2020 has been a unique year for sure. However, looking back, VAEEC and Virginia’s energy efficiency industry saw several monumental wins this year. In fact, Virginia had its best year on the ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. For the first time ever, we broke into the Top 25 and Virginia was ranked #1 in the Southeast. This is a reflection of the hard work and efforts of the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency industry throughout 2020. We look forward to continuing to advance energy efficiency even further in the new year.
For our part, the VAEEC worked tirelessly with fellow stakeholders to pass several key pieces of historic energy efficiency legislation, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). This landmark law will pave the way for a carbon-free Virginia by 2045, ensuring investments in energy efficiency, solar, wind, and more. The VCEA mandates 5% energy savings from the investor-owned utilities by 2025, marking Virginia as just the second state in the Southeast to establish a mandatory stand-alone Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). Additional laws established mandatory benchmarking for state buildings, enabled an on-bill tariff program for electric co-ops, and added an energy audit to the residential disclosure during homebuying. We also saw the passage of a law permitting the state energy office to develop a statewide Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, program.
The VAEEC also advanced energy efficiency in the Commonwealth beyond legislation. We identified the need to change Dominion Energy’s definition of low-income eligibility requirements and worked with our members to make it happen. The new definition will allow weatherization providers to serve even more households across Virginia. Three localities passed C-PACE ordinances and one launched a program. Blower door testing and increased ceiling insulation requirements were included in the recently adopted final draft of the Uniform Statewide Building Code.
At the end of each year, the VAEEC completes a program evaluation, which goes hand-in-hand with our Strategic Plan to answer:
What impacts is the organization trying to achieve?
What strategies will help us achieve our goals?
How will we know if our work is successful?
As you might remember, VAEEC staff and Board members met last summer to develop our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan. Taking feedback from our members, we created focus areas for our next three years of work:
Advancement of New Energy-Efficiency Technologies
Utility Programs and VCEA Implementation
Our evaluation focuses on each of these areas, prompts us to think about the goals, strategies, and metrics for each, and assesses whether or not we are on track to achieve our goals. To provide our membership with a snapshot of these goals and whether or not we are on track to achieve them, we are sharing our program evaluation infographics. Take a look below to get a glimpse of all of the EE advancements we were able to achieve in this unprecedented year.
To learn more about the VAEEC’s 2020 achievements, watch our short video below.
Our work would not be successful without the support of our members. Thank you for your dedication to the organization and to Virginia’s energy efficiency industry. We look forward to working with you in the new year to make 2021 our strongest year for EE yet.
The recent election in Virginia had the highest voter turnout in two decades for a gubernatorial race (which occur in off-years) and brought the balance of power in the House of Delegates to a nearly even split between Republicans and Democrats. What does that mean for statewide energy efficiency policies and initiatives? As we continue to analyze the scenarios, we are actively engaging with the next Governor and his transition team.
These are our first thoughts on what to expect:
Both Governor-elect Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring currently hold statewide office, which means there won’t be a steep learning curve on all topics all at one time.
Northam has been lauded as an environmental and clean energy champion, with strong backing from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters among others. Energy efficiency isn’t necessarily his “pet project,” but we expect to find an open ear given his stance on related issues and statements like this: “Dr. Northam, as a scientist, understands the importance of energy efficiency. As a state senator, Northam supported stricter energy efficiency standards, including incentivizing companies to invest in energy efficient programs. He believes energy efficiency not only helps to combat environmental damage and climate change, but also makes business sense by saving homeowners and businesses energy costs.”
With a plethora of new members in the House of Delegates, there is an opportunity to educate them on key energy efficiency policies.
Depending on recounts, there will be 4-6 new members on the House Commerce and Labor committee, which reviews all energy legislation. VAEEC will be working with the new and returning members to educate them on the value of energy efficiency in the Commonwealth, including resuming our site visits with legislators in the spring. We led two successful tours in October which you can read about here. We’ll also share with all incoming legislators our new series of short videos on key EE policies. Watch those here.
VAEEC will continue to advocate for the Governor elect to build on the progress being made by Governor McAuliffe — who we recently honored with an Award of Excellence for his leadership and support of energy efficiency in the Commonwealth — on carbon regulations, which include a 5% carve out for EE programs.
Stay tuned for more insight into how the political landscape is shaping up for our energy efficiency priorities in Virginia, including a briefing on the upcoming General Assembly session in January.
Make sure you are signed up for our monthly e-newsletters (contact email@example.com) and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to keep up to speed.
