Press Release | June 16, 2009

SELC lauds steps by Dominion, Governor to increase energy efficiency in Virginia

Dominion Virginia Power today announced a pilot program to install some 46,500 “smart meters” in homes and businesses in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, taking an important step toward tapping energy efficiency as a viable source of energy.  Energy efficiency is a cleaner, more affordable, and more sustainable source of electricity than traditional coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuels.  Charlottesville is the first community in Virginia, and one of the first in the country, to undertake a smart-metering effort.

The smart meters will provide Dominion near-instant digital feedback on customer electricity usage. Among other things, this will support new time-based electricity rates designed to encourage conservation. The program will also allow the utility to turn service off and on remotely, and reduce on-site meter reading. More importantly, the smart meters will lay the groundwork for a “smart grid” that will enhance opportunities for energy efficiency and conservation across Dominion service area. Other smart-grid capabilities that SELC advocates for in the future include in-home displays that allow customers to monitor and adjust their own electricity use, and mechanisms that enable automatic adjustments to  stagger electricity use during times of high demand, like hot summer days. 

The announcement follows Governor Tim Kaine's executive order last week expanding efforts to implement energy efficiency throughout Virginia executive branch agencies and institutions. The policy promotes energy efficiency by incentivizing agencies to lower their electricity use and directs them to purchase or  lease only EnergyStar-rated equipment, among other measures.

Following is a statement from Sarah Rispin, SELC staff attorney and energy efficiency expert:

“Dominion deserves a round of applause for launching this smart-meter program, and I'm delighted it happens to be in my community. And Governor Kaine deserves a round of applause for leading by example. His directive last week to his own state agencies gets  the ball rolling on energy efficiency by creating a large market for energy conservation services and other green jobs. These are the right kinds of solutions we need to turn Virginia toward a cleaner, more sustainable energy future, with the additional benefit of boosting the economy.”

Note to editors: Sarah Rispin will be available for print, radio and television interviews throughout the day. Headshot is also available.

Background:

Governor Kaine's Commission on Climate Change, after a year of research and public input, last year determined the state could readily meet 19% of its energy needs by 2025 through efficiency alone. In 2006, Virginia utilities ranked 45th in the country in percentage of revenues they spent on efficiency – a total of just $84,000. 

The General Assembly this year passed a number of energy bills, including one that allows utilities to seek a fair rate of return on their investments in energy efficiency measures, putting clean energy closer to a level playing field with traditional and more costly sources. Dominion said the “SmartGrid Charlottesville” program would cost  about $20 million.

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