your family!

Register Today! VAEEC Spring 2019 Forum is One Month Away

We are now one month away from the Spring 2019 Forum! It will be similar to our past events that you have come to enjoy, just with a new name to better represent the content and overall quality that our attendees expect.

Attendees respond to live poll during Spring 2018 Meeting

The Forum will be held on May 9th at the University of Richmond in the Jepson Alumni Center from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Plan to arrive at 12:30 pm for registration and extra networking time. We will kick things off with a business meeting, where members will participate in our 2019 Board Elections. Then, back by popular demand, we will issue a live poll to get your feedback on how we can make the VAEEC even more beneficial to our members. Not yet a member? That’s ok; we want your feedback too. Let us know what it will take for you to join our membership network.

This year’s breakout sessions are Blending Technologies to Maximize Building Efficiency and Working Together to Increase Efficiency. The technologies panel will discuss how to achieve the right “blend” of old and new technologies to reduce energy use, as well as “future proofing”, or implementing technologies that allow buildings to keep up with the digital era. The working together panel will feature local government representatives and a higher education staff member who will discuss successful interactions between different departments to increase energy efficiency and to bring it into the IT realm. Join either session to learn and brainstorm how energy efficiency can advance even further in Virginia.

Breakout group discusses priorities and strategies for the year

Our final session of the day will be a collaborative, interactive session providing you the chance to influence VAEEC’s work for the coming years. Similar to last year, attendees will self-select and join one of several breakout groups to discuss a variety of topics, such as local government collaboration and data access and smart meters. But new this year, attendees will get to select the topics discussed from a pre-screened list of ideas! Recommendations and goals shared during this time will be used to lay the groundwork for the organization’s three-year strategic plan this summer. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

project:HOMES shares the success of their legislative site tour with VAEEC

One of the many benefits of a VAEEC membership is the chance to showcase your successes! During the Remarkable Member Updates portion of the event, all current VAEEC members are invited to speak for up to a minute about any accomplishments you have achieved over the past year. Email info@vaeec.org by May 7th to secure your spot. We also invite all members to display your business cards and marketing materials on our Member Networking table, which will be conveniently located next to registration for all to see.

Finally, don’t forget to register! Registration closes Tuesday, April 30th. The event is free for VAEEC members and $25 for non-members. Interested in becoming a member? Go to our Join page to learn how a VAEEC membership will benefit you and your organization. We look forward to seeing you on May 9th!

Virginia in the top ten nationwide for clean energy hiring

Virginia ranked 10th in the nation in overall clean energy hiring, according to a new Clean Energy Jobs report published by the Energy Entrepreneurs (E2). With 42% of all energy jobs and 24% of construction jobs in energy efficiency, Virginia is among the leading states that are creating more opportunities for energy efficiency nationwide. E2 hosted a webinar to review their job report in addition to the 2018 US Energy and Employment Report (USEER) that were both released earlier this year.

According to the reports, “EE jobs rose to 2.35 million in 2018. Of all 152,000 U.S. energy jobs added last year, 76,000 were in energy efficiency.” This means the sector has created 275,000 EE jobs over the past three years. And energy efficiency is projected to continue growing by 7.8% in 2019. Clean energy jobs have also outperformed the economy as a whole for the last four years, which is great news for our industry!

The only real limiting factor to energy efficiency job growth is the availability of workers. Phil Jordan, one of the participating webinar speakers from BW Research Partnership, said, “Young people lack interest in construction”, which is the largest segment of energy jobs. Pat Stanton, Director of Policy for E4TheFuture and speaker in the webinar, added that certifications for energy efficient installations can be another barrier to hiring. Here in Virginia, VAEEC Member Community Housing Partners (CHP) offers weatherization and certification training through their Research and Training Center in Christiansburg, which provides hands-on experience in energy efficiency strategies and technologies.

Stanton also said that, while retrofits can be daunting and time consuming, communities should not just look to new construction and technology for energy efficiency improvements “Existing housing stock is in pretty poor shape from an energy use standpoint, so we have to address that to really have a cleaner future.”

Jordan emphasized the effectiveness of apprenticeships to bridge the gap of understanding in the workforce, especially as training for many construction jobs can take two to five years. One out of every six construction jobs currently in the US are in energy efficiency, which underscores how important that sector is to all aspects of energy and life.

