Dominion Energy Launches Smart Home Program

A new program launched by Dominion Energy provides a kit of smart home technology with an instant rebate to eligible customers in Virginia.

New Smart Home technology helps customers save energy and be more aware of the electric use in their home. To help customers adopt this new technology, Dominion Energy is offering eligible customers in Virginia as well as North Carolina rebates on smart home products.

The Smart Home program gives customers the opportunity to purchase a smart home kit on the program website, smarthome.domsavings.com, with an instant $25 rebate. The base kit includes a Kasa Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring, two Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Minis, the Philips Hue Smart White Ambiance LED Starter Kit and a Philips Hue Motion Sensor.

Customers can enhance their smart home setup by adding an ecobee Smart Thermostat ($50 rebate) or Sense Home Energy Monitor ($70 rebate) to their kit purchase, and each is available with an additional instant rebate. The Sense Energy Monitor must be installed in your electric panel by a licensed electrician.

As such, electricians as well as solar installers with on-staff licensed electricians can become participating contractors with Dominion’s Smart Home Program. Participating contractors benefit from the program in many ways including getting listed on Dominion’s website and access to free training.  To learn more about becoming a participating contractor including the eligibility requirements, visit www.dom-vendor.com.

With integration between smart home devices and a smartphone and / or voice assistant, customers will have increased control over their home’s energy use, even remotely. Customers will have the ability to put your devices on a schedule, allow devices to perform energy-efficient actions on their own, and connect to other smart technologies.

Learn more about how the program helps customers leverage integrated energy-efficient smart home products to reduce and manage a home’s energy consumption. Visit smarthome.domsavings.com for more information. Terms and Conditions and eligibility requirements apply. Subject to change at any time.

The Ins & Outs of Energy Performance Contracting

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC) recently hosted a webinar, The Ins and Outs of Energy Performance Contracting, featuring Virginia Energy and Loudoun County Public Schools. The webinar provided an overview of how Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) works and the recent improvements to Virginia’s program. Loudoun County Public Schools recounted their experiences using EPC to enhance their buildings and meet their capital improvement and sustainability goals. Speakers included Nam Nguyen (Virginia Energy), Nick Polier (Virginia Energy), Michael Barancewicz (Loudoun County Public Schools), and Susan Gerson (Loudoun County Public Schools).

Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) is a budget-neutral option for state agencies, localities, public schools, and other public bodies to finance building upgrades while reducing energy use. Through EPC, public entities are able to improve their building performance, address maintenance needs, and reduce their energy consumption – all while achieving a guaranteed level of energy savings. Virginia’s program was established in 2002. To date, there have been more than 280 projects and over $1B in project investment.

EPC projects and customers include public K-12 schools and universities, localities, state agencies, regional jails, and correctional facilities. Virginia Energy provides support throughout the entire EPC process – from the design phase all the way through measurement and verification. This support comes at no cost to the customer and includes all necessary documents and templates to reduce time requirements. Customers are able to select an energy service company (ESCO) to perform the work from a prequalified vendor pool, which expedites the procurement process. The avoided costs from building upgrades pay for the cost of the project and there is a guaranteed energy saving.

During this year’s General Assembly Session, the VAEEC worked with Virginia Energy and our ESCO members to update the Commonwealth’s existing EPC legislation. Once these laws take effect, EPC will be able to finance all roof repairs and full replacements, allowing public buildings to use EPC to become solar-ready. This will provide public bodies with the opportunity to fully finance solar under an EPC (see our fact sheet for more information).

EPC has been particularly beneficial to some localities, such as Loudoun County, which is the fastest-growing county in Virginia with the third-largest school division. With sustainability in mind and the challenge of aging infrastructure, Loudoun County Public Schools reached a point where they could no longer reduce their energy usage without making significant investments. This led them to partner with Virginia Energy to pursue EPC. Through this first pilot project, LCPS saw a 75% kWh reduction, which was even better than the guaranteed level of energy savings. This positive experience led LCPS to continue to use EPC to not only address deferred maintenance and equipment upgrades, but to meet their capital improvement and sustainability goals.

EPC provides the school system with the fiscal advantage of financing energy efficiency retrofits from realized future energy savings. Additional benefits include expertise in design, planning, implementation, and communication; resources that guarantee long-term success; the inclusion of non-energy conservation measures projects (such as security systems); and a trusted partnership between LCPS and their selected ESCO, CMTA. Not only did CMTA understand the nuances of working in an educational environment, but they offered staff training for LCPS employees and have participated in educational opportunities for students.

