WASHINGTON – Virginia could leap from a laggard to national leader by adopting a statewide energy efficiency goal, which could trim Virginians’ electric bills, improve public health, and cut carbon pollution driving climate change, a report released today shows.
The Virginia General Assembly can achieve that goal in its upcoming session by approving an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard included in a proposed Clean Economy Act bill, according to the report by Optimal Energy released by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Similar measures have been adopted by 27 other states.
“One simple step for energy efficiency, one large leap for the Virginia Commonwealth,” said Walton Shepherd, Virginia policy director in the Climate & Clean Energy program at NRDC. “The Virginia General Assembly can make that happen, and soon, by adopting the Clean Economy Act.
“By putting a priority on energy efficiency, Virginians could enjoy lower electric bills, cleaner air, new jobs, and homes and buildings that stay warm and cool for less energy and cost. That’s why an energy efficiency standard deserves to be at the top of legislative agenda.”
In Virginia, an energy efficiency resource standard would set a target for how much energy Virginia’s utilities must help customers save through efficiency programs.
It could deliver major public health and economic benefits for Virginians while addressing major challenges, including the nation’s 7th highest residential electric bills and abysmal rankings for energy efficiency. Virginians also are facing substantial bill increases from the state’s largest utility, Dominion Energy. And climate change is threatening communities with rising seas, hotter temperatures and extreme weather.
The report by Optimal Energy, which analyzes energy issues for utilities, states, and energy efficiency associations, lays out key reasons for the Clean Economy Act. They include:
- Virginians currently pay the 7th highest residential electric bills in the nation.
- Virginia’s rate of efficiency savings is the 5th worst in the nation.
- The Commonwealth’s leading energy company –Dominion Energy—ranks 50th out of 51 for energy efficiency among the nation’s largest utilities. This poor energy-savings performance corresponds with the state’s soaring electric bills.
- Dominion, which raised electric bills 27 percent from 2007-2016, plans to increase residential rates nearly $30 more per month in the next four years, largely to pay for infrastructure that increased efficiency could avoid.
- Improving energy efficiency diminishes the need to build new power sources.
- An Energy Efficiency Resource Standard can slash residential electricity bills by nearly 20 percent in 10 years for customers.
- An energy efficiency standard also will deliver one-third of the savings for Virginia to reach a state goal of cutting carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030.
The report finds that almost every state which has implemented utility-delivered energy efficiency programs reduces the need to use or build more expensive power plants. In addition, per capita electricity use dropped 7 percent from 2010-2016, even as the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased.
Energy efficiency programs, the Optimal report shows, can make it easier for electric customers to access updated technology – like lighting, HVAC upgrades, and insulation – reducing energy use and saving people money on energy costs. Reducing the use of fossil fuel power also cuts air pollutants that contribute to asthma, respiratory disease and premature deaths.
Finally, Virginia needs to adopt a formal Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, with a binding target, because the state’s non-binding energy efficiency goals have not been met, according to Optimal’s report.
A blog by NRDC’s Walton Shepherd on energy efficiency and the Clean Economy Act is here: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/walton-shepherd/report-vas-roadmap-lower-bills-less-climate-change
The Optimal report is here:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at NRDC.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.