Dave Foster, the third speaker on the panel from Energy Futures Initiative, said that, in talking with people in the industry, “the President of United Steelworkers really captured the spirit of the 2019 USEER report. “We don’t have to choose between clean energy and jobs. We can and will have both.”

Women’s History Month: Spotlight on the VAEEC Team

March is Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, we’re doing a Q&A spotlight on the three women behind the scenes here at the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council.

Chelsea Harnish is the Executive Director of VAEEC, which serves as the voice for the energy efficiency industry in the Commonwealth. Since 2015, Chelsea oversees all VAEEC operations and strategic initiatives, including programs, policy, communications, membership, and events. With over a decade of Virginia energy policy experience, Chelsea regularly engages with decision-makers, partners, and members to advance energy efficiency policies and programs that will help grow the industry throughout the Commonwealth. Prior to joining the VAEEC, Chelsea worked for several environmental nonprofits, honing her skills in campaign planning, communication and advocating for clean energy policy initiatives. Chelsea lives in Richmond with her husband, three-year old daughter, and two cats.

Jessica Greene joined VAEEC in September 2016 and serves as the Outreach Director. Jessica has diverse experience in the environmental field, including the areas of campaign planning, consulting, education, energy policy, organizing, and research. Prior to joining the VAEEC team, she devoted her time to campaigns and strategies focused on implementing clean, renewable energy at both the federal and state levels. Jessica lives in Richmond with her husband and their dog, Evie (and their soon-to-arrive twin boys, coming this summer!).

Rebecca Hui joined VAEEC as Administrative Assistant in October 2018. She brings her passions for writing and data analysis to the non-profit sphere to promote energy efficiency in Virginia. Prior to joining VAEEC, Rebecca honed her skills in a variety of roles, from agriculture to customer service to IT and communications, and feels committed to making a difference through the work she does. She lives in Richmond with her husband and two daughters.

Why are you passionate about EE?

JESSICA: Not only is energy efficiency a simple way to reduce pollution, conserve resources, and improve indoor air quality, but it also saves consumers money. Furthermore, it isn’t a solution only available to those of higher economic status; you don’t have to invest a lot of money to see improvements. There are plenty of no-cost, low-cost measures that can make a noticeable difference in your living environment and utility bills.

CHELSEA: Energy efficiency is the lowest-cost resource- the kilowatt saved is a penny earned. Energy efficiency doesn’t get as much attention as other forms of clean energy but it can make a big impact with little to no upfront costs. Since 2015, energy efficiency has been getting more notice from decision-makers, particularly with the passage of the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018. The opportunities to expand energy efficiency are boundless, so it is important that we make the most of it.

REBECCA: Coming from both the agriculture industry and IT, I’ve learned that the smallest changes can often make the biggest difference. Something as simple as thermal curtains or lightbulbs can reduce a family’s energy burden substantially, so it’s important to both the planet and its people that we share solutions that are attainable no matter where or how someone lives.

What brought you to the industry?

CHELSEA: I had been working on energy issues for over a decade when I joined VAEEC in 2015. My entire career has been spent in the nonprofit sector supporting a variety of clean energy technologies, including offshore wind and solar. I was excited to have the opportunity to lead an up and coming organization focusing on an industry that doesn’t get as much love as it should.

JESSICA: I majored in Environmental Science in college, which was really my first introduction to energy efficiency. However, it wasn’t until working on implementing the Clean Power Plan during a previous job that I realized the widespread, bipartisan benefits of energy efficiency.

REBECCA: It’s always been very important to me that the work that I do makes a quantifiable difference in the world around me, but joining VAEEC was really equal parts good timing and really good luck. Being able to learn about what energy efficiency really is and how it can help so many facets of people’s lives has been a huge opportunity for me, and the team is fantastic.

What are some of your hobbies?

CHELSEA: Right now, I don’t have very many hobbies because when I’m not leading my amazing team at VAEEC, I am chasing after my very active toddler at home. She has inherited my love for spending time outdoors, so you can usually find us outside at a local park or playground. I also enjoy running, reading, and traveling.

