US environmental protection agency Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) issued recommendations pertaining to energy efficiency in the state of Virginia.Through the use of energy efficiency programmes to reduce energy demand on the state’s grid networks, SELC states that utilities in Virginia can reduce the wholesale cost of their electricity thereby enhancing their customer services by providing them with affordable electricity.
Energy efficiency is touted to help utility companies offset investments in new energy generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure. If the deployment of energy efficiency programmes is accelerated in Virginia, there is high probability for utilities to reduce their carbon footprint by avoiding buying and burning of fossil fuels to generate energy to meet energy demands, states the SELC.
The latest research findings of SELC state that energy efficiency is currently an underutilised tool in Virginia. Amongst the 32 largest utilities operating in the US, the Virginia state’s largest utility is ranked last due to its failure to accelerate its deployment of energy efficiency programmes.
SELC highlights that lack of adequate funding by utilities has restrained the growth of their energy efficiency programmes portfolio.
Moreover, lack of financial commitment towards energy efficiency by both government entities and the private sector has restrained the growth of the sector in Virginia.
In addition, utilities and consumers in Virginia are still lagging behind in terms of awareness on how energy efficiency can impact on their operations and energy bills.
A lack of regulatory backup on efficiency measures has also been identified by the SELC to have played a major role in the stunted growth of the market in Virginia.
For instance, the state’s energy regulator State Corporation Commission has remained reluctant in approving an energy efficiency proposal filed by the state’s two largest utilities.
To date, energy efficiency programmes deployed by Virginia’s two largest utility companies are less than one-tenth of the way to achieve a target to reduce energy usage by 10% by 2022 in line with stipulations set by the Virginia General Assembly. [First Energy utilities expand energy efficiency programmes].
And as such, energy bills for residential consumers in Virginia are above the national average.
SELC recommends that:
- Virginia should prioritise energy efficiency programs and investments over building and operating energy generation and transmission, in order to reduce total costs, including the costs of new facilities, energy purchases, fuel, and environmental harms resulting from generating and delivering energy.
- Reducing load through efficiency should be required, not a voluntary goal.
- Virginia should explore and adopt new methods for improving energy efficiency.
- Virginia should implement a state-of-the-art building code emphasising energy efficiency for new construction statewide.
- The Commonwealth should require local governments and schools to improve their energy efficiency and offer no-interest loans or grants to help them to do so. It should also take steps to improve energy efficiency in homes, including multifamily homes, and in commercial and industrial spaces.
Image credit: www.mozo.com.