news+events

LEAP’s Remarks to Virginia Governor’s Energy Conference

The following are the remarks delivered by LEAP’s Executive Director Cynthia Adams at the Virginia Governor’s Energy Conference in Richmond in October 2011.

 

Hello, I am Cynthia Adams, Executive Director of LEAP-Virginia, and I am very excited to be here today at the Governor’s Energy Conference.

During the past weeks I have traveled to two conferences whose focus was on energy efficiency as a resource, and I returned from them completely inspired. This is lucky for you, as there will now be fewer charts and graphs in my presentation and more, I hope, inspiration.

The mission of the Local Energy Alliance Program, or LEAP as we are known, is to lead the effort to retrofit buildings with energy efficient technologies. I would like all of you to take a step back with me to see the Big Picture, to understand better what happens in the aggregate when we do these energy retrofits.

And to that end, I am here to tell you about not one but two power plants LEAP is building: one in Central Virginia and one in Northern Virginia. These power plants aren’t subject to a slew of environmental or statutory regulations, so we are ready to start implementing – and in fact in Charlottesville, we have already begun.

Here are some photos of the  pilot power plant we are building in Charlottesville. We have already leveraged over $2 M in private investment serving over 200 owners. We have created over $128,000 in cost savings yearly, and generated over 811,000 kWh  in energy. According to documented job hours, we have created 7 new jobs in our community over the last year – not including LEAP staff or consultants.

And here are some photos of the one we will start building in the first quarter of 2012 in Northern Virginia. Were we to average the same market penetration in NOVA as we have so far in Charlottesville, the results would scale up by a factor of  seven. This is how much larger the market size is in Northern vs. Central Virginia for energy efficiency.

This slide shows you some of the inner workings of our power plant. You can see here that our contractors are air sealing and dense-packing insulation.

Here they are duct sealing and replacing old equipment. By the time contractors finish retrofitting a home, they will have generated 2400 kWh of electricity that month from that installation – or 28,000 kWh for the year. That’s from just one home, and that’s where we start – one home, one building at a time.

And look at these homeowners – they look happy, don’t they? And why wouldn’t they be? Their contractor corrected the ventilation issue that was causing mold growth in their crawlspace, he air sealed the bypass that made their little boy’s bedroom freezing all winter long, and he lowered their energy bills by 30%. Energy efficiency is the trifecta of home improvement: health, comfort, and savings. Even better for the homeowners, these improvements will actually pay for themselves over time. Their investment in their property will pay a monetary benefit to them beginning day 1.

Now the best thing about these power plants we are building, is the jobs they are creating: jobs today, jobs tomorrow, jobs next week. Real jobs. Here are some of the companies who are helping build our power plants. These companies are particularly pleased to be involved, as this economic downturn has been very rough on the contracting industry. And it has been rough on the local businesses they support and patronize.

So that’s one heck of a power plant, right? It makes energy, happy citizens, and it can help pull a community up by its bootstraps. I don’t know about you, but it leaves me asking, how do we make a big one?
Virginia is a capacity short state, which simply put, means our electrical supply generation 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.

LEAP wants to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our sister energy alliances in Richmond and Southwest, other municipal programs, our utilities, the State Corporation Commission, and most importantly the localities we serve to build a community power plant. A really big one.

Just a 1% market penetration in the areas served by fledging residential programs in Virginia could create 51 M kWh worth of energy via savings and create 2000 – 3000 local jobs. Because here’s the thing, study after study in state after state, including my own dear Virginia, has shown that 20% or more of our future power needs could be met by energy efficiency, by the community power plant.

And study after study – like this one from the Energy Information Administration – has shown this power plant is the MOST cost effective one to build. Plus it creates the most jobs, plus it improves the durability of the structure, plus it can stimulate the local economy, and it improves the quality of life for those who live there.

So here is my question – why aren’t we doing more of it? Forget California and Vermont. Washington D.C. is doing this. The South Carolina Co-op association is doing it. Even a major utility in the state of Arizona is doing it.

Arizona Public Service, the electric supplier for a broad swath of Arizona, including Phoenix, looked at the relative risk and reliability of their energy resource portfolio – natural gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables – and found that in comparison energy efficiency as a resource was reliable, inexpensive, and free from many of the regulatory and financial risks these other power supply options drag along behind them. This utility came to the conclusion that energy efficiency was a sound strategy and business investment for their supply-side resource pie. In fact, this slide shows what Arizona Public Service’s goal for their power supply by 2025. You will note that energy efficiency is a full 16% of that pie.

Even more importantly, APS is looking to meet 40% of its projected new demand through energy efficiency. 40%! That’s pretty inspiring.

So back to my earlier question, what can we do here in our independently-minded and business friendly state of Virginia? As we seek to become the Energy Capital of the East Coast, what role will energy efficiency as a resource play? How big of a community power plant can we build? Because build we must, right? One way or another, the lights will go on and the means to make that happen will be financed. While we are planning for or beginning construction of the power plants of the future, we could also be building the power plant of the present creating real jobs not years from now, but today, tomorrow, and next week.

Thank you.