Category: Blog

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 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.

Virginia Ranks Sixth in States That Can Improve Building Codes

The passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act set lofty energy savings goals for the investor-owned utilities, in order to meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2045. While there are multiple paths to achieving these goals, a recent report from ACEEE suggests that one key to success could be stronger building codes. 

Over the next five years, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will allocate $1.2M towards code training and enforcement. In the ACEEE report, Virginia ranked sixth as one of the best positioned states to take advantage of this new funding to improve its energy codes across the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. 

According to ACEEE, Virginia needs to see the most emissions reduction by 2030 to meet its policy targets. While the VCEA savings targets are focused on cleaning up the grid, building codes can address both new construction and the existing building stock, which accounts for 40% of energy consumption nationwide. Based on their analysis, ACEEE found that Virginia needs to reduce emissions by more than 50% to meet the VCEA goals. 

In Virginia, the commercial building code aligns with the IECC model code, but gaps in enforcement and code official training mean the state could save an additional 5-10% on energy costs by utilizing federal funds. 

On the residential side, our current code is missing two critical provisions that would align with the 2021 IECC model code – improved R-value for wall insulation, and enhanced building tightness to reduce the number of air changes per hour. By adopting these amendments, ACEEE found that there could be a 17.8% reduction in energy costs. (Learn about the the Virginia building code update process on our website.)

The report also found that Virginia ranked in the median for homes built nationwide. Meaning, approximately 1700 new homes were built across the state in 2019, with the data projecting similar growth moving forward. New home construction is a great opportunity for increased energy efficiency.

Bringing the Uniform Statewide Building Code up to IECC standards and improving code enforcement, can help the state achieve up to 20% in residential energy cost-savings. 

While the building code applies more directly to new construction, retrofits are a pathway to reducing emissions and costs in existing buildings as well. ACEEE also looked at carbon emissions from existing buildings and found that, in 2019, over 5 tons of CO2 per capita – equivalent to driving 12,000 miles in a standard gas SUV – were released from Virginia’s existing building stock. By 2050, as much as two-thirds of existing buildings statewide will have been constructed prior to 2020, therefore it is increasingly critical to address existing buildings, in addition to new construction. Utility residential energy efficiency programs will play a major role in reducing emissions from existing housing, thereby highlighting the need for a holistic approach to reducing carbon emissions from Virginia’s built environment.

The timing on the implementation of these federal dollars couldn’t be better. However, deployment of these funds must be part of a comprehensive strategy that takes into account Virginia policy. Facilitating these types of conversations with decision-makers is a role that the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, and our members, can play. We look forward to that opportunity. Check our new federal funding page and our monthly e-newsletters for continued updates on this important work. 

 

2022 Energy Efficiency Forum Recap

View the program

The VAEEC’s 2022 Energy Efficiency Forum brought together the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency community on October 31st and November 1st. A huge thank you to our sponsors, speakers, award winners, and attendees for making this event a great success!

In order to make the event more accessible to those near and far and to provide a diverse array of speakers from across the country, day one was fully virtual. It consisted of four breakout sessions and a networking session.  

A Tale of Two Heat Pumps: Heat pump adoption is a priority for the Biden administration, and the technology has long been proven to be safer and more efficient than traditional boilers. However, barriers exist to widespread use. This session discussed the barriers and opportunities with experts from the NE and SE to address these regions’ needs and perspectives. Speakers included Maggie Kelley Riggins (Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance), Dan Lis (Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships), Louis O’Berry (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative), and Dan York (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, moderator). 

Using Less to Get More: The Role of Energy Efficiency in Decarbonization: Decarbonization has become a buzzword lately with the passage of historic federal laws. During this panel, attendees learned from those implementing successful decarbonization programs with an eye on energy efficiency. Examples included both state- and utility-run programs, including what one of the Commonwealth’s gas utilities has in the works. Erich Evans (Columbia Gas), Caterina “Katy” Hatcher (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), Shaun Hoyte (Con Edison), and Edward Yim (ACEEE) were the speakers, while Solome Girma (D.C. Sustainable Energy Utility) moderated. 

Proof of Concept: Approaches to Energy Efficiency: This case study session was designed to provide the value of shared experience and knowledge from those who have successfully navigated new technologies and programs. Robert Hart (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab) covered the advancements in window construction. Betsy Farrell Garcia and Mackenzie Stagg (Front Porch Initiative) gave an overview of rural, low-income housing programs from experts in the field. Joyce Bodoh (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative) and Brett Hood (Community Housing Partners) moderated. 

Efficiency First: Strategies to Improve Municipal Buildings: Local governments and public school systems often face a unique set of challenges when it comes to the comfort, cost, and health of their buildings. This session focused on inventive ways this sector is improving its buildings through efficient and equitable programs. Speakers included Joanne Bissetta (Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources), Ann Livingston (Southeast Sustainability Directors Network), Christopher Russell (Maryland Energy Administration), and Kristel Riddervold (City of Charlottesville, VA, moderator). 

 

 

 

 

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 updated on the organization’s 2022 accomplishments and our 2023 priorities, as well as an overview of the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency industry. 

Everyone was then treated to a keynote address from Jennifer Bumgarner, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Ms. Bumgarner provided a breakdown of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding, as well as how the DOE is preparing to use this funding for the expansion of programs for state and local benefits and workforce development. Highlights of the address included approximations of when applications for the different buckets of funding will open, tips on what to include in your proposals, and DOE resources to help you navigate all of the options. 

After a break of networking and snacks, attendees came back together for the plenary session, Preparing for Impact: New Funding Opportunities to Accelerate Energy Efficiency. Between the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, states and localities are receiving a historic investment in clean energy. But what does that mean for Virginia? Experts in state and local governments, industry, and policy provided a breakdown and predictions for what’s next for energy efficiency in the Commonwealth. Speakers included Sabine Rogers (AnnDyl Policy Group), Bettina Bergoo (Virginia Energy), Abby Campbell Singer (Siemens USA), John Morrill (Fairfax County Government), and Rebecca Hui (Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, moderator). 

Next, we had the privilege of hosting our seventh annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards ceremony. One project and two programs were recognized for their incredible energy efficiency contributions to the Commonwealth. For information on each winning project, visit our 2022 Awards page

Finally, the event concluded with an on-site networking reception. 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 received recordings for each of the four breakout sessions in the post-event email. Presentation PDFs can be viewed at the links above.

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.

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