If you are interested in learning more about energy performance contracting, check out the resources below.

VAEEC EPC fact sheet (6/2022)
VAEEC EPC webpage
Virginia Energy EPC webpage
Webinar Presentation PDF (6/2022)
Webinar Recording link (6/2022)

Spring 2022 Forum Recap

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council was excited to gather in person with Virginia’s energy efficiency industry leaders for our annual Spring Forum on May 5th. Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, and attendees for making this event a great success!

Our biannual forums are known for their ability to bring together Virginia’s energy efficiency leaders to make valuable connections, and this event did not disappoint. Energy efficiency professionals convened in person at the Dorey Recreation Center in Henrico County for ample networking time, a keynote address from a prominent energy-efficiency champion, educational presentations, a membership spotlight, and the organization’s annual business meeting with Board elections.

Senator Jennifer McClellan

The event kicked off with a brief opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish, who provided an update on the organization’s 2022 accomplishments thus far. Attendees were then treated to a keynote address from Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan, a long-time advocate for clean energy in the Commonwealth. Senator McClellan began by stating the importance of clean energy before specifically discussing the numerous benefits of energy efficiency; “energy efficiency is the cheapest way and the zero-carbon way to have clean energy”. She also provided a recap of recent clean energy legislation, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, insisting that Virginia must continue taking action to remain a clean energy leader. We are in the midst of transiting to clean energy; Virginia can continue to be a leader, or it can be at the end of the pack.

Members voting during the Board election

Next was our annual business meeting, a dedicated time where we hold our Board of Directors election and have our members share their accomplishments. Chelsea Harnish started this portion of the meeting with organizational updates, including the process of developing our 2023-2025 strategic plan. Afterward, Board Vice-Chair Mark Jackson (CHP Energy Solutions) led our 2022 Board of Directors election. VAEEC members re-elected seven Board members:

  • Elizabeth Beardsley, U.S. Green Building Council
  • Tim Bernadowski, Siemens Industry
  • KC Bleile, Viridiant
  • Bill Eger, City of Alexandria
  • Stephen Evanko, Dominion Due Diligence Group
  • Mark Jackson, CHP Energy Solutions, and
  • Carrie Webster, Henrico County

Members elected Megan Partridge with Franklin Energy to fill an open seat on the Board of Directors. We also officially welcomed Joyce Bodoh (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative) and Bryna Dunn (Moseley Architects) to the Board. These individuals are fulfilling the terms of former Board members. We are excited to add new voices to our leadership and to continue working with our seven re-elected members.

Remarkable Member Updates

After the remarkable member updates, a time for members to highlight their latest successes, and a networking break, attendees reconvened for our plenary session, Advancing Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment. Speakers included: Bryna Dunn (Moseley Architects), Andrew Grigsby (Viridiant), Abby Johnson (Virginia PACE Authority), and Benjamin Knopp (Community Housing Partners). Julia Reynolds (Chesterfield County) moderated.

While the keynote address focused on past successes and an overview of this year’s General Assembly session, this session was more forward-focused. Speakers touched on the latest and greatest opportunities for the field right now and their predictions for the next five years. They also covered the challenges and barriers, as well as the opportunities, they are seeing in their particular niche of the energy efficiency industry. 

Advancing EE in the Built Environment

Abby focused on the statewide Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, including recent legislation that enhances the scope of C-PACE projects. Andrew emphasized the value of efficiency and green design and using funding to support social good. He also discussed the energy code work that Viridiant is doing with the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance. Ben talked about pushing the boundaries of weatherization with MERV-13 filtration, heat pump deployment, electrification, and weatherization deferral repairs. Bryna provided an overview of Moseley’s True Sustainability Program and how it ties together wellness, decarbonization, and resilience

After closing remarks, the event concluded with a happy hour at Triple Crossing – Fulton in Richmond. With networking being one of the main benefits of a VAEEC membership, we were delighted to safely offer this in-person opportunity. It was a pleasure to connect with many of our members face-to-face again after primarily hosting virtual events for the past two years.

Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, and event attendees for making this one of our best events to date!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Additional event information, including speaker biographies and sponsor features, can be found in the event programEvent 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.

Leading By Example Through Building Performance

The VAEEC recently hosted a webinar on building performance primarily for local governments across the Commonwealth. Leading By Example Through Building Performance followed three different building performance policies and programs to not only encourage the audience to implement their own strong green building policy but to also provide best practices and lessons learned from the design phase all through the day-to-day management of a program.

