VAEEC Outlines Critical Role of Energy Efficiency as Governor's Energy Plan Unveiled

October 14, 2014 — Governor McAuliffe officially unveiled his Virginia Energy Plan at an event in Richmond today co-hosted by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Virginia League of Conservation Voters. Cynthia Adams, Executive Director of the Local Energy Alliance Program and Chair of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, was a panelist at the event. Her remarks are below.

Read the VAEEC’s press release on the Plan or download the full Plan.

“Good morning everyone, and a special thank you to the administration for inviting me to participate on this panel. As Chair of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, I will tell you that a real conversation on Virginia’s energy portfolio that includes unsung heroes like energy efficiency has been a long time coming in our state.
The mission of the nonprofit I run – the Local Energy Alliance Program or LEAP based in Charlottesville — is to lead the effort to retrofit buildings with energy efficient and renewable technologies. At LEAP we like to say we’re building a virtual power plant of the present that produces negawatts instead of megawatts. Our power plant isn’t subject to a slew of environmental or statutory regulations, so we have already begun constructing it.

And our power plant is creating jobs right now – jobs today, jobs tomorrow, and jobs next week. Energy efficiency’s power plant workers are your neighbors – they are the contractors that air seal buildings and add insulation. They replace aging equipment, and install better lighting. These power plant workers correct ventilation issues that exacerbate allergies and asthma. And they make our homes more affordable, they lower operating costs for businesses, and protect tax payers from paying for energy wasted in government buildings.

Virginia is a capacity short state, which simply put, means our supply has not kept up with our demand. As a result, utilities are tasked with building more power plants because they have to – we need to keep the lights on. Our population is growing, we continue to construct more buildings, and the number of gadgets we put into these buildings is also increasing – the new power needed has to come from somewhere.

A quick physics refresher for those of us who are decades out of elementary school: coal fired power plants implement four energy conversions in order to generate an electron for the grid, and then we have the line losses that come from stepping up and down the amperage of that current flow. By the time the cfl lights up your dining room, only 5% of the original energy content from the hunk of coal is in use. So a little bit of energy saved at home makes a big difference in terms of the amount of energy that goes into the system.

Energy efficiency is in fact the original distributed energy resource when you frame the discussion from a capacity perspective. How do we create energy efficiency as a commodity, as a supply-side resource – and what does that mean really? If we know (and we do) that our need for energy is increasing, that we must build new plants in order to meet the demands of tomorrow, then energy efficiency is just another way to meet that demand. If you need less, then you build less.

Many of us here may be familiar with the multitude of benefits that come from energy efficiency, but let’s take a moment to reiterate them. Energy efficiency:

– Conserves finite resources and saves money on building power plants
– Makes our buildings more durable
– Improves comfort, quality of life, and worker productivity
– Increases our energy security
– Spurs local economic development
– Creates or maintains jobs

There are a multitude of reasons why promoting and implementing energy efficiency is in the public’s and our own personal best interests. We have study after study that has given us statistic after statistic on the economic benefits, on the business case for energy efficiency as a resource and as a means to grow jobs and save money.

Here are a couple of notable statistics from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s Energy Efficiency and the Economic Opportunity Fact Sheet: for every $1M spent in building efficiency improvements, 20 jobs are supported – this is in contrast to only 17 jobs supported by investing into the economy as a whole. And for every $1M in avoided consumer energy costs, another 17 jobs are supported. This is in contrast to only 10 jobs supported through utility generation and transmission.

Most public buildings spend 20-30% more on energy than necessary; these expenses could be “recovered” through energy upgrades at no additional cost to tax payers through work that pays for itself. It is estimated that there are over $1 billion in self-paying energy efficiency projects in public buildings alone, which would be a huge boon to the Commonwealth’s economy – creating jobs, and catalyzing workforce development.

In Virginia’s residential building sector we have roughly 1.5M homes retrofit ready homes – that is homes that are owner-occupied and built prior to 1970 (before we had insulation standards in code). A 2% market penetration of these 1.5M homes equates to roughly 30,000 upgrades annually. If the average retrofit costs $5000 and produces 15% or more in energy savings, we’re talking about leveraging $150M in private capital. And, given the job conversion factors I spoke of earlier, the Commonwealth would support an additional 3200 jobs.

State organizations like the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council will tell you that energy efficiency is important for the business case it presents. The VAEEC has completed two industry census reports on energy efficiency businesses to document the value they bring to the Commonwealth. And we look forward to the appointment of the Governor’s Energy Efficiency Board to develop a strategy on meeting our state 10% energy efficiency goal by 2020. I invite us all to remember that Virginia is a net importer of energy. Ultimately energy efficiency is about keeping Virginia dollars in Virginia, instead of sending them out of state to support someone else’s investment.

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