REBECCA: Like Chelsea, I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies as I have two daughters, ages 5 and 9, who constantly keep me on my toes. I am an avid baker thanks to my recent obsession with the Great British Baking Show, and I love reading, going to farmer’s markets, and travelling. We’re actually planning a family trip to Hong Kong in just a few months!

JESSICA: Traveling, concerts, and outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing are hands down my favorite hobbies. However, on a day-to-day basis, I enjoy walking my dog, Evie, through one of Richmond’s many parks alongside my husband or friends (and our soon-to-arrive twin boys, due this summer!)

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

REBECCA: My very first job in high school was working for a frozen yogurt stand at the mall, where we also served smoothies. I frequently ended up with fruit in my hair or on the ceiling because the blender lids would bust off mid-blend!

CHELSEA: I don’t consider this job weird but my most unique job was working in a full-scale public aquarium as an Aquarist right after college. It was my responsibility to feed all of the marine life, which included diving in a 55,000-gallon Pacific coral reef tank that was home to sharks, eels, and more.

JESSICA: I’ve held an assortment of jobs, but my most random one is probably being a residential and commercial painter for 10 years. It was a summer job I held from high school through graduate school.

What’s your favorite energy efficiency tip to share when people ask?

JESSICA: After moving into a 1940s house a few years ago, my number one tip is air sealing! You can start with small measures like using caulk and weather stripping to seal cracks. However, sealing our entire crawlspace made a noticeable difference in our house’s humidity levels. Our home is finally comfortable even in the middle of summer.

CHELSEA: I love my Nest Learning Thermostat! I like that it has learned our behaviors and that I can control it from my phone. Plus, collecting green leaves each month appeals to my competitive side.

REBECCA: Motion-sensitive light switches are amazing for my house. They save energy effortlessly and are much less expensive than smart home systems. Plus, no one has to say “turn off the lights!” every morning, which is a big win in my book.

Recap of the Dominion DSM Hearing: The Future Looks Bright

The Dominion DSM case was held Wednesday, March 20, 2019 before the three Commissioners of the State Corporation Commission (SCC). This was the first case being heard by the new Commissioner, Judge Patricia West. Our previous blog post on the DSM application went into detail about the programs themselves so this post will only focus on the proceeding. You can review all proceeding materials on the SCC webpage for this docket.

The proceeding was broken up into three main sections:

  1. Public Testimony
  2. Oral Arguments on Legal Memo
  3. DSM Proceeding

Oral Arguments

At the beginning of the proceeding, the Commissioners heard oral arguments on whether or not lost revenues should be considered as part of Dominion Energy’s commitment to propose $870M worth of energy efficiency programs over the next ten years, as part of the 2018 Grid Transformation and Security Act. Counsel for VAEEC reiterated the position, as stated in our legal brief, that lost revenues should not count towards the $870M, since the the statute that states this commitment does not mention lost revenues. Walmart, environmental respondents and the SCC staff agreed with our arguments. In addition, while the Attorney General’s office took no official position, they did mention in their oral arguments that no one- in either oral arguments or public comments (written and oral)- supported the Company’s position that lost revenues should be included in the commitment to propose $870M in energy efficiency programs over the next decade. The Commissioners asked a lot of questions during oral arguments and are anticipated to make a ruling on this issue in their Final Order for the DSM proceeding.

DSM Proceeding

During the proceeding, VAEEC, environmental respondents (Appalachian Voices and Natural Resources Defense Council), and Sierra Club supported all ten of the proposed EE programs (11 demand response programs in total). The SCC staff and the AG’s office were “unopposed” to seven programs and had “remaining concerns” about the other four.

During the hearing Dominion Energy staff stated that due to a calculation error regarding higher-than-expected participation rates for the Residential Engagement program, the Company had reduced their overall budget request to $203.9M.

VAEEC witness, Rachel Gold, with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, took the stand in support of the proposed programs and explained the value of benchmarking to evaluate whether or not the target set by the General Assembly- for Dominion Energy to propose $870 million in energy efficiency programming over the next decade- is achievable. The good news is, according to the results of that analysis done by ACEEE, this target should be easily attainable.