Speakers included:

  • Dawn Oleksy, Climate Action Programs & Operations Supervisor, City of Richmond
  • Bill Eger, Energy Manager, City of Alexandria
  • Holly Savoia, Director of Sustainability Enforcement, NYC Department of Buildings, and
  • Elizabeth Beardsley, Senior Policy Counsel, U.S. Green Building Council.

With Virginia being a Dillon Rule state, localities are limited as to what they can and cannot mandate. However, jurisdictions are finding ways to make progress happen in their communities.

The webinar began with an overview of green buildings and the benefits of a strong green building policy – such as energy savings, emission reductions, and improved air quality – from Liz. Next, Dawn covered the City of Richmond’s climate action policy, RVAgreen 2050, which the City is currently in the middle of developing. RVAgreen 2050 centers around three key points: equity, climate action, and climate resilience. Buildings & Energy is one of five pathways the City is using to meet its goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and becoming more climate-resilient. This includes requiring an equitable building performance policy for existing commercial buildings, retro-commissioning for existing commercial buildings to improve efficiency, and benchmarking existing commercial buildings.

RVAgreen 2050 is equitable climate action for a healthy and resilient Richmond.

 

Dawn specified the need for stakeholder engagement throughout the entire process in order to better understand the community’s priorities. She also shared RVAgreen 2050’s measuring process to track the plan’s outcomes and the shared accountability framework to encourage transparency, a culture of improvement, trusting relationships, institutionalizing sustainability in city government, and regular evaluation.

Richmond just began the next phase of community-wide engagement to gather feedback on the plan. RVAgreen 2050 is scheduled to be finalized this summer and adopted by fall.

Next, Bill provided an overview of the City of Alexandria’s Green Building Policy. The City initially enacted this policy in 2009. Alexandria created the Environmental Action Plan 2040 to support the City’s goals, which include climate action and energy reduction.

The Green Building Policy establishes minimum green building practices for new public and private development and major renovations.

 

To work around Virginia’s “constrained policy environment”, authority for this policy is rooted in the City’s zoning code. Certain building performance conditions are required for the Development Site Plan and Development Special Use Permit review processes. New development must achieve the LEED Silver level of certification at a minimum. Using a third-party rating system provides an expert verification of meeting compliance requirements without having to have experts on staff. The policy also includes a minimum threshold requirement for a number of community priorities, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, and advanced energy metering.

The Green Building Policy was updated in 2019 to include newer concepts such as decarbonization. In the ten-year span between 2009 and 2019, over 95% of the development square footage constructed or currently under construction in Alexandria is compliant with the 2009 policy. This equates to nearly 10 million square feet of green building development.

Holly provided an overview of New York City’s Energy Grades Program, including the local sustainability laws that led to this program. PlaNYC set out to reduce the City’s emissions by 30% by 2030. The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan paved the way for benchmarking, energy audits and retro-commissioning, and lighting upgrades and sub-metering. Then, after Hurricane Sandy hit, the One City Built to Last Policy increased the emissions reduction goal to 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Commercial benchmarking served as the precursor to the City’s Energy Grades Program.

Since it provides transparency of a property’s annual energy and water usage, benchmarking is seen as the first step for building owners or tenants to make a building more efficient – you can’t change what you can’t measure.

The City’s commercial benchmarking mandate originally applied to buildings over 50,000 SF, but was later amended to apply to any building over 25,000 SF. Building owners must report their building’s energy and water consumption annually through the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Portfolio Manager is a readily accessible, free tool, so the municipality did not have to purchase it or develop their own benchmarking software. Additionally, building owners do not have to pay to use it or hire someone else to input the data, which helps lead to higher compliance rates. New York City has also created a way for building owners to automatically upload their data from their utility bills. Initially, violation fees were issued once a year. Now that they are issued on a quarterly basis, the City has a 96% compliance rate.

New York City’s Building Energy Grades Program applies to most buildings over 25,000 SF. The Department of Buildings uses a building’s benchmarking data to assign qualified buildings a letter grade distribution based on their Energy Star score. Owners are required to post their building’s Energy Efficiency Rating Label in a conspicuous location of their building’s entrance. The program provides transparency of a property’s energy efficiency to the public.

One of the key takeaways from all the speakers is the importance of getting the private sector involved early in the policy-making process. Getting them involved from the beginning not only increases buy-in but also allows localities to understand challenges that they may not have foreseen and to brainstorm solutions.

It was inspiring to see all of the thought and effort that goes into developing, implementing, and managing green building policies.


