Why we need a strong EM&V process in Virginia

By Cynthia Adams, VAEEC Board Chair

Utility programs are evaluated based on a number of metrics: cost, energy saved, impact on capacity or peak load, and public interest benefits to name a few germane to Virginia regulators. How one measures the effectiveness of utility programs – or answers the question “Did ratepayers get their money’s worth?” – is a very important question upon which millions of dollars and Btu’s saved depend.

Recently the VAEEC submitted comments in response to the State shutterstock_276643991-3-2
Corporation Commission’s request for input on evaluating the establishment of protocols, a methodology, and a formula to program the impact of energy efficiency measures (Evaluation, Measurement & Verification or EM&V). So did many other groups, businesses, and individuals (we’ve catalogued many of them here) – and for good reason.

Energy efficiency, which includes demand response, is a “keep the lights on” resource, but only in the sense that it can reduce load such that the lights don’t go off in the first place due to a peak event. We don’t “generate” energy efficiency as a resource in the same way as a power plant, and so, without EM&V, how do we know that the EE was ever implemented or dispatched? EM&V is the performance check that ultimately correlates a decrease in energy use due to the implementation of a certain energy efficient measure(s). We measure and verify in order to evaluate the effectiveness of programs.

While this basic concept may seem straightforward, there are complexities to doing EM&V well that are very important to get right. In Virginia, we don’t yet have an official EM&V protocol, much less standards that apply to all utilities in the same way. Currently, utilities hire a professional consultant to perform EM&V and then report on results to the SCC. This memo from Energy Synapse Economics is a good overview of EM&V in Virginia.

SCC staff will issue their own report with recommendations on June 24th, and a public hearing will be held on July 12th. I will be at the hearing to represent the VAEEC, and other members of the VAEEC and Board will attend to represent their constituencies.

With the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan on the horizon, the state’s voluntary energy efficiency goal looming large, and untold killowatts (and money) wasted daily in inefficient buildings – the VAEEC is very interested in the outcome of this hearing.

A sound, cost-effective, and transparent EM&V process can help get the naysayers past “believing” in the value of energy efficiency to the Commonwealth and instead, seeing the value in dollars and good sense.

Cynthia Adams serves at VAEEC Board Chair and is CEO of Pearl Certification a VAEEC Business Silver Member