The seven programs with unanimous support were:

  1. Appliance Recycling Program
  2. Efficient Products Marketplace Program
  3. Smart Thermostat Management Program (DR)
  4. Smart Thermostat Management Program (EE)
  5. Non-Residential Window Film Program
  6. Non-Residential Lighting Systems & Controls Program
  7. Non-Residential Small Manufacturing Program

Initially, SCC staff stated that they were “unopposed” to the above programs. However, after further pressing by Commissioner Christie, SCC Staff stated that they did, in fact, support these programs. One interesting thing to note during this back and forth is that the Commissioners were expressing frustration with both Staff and the Company regarding the lack of analysis based on real energy savings. They argued that Staff should be able to take positions on proposed programs that are based on previously-approved programs since there would be real-energy savings data captured for those programs. While this data is provided by the Company in their annual EM&V filings, the Commission felt that the data could be provided in an more easy-to-digest format. Commissioner Christie directed the Company to produce a spreadsheet on previously approved programs to show the actual program costs and actual kWh savings. The Company asked for a one-week deadline to submit that table into evidence.

The inclusion of this type of table in future filings can bolster future applications by showing just how much savings are being realized by these programs, which could help win approval more easily. While the Commissioners are skeptical of energy efficiency programs and the projected savings they can achieve, that skepticism can potentially turn to support if strong energy-savings numbers are achieved in prior program iterations.

As mentioned above, SCC staff had concerns regarding the four remaining programs, which were:

  1. Home Energy Assessment Program: SCC staff was concerned that payout incentives were greater than material costs for individual products, which could lead to abuse. In rebuttal testimony, Dominion Energy pointed out that those assessments did not include labor costs.
  2. Customer Engagement Program: SCC staff were concerned about non-response rates and wanted the Company to provide traditional savings analysis for this program, which the Company did not do. An employee of the vendor took the stand to explain that behavioral programs cannot be analyzed in the way Staff was requesting, which was the reason the Company was unable to provide analysis. He then walked through how a behavioral program is assessed. According to our expert witness, Rachel Gold, who has worked for another leading company in this field, what he described is a standard practice used to evaluate these types of programs across the country.
  3. Non-Residential Heating and Cooling Efficiency Program: Staff’s concerns regarding this program were twofold; the TRC test score and participation rates. The Company rounded the TRC test score from 0.9965 to 1.00 in their application. Staff argued that 0.9965 was not “1” and therefore this program did not pass three of four cost tests as required by the statute. Judge Jagdman asked a clarifying question on the exact language of the statute indicating that she, at least, may be inclined to approve this program. Staff also stated they had concerns regarding the Company’s projected participation rates for the proposed program because the actual participation rates in the current program are far below the projected rates, and the new projected participation rates are even higher than the projected rates for the current program.
  4. Non-Residential Office Program: The issue with this program was related to the building size used in the modeling for the program. SCC staff stated that the Company was using office space of 100,000 sq. ft., which they were concerned was unrealistic and would therefore result in overstated cost-savings estimates. A Company witness from the vendor for this program testified that the program was modeled using 80,000 sq. ft. buildings, not 100,000 sq. ft., and that, 80,000sq. ft. was, in fact, a typical office building size in Dominion Energy’s service territory.

The Commission has until June 3rd to make their decision. We will be sure to let our members know the outcome once we have a chance to review the Final Order, so stay tuned for updates.

Future DSM Filings

During the hearing, VAEEC Board Member, Michael Hubbard, with Dominion Energy, announced that the Company had released their RFP for their next DSM filing the week before for 15 new programs. We have had a chance to review a summary of the RFP which includes some exciting new programs such as:

  • Residential EE Retrofit
  • Residential New Construction
  • Home Energy Management System
  • Residential Multi-Family EE Program
  • Residential Manufactured Housing Program
  • Residential EE Kits
  • Residential Energy Advisor Program
  • Residential Electric Vehicle Program
  • Residential Enhanced Behavioral Program
  • Non-Residential Behavioral Program
  • Non-Residential Targeted-Sector Program
  • Non-Residential Upstream and Midstream Efficient Products Incentives
  • Non-Residential New Construction
  • Non-Residential Strategic Energy Management
  • Agricultural Energy Efficiency

We will continue to keep our members apprised of how these programs shape up for the next DSM filing in October 2019.

C-PACE Momentum is Building

We are excited to announce that there has been a lot of C-PACE movement in Virginia over the past couple of months. The summary below provides an overview of the key highlights. Stay tuned for more information coming soon as C-PACE momentum is building across the Commonwealth.

