Press Release | February 15, 2010

Dominion Energy Efficiency Plan a Good Start, But Short-Changes Business and Low-Income Customers

At a hearing scheduled to start tomorrow, the Southern Environmental Law Center will urge the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to direct Dominion Power to expand and refine its energy efficiency programs proposed for 2010 and beyond.  SELC will argue that better-designed efficiency programs will enable Virginians to save millions on their electricity bills while also reducing carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and other power plant pollution.  SELC is representing Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network,  and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club in this proceeding.

HEARING: Tuesday, February 16, starting at 10 a.m., State Corporation Commission Courtroom, 2nd floor of the Tyler Building, 1300 East Main Street, Richmond

In July, Dominion proposed its first substantial energy efficiency plan, for which it now seeks SCC approval for cost-recovery from ratepayers. The plan, entirely voluntary by Dominion, was developed in response to a change in state law in 2009 allowing utilities to recover the costs of investing in efficiency programs much the same as they do for investing in traditional energy sources, such as building coal-fired power plants.  The purpose of the law, advocated for by the environmental groups, is to begin putting efficiency on a level playing field with older, heavily polluting forms of electricity generation.

 “Although Dominion’s energy efficiency portfolio can be improved considerably, this is a good first step and we’re happy to see Virginia’s new efficiency law bearing fruit,” says SELC senior attorney Cale Jaffe.  “The bottom line for all of us is – use less, pay less. It’s a no-brainer for businesses, governments and homeowners. We welcome the opportunity to help Dominion make this the best possible program.”

Jaffe will offer several recommendations for strengthening Dominion’s energy efficiency portfolio, including investing more heavily in roughly 215,000 small businesses and industries, large retailers, hospitals, government buildings, and other customers that use less than 500 kilowatt/hours of electricity.

“Helping small businesses reduce operating costs by making their operations more energy efficient is an important factor in our economic recovery,” says Glen Besa, Virginia Chapter Director for the Sierra Club. “The more money that small businesses save, the better they are able to retain and hire workers.”

 “Designing efficiency programs to benefit low-income families and those on fixed incomes is critical in these tough economic times,” says Tom Cormons, Virginia Director for Appalachian Voices.

Virginia utilities rank 34th in the country in overall energy efficiency, behind neighboring states of North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, and others, according to a yearly scorecard by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. 

“As Governor McDonnell has noted, Virginia is well-positioned to play a leadership role in our country’s energy future. Efficiency remains the quickest, cheapest, and cleanest way forward, and we hope that Dominion takes this opportunity to make Virginia a leader,” says Chelsea Harnish, with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

SELC will present two expert witnesses at the hearing: Hale Powell, a utility analyst with more than twenty-five years of demand-side management experience and a Master’s degree in Energy Management and Policy from the University of Pennsylvania; and William Steinhurst, a senior consultant with Synapse Energy Economics who has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Vermont.  Mr. Powell and Dr. Steinhurst will offer extensive recommendations for strengthening Dominion’s proposed energy efficiency portfolio based on industry best practices and successes that have been achieved in other places.