Guest Blog Post: Johnette Johnson, VAEEC intern and University of Richmond student
With a score of 13 points out of a possible 50 (same score as 2015), Virginia dropped two rankings from 31 to 33 in this year’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. According to the scorecard press release from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Virginia’s lower score is due to our inability to keep pace as other states expanded efficiency efforts.
The State Scorecard is a helpful illustration of the strengths and weaknesses of each state’s energy efficiency components and provides an opportunity for all states to learn from each other.
For instance, if we look at Virginia’s utility programs, our scoring is a negative 0.5 points out of 20, placing our utility programs at the 51st rank alongside West Virginia. Virginia’s State Corporation Committee, who regulates utility programs, allocates a very small budget towards electricity and natural gas efficiency programs thereby energy savings are some of the lowest in the country.
The ACEEE also encourages growth in Virginia’s Combined Heat and Power (CHP) sector. CHP is the successful generation of electricity and useful thermal energy in a single, integrate system that produces 80% combined efficiency as opposed to 45% for traditional power plants. However, CHP systems require the purchasing of backup power from the electric grid as well as the selling of excess electricity back to it. A lack of established parameters and procedures for connecting to the grid drives up costs and stifles CHP deployment in Virginia.
California reaps the benefits of CHP through a total of 28 installations. Another installation of note is their Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) that provides incentive payments to support the commercialization of new, efficient CHP technologies. CA’s CHP energy resources are held to the standards of the Qualifying Facilities and CHP Program Settlement; the program provides targets and requirements that facilitate the efficient production of CHP.
While highlighting other state’s successes, the Scorecard does not fail to recognize Virginia’s innovative efficiency programs. Virginia received a stellar five points out of a possible seven for state-led initiatives, ranking us 10th in the nation for these programs. This performance marks a high potential for the future of the state’s energy efficiency programs. Virginia exhibited notable performances in our building code policies as well, ranking 28th in the country.
The Scorecard can be used as a tool to motivate Virginians to take note of the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency setbacks and to push for improvements that our neighboring states are already implementing.
September 23, 2016 Chelsea Harnish, VAEEC Executive Director
What an inspiring day at the Clean Energy Business Roundtable in Roanoke with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Plenty of VAEEC members were represented, including Community Housing Partners, Trane, Virginia Community Capital, Oracle (OPower), Appalachian Power and Siemens.
You can track some of the action via #NewVAEconomy.
A few things we heard from folks in the room:
Governor McAuliffe kicked it off with a number of data-based arguments for energy efficiency and clean energy being cornerstones of the #NewVAEconomy, including: in 2013, the Clean Energy Census for Virginia found that clean energy- including wind, solar, EE, biomass and geothermal- was a $500,000 industry. Looking at preliminary results from our 2016 census, the revenue from this industry jumped to $2.1 billion with EE making up $1.2 billion (and the census is still open).
The cap for VA SAVES should be extended beyond $5M. Trane noted that school systems are looking to use this program, but the money will eventually run out. With the interest rate so low, schools could really do more with VA SAVES than current financing structure allows.
Monica Rokicki with Better Building Works stated that a building-science based approach is critical for any renewable energy and energy efficiency policy decisions. We checked in with Monica after the event and got a bit more detail from her: “We have to factor in health and safety. For example, many clients think insulation is a good thing for energy efficiency in buildings. They are right except that if they don’t account for the fire hazards like air leakage at the tops of buildings or old knob and tube wiring, they are creating a very dangerous situation. Likewise, doing work without measuring before and after ventilation can create very bad air quality issues — making existing ones worse or even creating new ones. This is why independent third party verification by certified auditors is critical.” Plus, it ensures that the energy savings are on par with what we predicted.
The Roanoke Chamber of Commerce (host of the event), emphasized the need for technical training in high schools. Many in the room agreed with this need and several stated that including facilities manager skills in these programs is key as many people in these positions are at or near retirement age with very few qualified candidates available to fill in.
Oracle Utilities (OPower was recently purchased by Oracle), which operates worldwide, called for the Department of Mines Minerals and Energy (DMME) to get more involved in SCC proceedings.
Community Housing Partners highlighted their workforce training programs and noted that baby boomers currently occupy a significant segment of energy-related jobs and they are starting to retire.
Appalachian Power chimed in with the utility perspective that customers have a hard time paying their bills, so collaboration is key to ensure those who are already struggling don’t have to pay more.
A huge thanks for to the Roundtable participants for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their experiences and expertise and to Governor McAuliffe and his staff for joining and supporting the Commonwealth’s clean energy and energy efficiency industries.