Attorney General Opinion

In response to a request from Loudoun County’s Attorney, the Virginia Office of the Attorney General issued an Advisory Opinion on the Commonwealth’s C-PACE law on February 1, 2019. The opinion clarifies two key issues: 1) local governments may authorize capital providers or third-party program administrators to perform billing and collecting of C-PACE loan payments, and 2) localities may assign rights to capital providers to record and enforce the voluntary special assessment liens that underlie C-PACE deals in the case of defaults. The full letter can be viewed here.

Loudoun County

Since the release of the Attorney General’s Advisory Opinion, Loudoun County has been moving ahead at full force. The Board of Supervisors approved the County’s ordinance on February 21st. Now the County is in the procurement process for a third-party program administrator. The RFP is in development and is currently on schedule to be released later this month.

Fairfax County

Back in January of this year, the VAEEC participated on the Fairfax County C-PACE Stakeholder Group to provide feedback on the County’s draft ordinance. Since the passage of SB 1559, the County plans to add resiliency measures to this ordinance, which is now scheduled to be considered by the Board of Supervisors on March 19th.

Hampton Roads

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council partnered with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, the Mid-Atlantic PACE Alliance, Sustainable Real Estate Solutions (SRS), Viridiant, and the Virginia PACE Authority (VPA) to host a C-PACE workshop for the Hampton Roads region. This was one of our most attended C-PACE events to date, with over 50 people present. The room consisted of representatives from the Cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, along with area developers, property owners, contractors, engineers, and architects.

Speakers included Abby Johnson (VPA), City Councilmember Andria McClellan (Norfolk), Jessica Greene (VAEEC), Rob McRaney (Viridiant), and Scott Dicke (SRS). Topics covered included the value proposition of C-PACE for the Hampton Roads region, a history of C-PACE in Virginia, program administration basics, case studies, and action steps to bring C-PACE to the area. The full presentation can be viewed here.

Along with spreading the word about C-PACE, participants were encouraged to contact their local officials to urge the adoption of a C-PACE program. This includes contacting city councilmembers via phone, email, or by submitting letters of support. The VAEEC has created template letters of support that interested property owners, developers, or contractors can use to send to their local officials. Over the course of the past few years, the VAEEC has seen how constituent support and outreach plays a critical role in getting localities to move forward with developing a program.

If you would like to submit a letter to your local officials, the templates can be found below. Contact Jessica Greene (jessica@vaeec.org) with any questions.

2019 General Assembly: passage of two C-PACE bills

Senate Bill 1559 (Sen. Lynwood Lewis) was introduced to amend the current Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) statute to add “shoreline resiliency” to the list of projects that can be financed using C-PACE. VAEEC members Abby Johnson of the Virginia PACE Authority and Attorney Bill Nusbaum, along with Cliff Kellogg, drafted proposed amendments to expand the bill’s reach to cover all resiliency improvements as well as stormwater management measures. State staff also contributed language modifying the stormwater management reference by adding “with a preference for natural or nature-based features and living shorelines”. Further amendments also clarified the language around the need for a local government to specify a “maximum aggregate dollar amount” financeable under a C-PACE program in a local ordinance. In the amended version, a cap on total dollars allowed by a program would only be required if public funds were utilized. By contrast, if a C-PACE project were privately financed, then only a total project cap would be needed. The House approved the bill 99-0, and it was signed by the President of the Senate on February 22nd as SB1559ER.

Senate Bill 1400 (Sen. J. Chapman Petersen) was introduced to add stormwater management to the list of projects that could be financed using C-PACE. Initially, this bill also authorized localities to establish Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (R-PACE) financing; however, this language was stricken from the bill. By February 20th, the bill unanimously passed the House and the Senate to allow for C-PACE financing of stormwater management.

Both bills are now headed to the Governor’s desk for signature, and the new amendments will become effective on July 1, 2019. We hope that by making financing of resiliency and stormwater improvements available, more localities will adopt a C-PACE ordinance, thus making energy saving and renewable energy benefits of C-PACE more broadly available across Virginia.

We are excited to see such progress happening within these past few months and look forward to seeing more C-PACE programs come online across Virginia. For more information about C-PACE, check out our webpage, vaeec.org/PACE.

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