A recording of the webinar can be viewed here. Contact info@vaeec.org for more information.

2022 Building Code Updates

The building code update process in Virginia is underway this year. Workgroups have begun to meet to discuss proposals that have been submitted to DHCD for review. Below are several energy proposals that are currently under consideration by the DHCD energy subgroup committee, on which VAEEC executive director, Chelsea Harnish participates.

Note: You will need to register for a free account on the DHCD website to access the links below.

Proposals under consideration that the VAEEC supports:

EC-C407.6-21: Zero energy construction proposal to align all energy conservation codes with the 2021 IECC

REC-R402.1.2(1)-21: strikes VA amendments to fully adopt the 2021 IECC wall insulation requirements; this proposal was submitted by VAEEC member, Eric Lacey, of the Responsible Energy Codes Alliance (RECA). Using the DOE methodology for reviewing code change proposals, RECA determined that this proposal alone would improve efficiency a whopping 13%!  

REC-R402.1.2(2)-21: strikes VA amendments to fully adopt the 2021 IECC wall insulation requirements; identical to the proposal above but submitted by a different patron.

REC-R402.4-21: strikes VA amendments to fully adopt the 2021 IECC air leakage requirements

REC-R402.4.1.2-21: requires 3ACH for air leakage but also provides a trade off for builders

REC-R403.3.3-21: updates air duct testing compliance to align with 2021 IECC

Additionally, the subgroup is also considering a proposal on electric vehicles:

REC-R404.2-21: Electric vehicles proposal to align residential energy code with the 2021 IECC

The Energy subgroup has taken positions on the following proposals, which were reviewed by the full working group on April 14th.

EC-C402.4-21: (Consensus) technical amendment to strikes Virginia amendment language currently in the Virginia Construction Code of the USBC that are either outdated or align with the 2021 IECC

EC1301.1.1.1-21: (Non-consensus) strikes Virginia amendments to fully adopt the 2021 IECC

Study: Indoor Air Quality is “the biggest challenge for public spaces and workspaces of this century.” 

America has a building problem. 

Americans spend up to 90% of their lives indoors, in buildings that were not designed with ventilation in mind. The quality of indoor air affects all aspects of life – health, school and job performance, cognitive abilities, and energy bills. 

While COVID-19 brought indoor air quality into sharp focus, many of the most common – and often dangerous – communicable illnesses are spread through airborne transmission. Additionally, chronic illnesses like asthma, cardiovascular disease, and COPD are exacerbated by factors in the living environment. Comparative risk studies performed by EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) have consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health. In fact, there is over thirty years of research on the effects of indoor air quality on human health and behavior. 

Improvements to air filtration and ventilation have lagged behind other building systems for years, leading to what Dr. Vin Gupta, the Chief Health Officer at Amazon, calls “the biggest challenge for public and workspaces of this century.” 

“Go back 100 years. The big issue that was killing people were communicable diseases passed fecal to oral,” Gupta said. This issue led to improvements in sanitation and waste disposal across the world. “100 years later, it is how do we ventilate public space and workplaces.” 

Building owners and residents need to prioritize improved indoor air quality in their spaces. “Treat indoor air quality like a must-have work benefit, not a trendy perk” said Prof. Joseph Allen, associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Allen is also leading ongoing research on the correlation between indoor air quality and health. 

Allen was a leading author on a recent study that explored the coexistence of energy efficiency and health. The third in a series that focused on the effects of air quality on cognitive function, researchers concluded that cognitive scores averaged between 61-101% higher in green building designs over conventional buildings. The authors stated these findings have “wide-ranging implications” as the study mimicked many typical indoor environments. 

Typically, increases in ventilation and filtration result in an increase in energy use, but by leveraging equipment controls and efficient equipment, these programs help building owners and residents keep energy increases manageable. 

George Barnes, Account Manager for Complex Solutions for Trane said, “the challenge is to complete [measures] in an energy efficient manner. If done correctly, spaces will be safer, occupants will be healthier, and any cost increases will be mitigated.” 

Energy efficiency and green building also reduces absenteeism in schools and the workplace, improves workforce retention and productivity, and contributes to better comfort for residents and workers. As employers bring workers back into physical offices, it is critical that everyone – building owners, CEOs, employees, and more – keep a keen eye on the health of the buildings and the people within them.

2021 Achievements

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

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

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

Dominion EM&V Hearing Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 Energy Efficiency Forum

View the event program for details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovating the Building Envelope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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