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LEAP and Contractors Testify in Richmond in Support of Enhanced Energy Efficiency Programs

State Corporation Commission Hearing on Suite of Dominion Virginia Power Programs

Richmond, Virginia – Cynthia Adams, Executive Director of the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP), joins other key stakeholders – including Charlottesville area contractors – in testimony before the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) today in favor of new residential and commercial energy efficiency programs.

“LEAP fully supports initiatives that break down the barriers to robust and cost-effective energy efficiency programs for Virginians. Everyone wins when we make it easier for utilities to offer – and for homeowners and businesses to take advantage of – beneficial energy efficiency programs,” said Adams.

The proposed “Demand-Side Management” programs under consideration include a Home Energy Check-Up, a Duct Testing and Sealing Program, and Heat Pump Tune-Up and Upgrade Programs. Together this “Residential Bundle Program” will open the door to tremendous energy and cost savings. At the hearing today the SCC will hear from representatives from LEAP, Charlottesville area contractors, the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council and others that the power you don’t use – i.e. efficiency – is cheaper for Virginians than the power you have to make by building additional plants.

“Clearly, the energy we have to create is more expensive than the energy we don’t use.  Energy efficiency is the cheapest resource for energy. We support the funding of Dominion’s programs as they give consumers the opportunity to choose it,” says Adams in her prepared testimony.

“We hope the SCC will see the long term and broader benefits that Dominion’s programs can foster in terms of market transformation. Through mainstreaming the home performance approach by bundling the Home Energy Check Up and other improvements, these programs can help not only the participants, but our industry as a whole,” said Ralph Sachs, General Manager at Albemarle Heating and Air, a Charlottesville contractor and part of LEAP’s program who also testified today.

 

Adams’ full prepared testimony:

Hello, I am Cynthia Adams, Executive Director of a nonprofit energy services company headquartered in Charlottesville called the Local Energy Alliance Program or LEAP. I also sit on the Steering Committee for the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council, a trade organization which represents the business interests of this sector.

 

In 2010, LEAP used U.S. Department of Energy grant dollars to launch and implement residential and commercial energy efficiency programs in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District, which includes five counties and the City of Charlottesville. This year, with the assistance of additional grant dollars from our state energy office, we are expanding our services and programs to the Northern Virginia Regional Planning District as well.

 

In 2011, LEAP served over 320 homes and businesses in central Virginia, helping create over a gigawatt hour of projected yearly energy savings. We leveraged $400,000 in cash rebates 10:1 for almost $3.5M spent in energy investments. Because of our efforts in 2011, there will now be $2M flowing back into our local community over the lifetime of energy savings gained by installing these measures. Average yearly bill savings for residential customers is projected to be $600.  These achievements were made possible by LEAP’s limited-time grant-funded rebates, which are similar to utility rebates.

 

Dominion has been an Alliance partner to our nonprofit, and we worked with them as a stakeholder on the current residential bundle being discussed at this proceeding. We see real value to the homeowner in the combination of the in-home energy check up and rebates for measures such as duct sealing, heat pump tune-up and replacement. The in-home check up, which would be performed by a certified professional, in particular can provide the homeowner with valuable information on their home’s opportunities for energy improvements to lower bills through air sealing, insulation, or other measures for which Dominion might offer rebates. The point is to begin with a road map to success, to efficiency, and the home energy check up, if designed and implemented properly, can provide that.

 

Because LEAP has strong partnerships with local governments, businesses, and other nonprofits, we would work with Dominion and the State Corporation Commission’s Energy Sense campaign to help promote the uptake of these programs. Although our Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is growing, we can only provide rebates or incentives from grant dollars for a small geographically defined group of homeowners, and even then only for another year or so. Incentives from Dominion and other utilities are crucial for market penetration and growth. There is a real synergy of mission and purpose between LEAP and Dominion Virginia Power with respect to their proposed energy efficiency programs. This synergy will leverage millions of dollars of federal funding, which has provided start up capital to our alliance and others in the state. In effect this is an uncaptured cost savings to ratepayers and is a unique opportunity.

 

Both LEAP and the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council seek to educate the public on the benefits of embracing energy efficiency as a resource, not just a demand-side management or peak shaving activity. For example, with LEAP’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program customers choose their improvements based upon assessment recommendations and their own criteria. The average projected kWh cost for efficiency in LEAP’s residential program was just over 3 cents. Since our customers sign a utility waiver with LEAP, we are working with Dominion and other utilities to collect energy usage data for up to three years post-retrofit in order to help us understand what the actual energy savings are and what other mitigating factors may be involved. We understand that energy savings must be measured and verified if they are to be viewed as reliable and worthy of funding by ratepayers. We hope to work with Dominion and its consultants, as well as the SCC and other stakeholders, to define what “measured” and “verified” looks like for these programs.

 

Given that Virginia’s power market is a regulated monopoly, ratepayers cannot choose from whom to purchase their power. They must rely on the energy companies themselves and the SCC to keep the public’s best interest in mind in providing all of us with the least expensive and most reliable power possible. If we only focus on the short-term impact of energy efficiency programs’ rate increases on non-participants, then all ratepayers will ultimately be forced to pay more for the more expensive options of new generation – even when the business case says that it is clearly in the public’s best interest in the long run to create power through energy efficiency.

 

Lastly, with respect to this subject of what is in the public’s best interest, we have seen firsthand how energy efficiency not only lowers bills, but it also improves the durability and value of the home, the indoor air quality and quality of life for the occupants. Importantly, it also employs the guy down the street who shops in local businesses. The aggregate effects of creating an energy efficiency power plant through improvements made in many homes and businesses can have a real impact on our power demand, our job creation, and on much needed economic development of local communities. To help provide context to this claim, also testifying before you today are two contractors who participate in LEAP’s residential programs.

 

In closing, in our capacity short state, we need to implement every sensible means to address our power demand and to help meet the state’s 10% efficiency goal. In effect by not doing more energy efficiency, we are mandating even larger rate increases in the future, since our capacity will continue to grow, and we will have no practical way of meeting it without building more power plants. Clearly, the energy we have to create is more expensive than the energy we don’t use.  Energy efficiency is the cheapest resource for energy: we support the funding of Dominion’s programs as they give consumers the opportunity to choose it.

 

Thank you.