Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Virginia Law Bolsters Energy Efficiency Programs

Virginia Senate Bill 737 includes provisions to monitor programs to ensure they are cost-effective by certifying the benefits of reduced energy use outweigh the program costs. (Adobe Stock)

RICHMOND — A new Virginia law is expected to grow energy efficiency programs in the state.

Senate Bill 737 expands access to energy-efficient appliances and other electrification programs without cost-burdening ratepayers. It also changes language from Senate Bill 754, passed in 2020, to make the improvements more affordable for customers unable to afford initial investments.

Karen Campblin, sustainability program manager at the Center for Common Ground, said the bill’s consumer protections ensure reductions in electricity use occur.

“The program has a specific intent of reducing on-site energy consumption and reducing on-site energy burdens, but preventing any type of opportunities for those savings to then turn into increased energy rates for consumers,” Campblin explained.

Earlier drafts of the bill did not feature certain provisions such as changing the language of calculating energy savings. Stakeholders from utilities and communities will come together to lay out the on-bill tariff program, which should garner numerous viewpoints to ensure programs in the bill are effective and equitable.

The bill also outlined guidance to ensure the programs do not unfairly charge or burden customers. Passing the bill is not the end for Virginia’s work to develop a climate-friendly future; far from it.

Campblin noted the bill is not 100% perfect, saying there are ways the state can build on the law.

“One of the ways would be looking at kind of expanding the opportunities for utilities to provide financing support for their clients,” Campblin suggested.

Other ideas include creating a program for families interested in energy switching, such as a household with a gas heater, converting to electric.

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