Environmental groups laud approval of energy efficiency programs, but urge more be done
In a ruling late Monday, the State Corporation Commission approved several energy-efficiency programs proposed by Dominion Virginia Power, the largest electricity utility in the commonwealth, but imposed limits that may limit the number of customers able to sign up for these energy savings programs.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club supported eight of Dominion’s proposed programs aimed at reducing energy use and costs for Virginia families and businesses. They opposed a program that would allow commercial customers to count use of back-up generators as an efficiency measure. The office of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli did the opposite, and asked the commission to support the back-up generator idea and reject the homeowner and business energy savings programs.
The commission denied much of the Attorney General’s request, and approved six of the eight energy-efficiency programs aimed at residential and commercial customers. The most notable new program is the residential bundle that begins with a home energy audit program and includes options for duct testing and sealing, heat pump tune ups, and heat pump upgrades. The commission also approved the back-up generator program, but refused to classify it as “efficiency.” Instead, it will be treated as a “peak-shaving” program under a different section of Virginia law.
The environmental groups were encouraged by the ruling, but noted that many more energy efficiency opportunities remain. The energy efficiency programs were evaluated for cost-effectiveness under a law approved by the General Assembly in 2009. The law was reformed in March as part of Governor McDonnell’s energy package, and did not apply to this proceeding.
“These new programs provide Dominion’s business and residential customers with some great opportunities to save money,” said Cale Jaffe, SELC senior attorney. “But we really look forward to the next round of Dominion’s programs under the new law, which encourages greater investments in efficiency.”
“Even with these new programs, Virginia remains far short of meeting the General Assembly’s goal of ten percent energy savings by 2022,” said Jill Tauber, SELC staff attorney. “Dominion is making progress towards the savings goal, but more work needs to be done so that Virginia ratepayers can reap the benefits of the cheapest, cleanest, and most reliable energy resource – energy efficiency.”