Category: VAEEC News

Progress report on Virginia’s Clean Power Plan stakeholder group

Governor McAuliffe’s stakeholder group on the Clean Power Plan (CPP) met for the third time on Friday, February 12, and began getting into the details of the choices before us. The McAuliffe Administration and Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are moving forward with a Virginia implementation plan despite the recent Supreme Court stay on the EPA regulation targeting greenhouse gases.

Energy efficiency should have a strong role in the Virginia CPP implementation plan. The state has high per-capita electricity use, due to decades of low prices and limited programs for efficiency. The Commonwealth has enormous potential for cost-effective energy efficiency savings. How well the state captures this potential for economic gain will depend in large part on the implementation plan Virginia designs.

Stay tuned for more.


John Morrill headshotJohn Morrill is the energy manager for Arlington County. He is on the Governance Board of VAEEC, and he was appointed to the CPP Stakeholder Group on behalf of the Virginia Association of Counties (VACO). John welcomes input from readers:

Featured Member of the Month: Community Housing Partners (CHP)

February 2016

Featured Member of the Month: Community Housing Partners (CHP) and their work with Weatherizers Without Borders (WWB)

Business Gold Member

PrintChristiansburg-based Community Housing Partners, or CHP (Business Gold VAEEC member), does incredible work creating and sustaining “communities that promote vitality in neighborhoods, foster wealth-building for individuals, and contribute to a better environment for future generations” through sustainable development, architectural design, construction, homeownership,, housing management, resident services, energy training and research, emergency home repair, and weatherization.

But what’s equally impressive is their work not just outside the Commonwealth but outside the United States. As a founding partner of Weatherizers Without Borders (WWB), CHP works with various global entities to fight energy inefficiency and energy poverty in order to improve the health, safety, comfort, and economy of families across the globe in Central and South American countries. They help introduce programs like the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program as public policies in these regions, and CHP Energy Solutions Research and Training has trained WWB volunteers in both Virginia and Argentina.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 2.50.11 PMCHP’s Chase Counts is one of several subject experts from the Training Center who have provided training and technical assistance in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “During my three-week stay, we were able to provide hands-on field training to 15 installers, an additional 8 student-volunteers that would continue developing the trainings, and we held a two week building science intensive course at the Instituto Tecnologico Buenos Aires for 25 architects, engineers, utility professionals, professors, and interested students,” explains Chase, “There is a strong interest and demand for weatherization work that extends beyond saving energy to also include improving quality of life and making households healthier.”

WWB is preparing to host their third International Summit on Weatherization at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington in early March. The Summit will be complemented by speakers and presentations on weatherization both in the US and Latin America. The presentations will be followed by workshops discussing how to building international sustainable housing polices and the role of universities in this challenge.

We wrote about WWB back in January 2014 when things were just getting started.

You can learn more about WWB’s work in Uruguay and the overall global reach of WWB.

WWB Invitation Conference March2

Blog: New White Paper – Clean Power Plan can have minimal impact on Virignia ratepayers, and energy efficiency is key

January 20, 2016

“Implementing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan would have minimal impact on electricity costs in Virginia, and could even provide savings for ratepayers under some scenarios, compared with projected energy costs in 2030.” Those are among the findings of a white paper released today by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute.Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 2.01.03 PM

The basis of the paper is an open-access analytic tool called the State Tool for Electricity Emissions Reduction (STEER) that allows state officials and other stakeholders to consider CPP compliance options and their economic impacts.The paper presents the results of two specific scenarios that are representative of multiple runs through STEER.

Echoing previous regional and national studies, this report emphasizes the important role energy efficiency can play in meeting CPP carbon reduction targets:

“Over several runs of the STEER model, energy efficiency and renewable energy are consistently the lowest cost mitigation options for the state. With significant energy efficiency potential, the state has an untapped resource in utility energy efficiency and network efficiency improvements.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 1.41.18 PMMost likely to turn heads is the report’s finding that with energy efficiency and renewables, these targets can be with minimal impact on electricity costs in Virginia compared with business as usual:

“In Scenario A there is a minor rate increase seen, less than a half of a penny per kilowatt hour, compared with a business-as-usual projection. In Scenario B, the scenario using the SCC’s efficiency potential study, we see a decrease in electric rates compared with business-as-usual. In neither scenario do we see significant costs imposed on Virginia ratepayers as a result of Clean Power Plan compliance. The result is likely due to the substantial contribution to compliance made by low-cost resources such as energy efficiency and renewable energy. The scenarios shown here demonstrate that Virginia can achieve its required carbon reduction targets without imposing significant costs on ratepayers compared with business as usual.”