(June 28, 2016) Governor McAuliffe today issued Executive Order 57 directing Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward to convene a workgroup and recommend concrete steps to reduce carbon pollution from Virginia’s power plants. The group will evaluate options under Virginia’s existing authority to address carbon pollution. You can read the Governor’s press release here.
The following is the statement of Chelsea Harnish, VAEEC Executive Director:
“The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council applauds Governor McAuliffe’s announcement today on issuing Executive Order 57. Any plan to reduce carbon emissions should include strong energy efficiency policies. The Governor has been a champion of energy efficiency since taking office, which has been exemplified by his action to initiate the first-ever Governor’s Executive Committee on Energy Efficiency. Energy efficiency creates jobs, saves families and businesses money, and helps reduce pollution and carbon emissions — all benefits that the Commonwealth deserves from economic, energy and environmental initiatives like Executive Order 57.”
About the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council
The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council is a 501(c)3 organization seeking to provide a forum for stakeholder interaction and to assess and support programs, innovation, best practices, and policies that advance energy efficiency in Virginia.
Guest Post by: Stuart Nuckols, Viridiant (Associate Member)
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) 2015 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard ranks Virginia 31st in the country for Energy Efficient Programs and Policies. While this may be discouraging to organizations and businesses invested in making the Commonwealth more energy efficient, there is positive energy efficiency policy news to share.
Beginning in 2007, VHDA implemented an incentive in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program that encouraged developers to pursue a recognized third-party standard, including Viridiant’s EarthCraft Multifamily program. This successful partnership has resulted in over 230 developments representing more than 16,000 certified apartments in Virginia.
With a substantial number of developments pursuing energy efficient construction, there was an interest in understanding the efficacy of VHDA’s policy decision to promote energy efficient construction in the Virginia rental housing stock. After initial funding from VHDA to benchmark and track unit-level performance of four EarthCraft Multifamily certified projects that had utilized Low Income Housing Tax Credits brought exciting findings, Viridiant partnered with Housing Virginia and the Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR) at Virginia Tech to publish a first-of-its-kind study that demonstrates the impact of energy efficient incentives in the construction of affordable rental housing in Virginia.
In addition to the energy and utility cost analysis, the research team deployed an anonymous survey to residents to gain insight into housing satisfaction, comfort, thermostat set points, appliance use, etc. In general, residents sampled in the study were more satisfied, more comfortable and paid lower utility costs compared to previous housing. An unanticipated finding of the study was the value observed in the independent, third party verification process that was instrumental in helping development teams achieve their energy and sustainability goals.
The study is one of the first in the nation to evaluate unit-level electricity consumption of affordable apartments built to exceed current efficiency standards. Of the 230 EarthCraft Certified Multifamily projects, 15 projects were selected to ensure representation of building type, geographic location, resident population and both new construction and renovation. Using actual utility performance, unit-level energy projection models, building information, and resident surveys, the team concluded that, on average, units performed 16.6% better than Viridiant had modeled, outperforming standard construction by 30%.
Figure 1: Monthly averages for estimated energy consumption (energy model) vs. observed energy consumption in certified EarthCraft Multifamily projects.
With savings reported in this study at almost $650 a year on average and over 16,000 EarthCraft Multifamily dwelling units in Virginia, the projects have the potential to save residents over $10 million in 2016 alone.
A continuation of the study is underway to assess construction costs of energy efficient construction and scheduled to be released in 2017.
Viridiant will continue to support the industry with the EarthCraft family of green building programs, but the organization is also looking to broaden its reach and mission. Recently rebranded as Viridiant, the organization plans to add more services and certifications in areas such as in-home energy monitoring, utility allowances, online energy assessment tools and unbiased consultation on specialties such as solar energy and energy-efficient home mortgages.
The new name, which is derived from a combination of “viridis,” the Latin word for “green,” and “-ant” of “servant” for their mission-driven stewardship, recognizes the group’s expansion into Washington, D.C. and Maryland, and its intention to do more to demonstrate how the latest building science can set a path for businesses and homeowners to create structures that are more affordable, livable and durable.
Viridiant offers win-win solutions for anyone who is interested in living in or building better buildings. “From net-zero to environmental sustainability and improved air quality, we are well versed in helping our partners exceed their goals to deliver high quality products and avoid construction pitfalls,” said KC Bleile, Viridiant’s Executive Director. “Having served nearly 20,000 families and 325 building partners, we’re excited to use what we’ve learned to expand our programs and reach to serve twice as many families over the next ten years.”
Over the coming months, Viridiant will begin to pilot, test and launch new programs and services to serve their broader goals.
Find out how their new name embodies the vision for their organization in this video.
Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR), Virginia Tech, 2015. The Impact of Energy Efficient Design and Construction on LIHTC Housing in Virginia, Contract Report submitted to Housing Virginia, Richmond, VA. Retrieved January 15, 2016, from http://www.vchr.vt.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Housing-VA-LIHTC-Study-Full-Report.pdf
We enjoyed the spring meeting last week and hope that you did too. We received many positive remarks on the venue, so we may just have to hold another event at the University of Richmond Jepson Center.
In case you missed it, below are some highlights from the day and links to download the presentations. You can also see photos on our Facebook page — be sure to tag yourself and your colleagues.
To kick off the event, we unveiled a new logo and website! This took many hours of hard work, and we are pleased with the end result. I hope you will check out the rest of the site while you’re here.
I also ran through some of the key data from the member survey. It’s very clear that you, our members, enjoy being part of a broad coalition that is driving energy efficiency policy and programs in Virginia.
We received positive feedback on our communications and potential new member-only benefits. We also heard that you want more networking and training opportunities such as webinars, so later this month we’ll launch our webinar series. We asked and you answered so the first webinar topic will be on PACE financing. The date is set for June 30 at noon. Details will follow soon.
The VAEEC membership also reappointed 3 of our board members and voted on two new members to expand the board to 13. You can see all of our board members here.
After my remarks, Hayes Framme, from the office of Governor McAuliffe, gave an update on the 2016 General Assembly session and the work of the Governor’s Executive Committee on Energy Efficiency (GEC). Hayes told the crowded room about SB 395 and HB 1053, which were bills the Governor initiated. The final outcome for these bills, which wasn’t the initially hoped for outcome (as detailed here), directed the State Corporation Commission to open a public comment period in order to draft a response on the feasibility of developing protocols to verify savings of utility programs. The VAEEC supported these bills during session and our full comments to the SCC can be found here.
Hayes also discussed the GEC itself, for which we have a dedicated page on our website as we are a partner of the state energy office in providing support to the GEC’s work.
Next up was John Morrill with Arlington County to discuss the progress of the DEQ stakeholder group that is helping DEQ identify the commonwealth’s compliance path for the Clean Power Plan. John mentioned that consensus was hard to come by among the stakeholders, but more importantly, consensus was reached that all stakeholders like pie. Details were not shared on which kind.
Following the lunch networking break, we picked the agenda back up with three more presentations. First was Ryan Hodum with David Gardiner & Associates — also our newest member! Ryan presented on two of DGA’s initiatives: Chambers of Innovation for Clean Energy, a program that is engaging local Chambers of Commerce on clean energy issues, and the Alliance for Industrial Efficiency, which which focuses on state and federal industrial energy efficiency policy, primarily on combined heat and power.
Next, was the Featured Member of the month. For May, we featured, Pearl Certification. Cynthia Adams, VAEEC’s board chair is CEO of this new company, which helps homeowners save money through energy savings but also helping them recapture some of the value of their home improvement investment if they decide to sell later on.
Our final presentation of the day was by Zack Miller with Virginia Housing Alliance who discussed the initiatives of the Multifamily Energy Efficiency Coalition (MFEEC). Multifamily housing accounts for 12% of Virginia’s total housing stock, equal to 385,000 units. These residences are typically left out of energy efficiency programs, so the coalition is working to advance policies that provide comprehensive energy efficiency services to this sector. The VAEEC and many of our members are proud to be part of this worthwhile initiative.
We spent the last 30 minutes of the meeting giving our members the opportunity to brag a little bit. A microphone was sent around for members to give a 2-3 minute update on anything they are working on related to energy efficiency. Dominion Virginia Power, Columbia Gas and Washington Gas all gave updates on their energy efficiency programs and their latest proceedings before the SCC. Several other members gave updates as well including Trane, Viridant, Virginia Community Capital, and Loudon County Public Schools. We are pleased that so many members chimed in to talk about their work.
Our next member meeting will take place in November where we will hold our first annual Energy Efficiency Champions awards ceremony. Stay tuned for details.
Pearl National Home Certification is a Virginia-based startup launched in 2015. Pearl is dedicated to increasing the energy efficiency and comfort of existing homes and will transform the market by helping homeowners capture the value of their home energy upgrades for resale or refinance. Network contractors and real estate agents grow their businesses when they become Pearl Partners by providing their clients access to Pearl’s special services, such as exclusive rebates and lending products, and a “My Home Profile” account to track progress towards certification.