As the Commonwealth moves forward with CPP compliance plans, reports of this nature provide state leaders with another layer of evidence that the targets are achievable when we harness energy efficiency and renewables.

Side note: The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) just released the State Utility Pollution Reduction Calculator Version 2 (SUPR2), a tool that allows anyone to explore the cost and pollution reduction potential of different strategies.

Find out more and get access to ACEEE’s SUPR2 here

Read the full Advanced Energy Economy Institute white paper here. The press release is also available here. 

STEER for VIRGINIA is available for download as an Excel spreadsheet, with user manual, at

Guest Post: The Multifamily Coalition Virginia Needs

Guest Blogger: Chase Counts, CHP Energy Solutions (VAEEC Member – Business Gold)

January 20, 2016


Energy efficiency programs and policies in Virginia have historically favored detached, single-family homes over multifamily housing. For a brief period around 2009, weatherization funds were used on affordable multifamily housing following the influx of federal stimulus money under ARRA; but currently, Virginia’s weatherization program only serves single family housing and only around two-percent of utility funded residential efficiency programs in Virginia go to multifamily housing. Beyond that, few resources have been available to the 385,000 Virginia households residing in affordable multifamily buildings representing about twelve-percent of the commonwealth’s housing stock.

Affirming this imbalance, the national Energy Efficiency For All project identified Virginia as one of 12 states that could cost-effectively increase energy efficiency in the affordable multifamily sector. Leveraging the established reputation and network of Virginia Housing Alliance to lead the charge, a cross-sector group of energy efficiency advocates, weatherization providers, affordable housing providers, and environmental organizations gathered to form the Virginia Multifamily Energy Efficiency Coalition (MFEEC).


The mission of the Coalition is “advancing policies and programs that provide comprehensive energy efficiency services to Virginia’s multifamily affordable housing stock.” The group has set a goal of “25 / 25 / 2025,” which means the coalition will support policies and programs resulting in an average energy savings of 25-percent or greater in 25-percent of the affordable multifamily housing stock in Virginia by 2025.

The Coalition has identified the following opportunity areas to advance towards their goal:

  • Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
  • Utility driven energy efficiency programs
  • Legislature
  • State Administration
  • Financing Mechanisms
Credit: CHP Energy Solutions Research and Training

Credit: CHP Energy Solutions Research and Training

Since the inaugural meeting in October 2015, Coalition members have established a presence in each opportunity area. Most recently, weatherization service providers participating as contractors for Dominion Virginia Power’s (DVP) prescriptive energy efficiency programs requested the Coalition represent their interests in a negotiation with DVP regarding extending funds to assist with addressing health and safety issues. The Coalition garnered consensus with the providers and submitted a proposal under consideration by DVP currently. A resolution is anticipated early in 2016 that will help keep Virginia households participating in the DVP programs safe and with peace of mind.

The Coalition has also established a work plan to ensure productive discussions turn into meaningful actions with tangible results. The first initiative is establishing a scorecard to track the progress of reaching the goal of reducing the energy burden of nearly 100,000 households within the next 10 years. The second initiative is to host an event in 2016 that will bring together the energy and housing sectors in Virginia and begin to amplify the foundational efforts of the Coalition.

The goals put forward by the MFEEC are ambitious but attainable. The members are driven, passionate, and collectively understand the various policy, regulatory, and technical obstacles and complications that come with a mission of safely and cost-effectively improving energy efficiency of affordable multifamily housing by 25-percent.

If you are interested in becoming a member or for additional information about MFEEC, please visit the website at or contact Zack Miller at

Guest Post: PACE update and recommendations

Abby JohnsonGuest Blogger: Abby Johnson, Abacus Property Solutions (VAEEC Member – Individual)

January 19, 2016

This year, Virginia Community Capital received a grant from the Oak Hill Fund to explore implementation of PACE financing in Virginia. As part of this grant, VCC held an initial stakeholder meeting on July 14, 2015 where attendees heard about the new PACE law that went into effect on July 1, 2015 as well as from guest speakers from other states. On December 8th, Virginia Community Capital (“VCC”) held the final Virginia PACE Financing stakeholder meeting at the Trane facility in Ashland. At this meeting, the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) gave an overview of the new PACE financial underwriting guidelines that went to effect December 1, 2015 and Rich Dooley, of Arlington County gave an update on Arlington’s plans to issue an RFP for a program administrator. Then I joined Neal Barber of Community Futures to present the findings from our grant research. Afterwards, attendees broke out into groups to discuss these recommendations and offer their insights.

As a seasoned executive within state and local governments for 40 years, Neal was selected to interview local elected officials and staff from across Virginia. During the fall, Neal met or spoke with 35 jurisdictions to gauge the level of knowledge and interest in participating in a PACE financing program. For the most part, his research revealed that few jurisdictions were currently aware of PACE with the exception of those with dedicated sustainability officials. Although there was definitely interest in the concept of PACE as an economic development tool, top conclusions from these interviews revealed that there is a:

  • Need for significant education to different parts of a locality’s staff to explain how PACE would impact them
  • Benefit to engaging a local champion to push PACE as a priority item within a locality
  • Interest in a centralized “plug and play” program
  • Preference for seeing how PACE is adopted in other jurisdictions before taking the proverbial plunge.

Given my deep knowledge of PACE programs around the country and extensive work in Virginia, I was asked to analyze national best practices and develop an initial set of recommendations for our state. Some highlights include:

  • A minimum annual project volume of $10-20 million is needed to sustain a PACE program, assuming upfront ongoing administration fees are the primary source of funding for the administrator.
  • Most successful programs have or had internal funding or financing structures such as the Green Bank in Connecticut.
  • Successful programs tend to be located in areas with high utility rates, robust incentive structures, and/or higher energy usage such as California and Connecticut.
  • The cost to develop (set-up and implementation) a PACE program is estimated to be $500K to $1 million for a full service program administrator.
  • Although smaller projects (under $300k) represent a major source of deal flow, the costs to both the program administrator and the building owner are often prohibitively high and must be streamlined to be a viable product line.
  • Education is key and must be a major budget item both to convince localities of the program’s value and to train key channel partners.

Although much more research is required to develop a detailed implementation plan, some initial recommendations include:

  • Develop a P3 platform through alignment with a new or existing statewide entity with a standardized set of documents and procedures such as: model ordinance, underwriting criteria, and vetted contractors and capital providers. This state-level entity would partner with regional and local institutions to leverage existing relationships and marketing infrastructure.
  • Prioritize two or three localities with the maximum potential for the first year.
  • Identify creative ways (such as job creation/training grants) to provide the program administrator with funding that generates a healthy pipeline quickly.

Arlington County is forging ahead with developing a PACE program. This past week, Arlington held the first of several planned discussions on the benefits of PACE to local stakeholders – this one geared toward commercial real estate lenders. I, along with Arlington’s Rich Dooley, fielded many thoughtful questions during this lively discussion, demonstrating first hand the absolute importance of education when introducing a new product to the market.


Related Post: PACE is finally here in Virginia (June 2015)

Featured Member of the Month: Dominion Virginia Power

January 2016

Dominion Virginia Power
Gold Level Member

Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion (NYSE: D), one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy with operations in 14 states. Dominion Virginia Power offers 6 non-residential, and 7 residential programs that empower customers to manage their energy consumption, resulting in lower bills throughout the year. The company recently expanded its EnergyShare program to provide financial assistance, weatherization services and educational outreach to more qualifying customers, including people living with disabilities and military veterans facing financial hardships. As a regulated utility, Dominion regularly reviews and proposes new programs for approval to the State Corporation Commission (SCC). Currently under consideration by the SCC are a residential programmable thermostat program and a small business program.

To view the current list of programs and incentives for Dominion customers visit the Energy Conservation home page.

Clean Energy Lobby Day is February 9 in Richmond

Clean Energy Lobby Day 2016 Logov2-01The VAEEC is teaming up with the Maryland, DC, Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association (MDV-SEIA) to host Clean Energy Lobby Day (CELD) 2016 on February 9.