At the helm are Co-Founders Cynthia Adams, also founder and President of the VAEEC and formerly the Executive Director of the Local Energy Alliance Program; and Robin LeBaron, formerly Managing Director of the National Home Performance Council. Pearl is an official partner with the Department of Energy’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, running pilots in central and northern Virginia.
How Does Pearl Work?
Pearl’s certification service is used by contractors to verify and score a home’s energy assets for certification. When a home’s features earn it enough points, Pearl issues a BRONZE, SLIVER, GOLD, or Net Zero certificate and Home Energy Asset Inventory report. Real estate agents use Pearl’s services to help sellers market their energy efficient home and to help buyers maintain and improve their “new” home through an exclusive “My Home Profile” account. “My Home Profile” provides homeowners with a plan to achieve certification, as well as online resources for maintaining their home. Pearl’s software also functions like a virtual general contractor, helping homeowners find contractors to make improvements and tracking progress made over time.
Why Homeowners Sign Up with Pearl
Pearl offers homeowners:
An initial estimate of the home’s certification level through a free My Home Profile account
Information on rebates and loans to help pay for energy, health and other home improvements
Access to a network of high-quality, specially trained Pearl-Approved Contractors
Certification of a home’s energy efficient and health features
Documentation and marketing services to help sell a certified home
You can check out a sample certification report here.
How Contractors Benefit with Pearl
Pearl’s software provides quality contractors a marketing and certification system to enhance home performance and energy efficiency sales. Network contractor benefits include:
Client engagement from the first appointment on
Increased job size through certification services
Relationship marketing through Pearl’s email services
Homeowner referrals from Pearl Partners
Differentiation from low bid/low quality competitors
This list of benefits results in increased revenue for contractors: the average insulation sales person can generate over $100K in additional yearly sales with Pearl, and the average HVAC sales person double that number. To learn more about how contractors can grow their business with Pearl, visit www.pearlcertification.com/contractor.
How Real Estate Agents Benefit with Pearl
Realtors have been among Pearl’s earliest and strongest partners, given the mutual interest in helping home buyers create value, and sellers access it.
The National Association of Home Builders found that nine out of ten buyers would rather purchase a home with energy-efficient features, and would be willing to pay more for it. A recent study by the Appraisal Institute and the Institute for Market Transformation found that Washington, D.C. homes that were certified energy efficient sold for a 3.6% price premium. It’s representative of what we’re seeing across markets in the U.S. where, on average, third party certified homes are selling for 4-5% higher. On a $500K home, this can be $25K in added value sellers are currently leaving on the table.
As a Pearl Partner, real estate agents get:
Buyer’s closing gift of a Pearl “My Home Profile” account
Monthly client emails with informative and timely maintenance tips
Training on selling the energy efficient home
Special certification report package and other marketing tools for selling the certified home
Client referrals from our Pearl Network contractors
Created and led by local chambers of commerce, CICE helps fellow chambers and their member companies navigate and prosper in the clean energy and innovation spaces. CICE shares best practices and case studies, connects chambers with sought-after experts and high-level decision makers, promotes the clean energy work being done by local chambers, and helps chambers find incentives and financing for new clean energy initiatives.
CICE has been active in Virginia. During the annual Virginia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives conference in March, CICE sponsored a conference session moderated by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce to discuss the economic opportunity of clean energy in the Commonwealth. Following the conference, local chambers and member companies joined the Virginia Governor’s Advisor for Infrastructure and Development, Hayes Framme, for a conversation about the economic development opportunities of clean energy.
Back in March, the VAEEC provided support for utility energy efficiency programs that were being reviewed by the State Corporation Commission (SCC).
I testified (you can read the testimony here) in favor of Dominion’s three proposed programs that would have benefited a wide variety of consumers, including a rebate program for residential customers who purchase wifi thermostats, an expansion of Dominion’s air conditioning recycling program, which pays consumers to allow their units to cycle during peak demand and finally, a small business improvement program to help this customer base update aging energy infrastructure.
Dominion received notification from the SCC on April 19. Here is a brief summary of the outcome:
The proposed Residential Thermostat Program was denied.
The extension for the AC cycling program was approved.
The proposed Small Business Improvement program was approved for five years, but the budget was reduced by 50%.
The VAEEC also submitted comments (read them here) in support of the expansion of Washington Gas’s CARE program. Initially, the utility was seeking $12.3 million for the proposed expansion of the program over 3 years but the SCC only approved $6 million for the same time period. Despite this setback, the utility says they are excited about the benefits these programs will provide to Virginia utility customers. One exciting note on the new program expansion includes more than doubling the number of customers who can take advantage of the Home Energy Report program, which helps consumers take control of their energy usage and reduce their monthly energy bills.