Our focus will be on bringing together the advanced energy businesses of Virginia with key legislators to advocate for clean technology bills in this upcoming legislative session.

Last year, more than 100 business representatives from Virginia’s solar, wind and energy efficiency industries achieved 60+ meetings with legislative offices.

You can download fact sheets on the bills VAEEC is supporting here.
Learn more and register. 

Featured Member of the Month: Opower

December 2015

Opower logo



“Optimizing Communications to Low-Income Utility Customers”

Starting this month, we’re modifying our approach to the Featured Member of the Month. In this space we’ll be sharing profiles of VAEEC members and their most innovative and relevant programs in an effort to foster more information sharing and knowledge building among our network. Thanks to Opower for being our “guinea pig” with this new approach and for sharing their story.

Finding ways to save energy and shrink utility bills can make a huge difference for low-income families across the U.S. struggling to make ends meet.

VAEEC member Opower – a company that helps utilities around the world reduce energy consumption and improve relationships with their customers – engages more than 500,000 low-income customers across the U.S. through targeted, personalized communications, empowering low-income families with the information they need to lower their bills.

There are often assumptions that low-income customers would have trouble reducing their energy usage because they have fewer appliances to turn off. Yet Opower has found that EE savings are on par with average customer savings. Further, low-income customers are even more likely than non-low-income customers to take equipment-based actions – things like insulating doors, installing efficient appliances/lighting, insulating attic, etc. — in response to Opower’s Home Energy Reports (HERs). These actions might be undertaken on their own or through weatherization programs that utilities and others offer. And low-income customers report higher rates of satisfaction with the HERs than average customers.

“Opower is committed to giving utilities tools to bring more value to their customers and their communities. There’s a great deal we can do to help low-income families by empowering them with insights that are tailored to their needs and provide practical ways they can reduce energy costs,” says Alex Laskey, Opower President and Co-Founder.

The lessons Opower has learned (and shared through various resources like the white papers which you can access below) in their outreach to low-income customers has huge implications.

“The U.S. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program reaches fewer than 25% of eligible households, yet the needs of low-income families are growing. As funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and LIHEAP decrease or fades away completely, it is critical to help families maximize the value of every available dollar. Energy efficiency offers a promising opportunities to help low-income families manage their energy costs,” says Jim Kapsis, Opower’s Vice President of Global Policy & Regulatory Affairs.

You can download two of Opower’s white papers on this topic on their website:

Unlocking Energy Efficiency for Low-Income Utility Customers: Four Key Lessons from Real-World Program Experience

Beyond Weatherization: How Innovative Program Strategies Can Enhance Core Low-Income Programs



2014-2015 VAEEC Annual Report

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 4.22.02 PMDownload the full Annual Report.

The 2014 – 2015 membership year saw the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council make great strides towards its goal of growing the energy efficiency industry in the Commonwealth. Not only did we initiate and facilitate successful conversations on policy and regulation, we were also very pleased to see some of our long-held recommendations implemented by Virginia’s new Governor in the updated Virginia Energy Plan.

One recommendation was for the formation of a stakeholder group to identify where we stood with respect to: our state’s voluntary energy efficiency goal, how it was going to be tracked, and what the plan
was to achieve it. The appointed Governor’s Executive Committee on Energy Efficiency is just the kind of stakeholder group needed, and we welcome its mandate to assist the state in meeting the voluntary goal through an actionable plan. Four of the VAEEC’s Governance Board Directors participate on the Committee, and other Directors participate in subcommittees to support the GEC’s work.

The VAEEC is also proud to have been part the state energy office’s winning proposal team on a Dept. of Energy State Energy Program grant. As a subrecipient on this award, we will support the GEC’s efforts as a convener, technical assistance provider, and sounding board for policies and implementation strategies.

Lastly, the VAEEC thanks its primary funder, the Energy Foundation for its continued support and guidance. We have leveraged its grant many times over through our partnerships, proposals, and programs – and are very grateful for the capacity it gives us.
Warm regards to our members and fellow energy efficiency supporters,
Cynthia Adams, VAEEC Governance Board Chair
CEO, Pearl National Home Certification


From the ED: Fall Meeting Synopsis

VAEEC13Our November 12th member meeting was the most well attended meeting for the VAEEC to date, and those 110+ attendees were treated to a packed room and packed agenda. It was a great starting point for me as the new Executive Director of the VAEEC, and I hope that those in attendance enjoyed the diverse speaking topics as much as I did. (If you attended the meeting and would like to share your feedback, we’ve got a brief survey up online.)

Here’s my synopsis of the meeting, and you can download all of the presentations on the Resources page):

After our board chair, Cynthia Adams with Pearl Certification, did the welcome and introduced me, I laid out my vision for the next 12+ months for the VAEEC. In preparation for the meeting, I had spoken with all of my board members and during those conversations three common ideas emerged as top priorities for us:

  1. The Council should be a trusted source of information for decision makers, businesses or anyone interested in energy efficiency policy and innovation. We’re already well on its way with this objective through our work with the Governor’s Executive Committee on energy efficiency.
  2. More networking. To that end, we will be announcing some exciting new opportunities in the future so stay tuned.
  3. More member resources. Building off our monthly e-newsletter, we will be providing more original content as well as other resources for our members in the coming months.

This is just the beginning. I also want to hear from you, our members, on ways we can help you be successful in the energy efficiency space.   To that end, we will be sending out a member survey at the beginning of the new year so be on the lookout for it.

VAEEC06Our first speaker was Dr. Bob Holsworth with DecideSmart, who discussed the impacts of recent election results on Virginia’s energy efficient future, which, according to Dr. Holsworth, will have zero impact since the elections kept the House and Senate divided in the same ratio as before.

Next was Mike Dowd with the Department of Environmental Quality who gave an update on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Mike’s presentation was full of details such as how the draft and final rule differed; how Virginia’s comments to the EPA were addressed; various pathways to compliance, and the timeline moving forward. This is definitely worth checking out and is available on our Resources page. 

Hayes Framme with the Office of Governor McAuliffe was our next presenter who gave a brief update on the Governor’s Executive Committee on Energy Efficiency (GEC). Four of the VAEEC’s board members sit on the GEC and the Council is a partner of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the state agency who provides staffing to the GEC, to work on some of the key components of the GEC work plan. Our work with the GEC is just getting started so expect to see more updates about the GEC at our spring meeting as well.

After the GEC update, we held our member spotlight presentation on Arlington County. John Morrill, a VAEEC board member representing Arlington County, gave a brief update on their program with a few highlights, including their highly successful LED program.

VAEEC12After lunch, VAEEC board member Marisa Uchin with Opower presented on energy efficiency policies and programs taking place in New York and California. Hurricane Sandy was a wake up call to decision-makers in NY on just how vulnerable their energy system is to natural disasters. As stated in Marisa’s presentation, Reforming the Energy Vision is a “comprehensive reform aimed at reorienting the electric industry and ratemaking paradigm toward a customer-centric approach, and one that uses distributed energy resources (DER) as a primary tool in the planning and operation of efficient and resilient electric distribution systems.”

Next up Mary Shoemaker with American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy presented ACEEE’s new scorecard and highlighted how Virginia compares to its neighbors, which unfortunately, isn’t favorable.

After the ACEEE presentation, we held a “lightning round” for utility updates. Dominion and Appalachian Power both gave brief updates on their low-income energy efficiency programs. In the future, we would like to extend an invitation for all of our members to briefly highlight their work in this format so please come prepared to brag at the spring meeting!

Our final speaker of the day was VAEEC board member Bill Greenleaf with Virginia Community Capital who walked us through the new Virginia SAVES program and the new PACE loan program for commercial customers, thanks to recent legislation passed in the 2015 General Assembly session. The VA SAVES program is an interest rate subsidy program that utilizes Virginia’s allocation of federal qualified energy conservation bonds. This program is open to local governments and the private sector and is capped at $20 million. PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is a loan program for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water efficiency projects. The loans, provided by private lenders, are repaid on the commercial real estate tax bill and stay with property upon resale.

As you can tell, we had a very productive and informative meeting. We’re already underway planning for the spring meeting and we hope you can join us then.


The author and VAEEC’s new Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish.


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