We are pleased that the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) is seeking citizen input on the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan. This letter speaks to the provision under Va. Code Section 67-201 that requires the Plan to include an analysis of the efficient use of energy resources and conservation initiatives.
It is especially exciting to provide comments in light of recently enacted SB 966 which requires Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power to increase their expenditures on energy efficiency programs.
According to 2009 research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(1) and conversations we have had with efficiency experts in the field(2), weatherization is currently the best household action for reducing both energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It also returns the most bang for the buck in reducing monthly utility bills.
Home weatherization is a proven energy efficiency solution. It is also the most likely to succeed for two reasons. First, it does not require behavioral changes. Second, it does not depend on monitoring or maintenance services that place time and cost demands on occupants.
And since SB 966 requires that Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power stockholders fund the increased spending on energy efficiency in exchange for the economic benefits that SB 966 provides to these utilities, public decision-makers should ensure that every dollar spent by the utilities on energy efficiency is effectively used to achieve the intended benefit.
Energy efficiency gains and reduced utility CO2 emissions will be achieved if the utilities fund home weatherization efforts, the best of which is often the air sealing of home attics, or if there is no attic, the air sealing of the upper floor, windows and doors.
Following accepted protocols, a home energy audit is conducted first. The standard cost for such an audit in Virginia is $250, including a blower door test to detect sources of interior air leakage. If the blower door test indicates the house has a total air leakage of 10% or more, then air sealing would have an attractive return on investment (ROI) assuming the standard cost to insulate is about $1 per square foot.
Air sealing weatherization programs extend benefits beyond lower home utility bills; they would also create jobs and of course, with lower home energy demands, reduce utility CO2 emissions.
Based on these facts, the decision you have is an easy one. The research of scientists and the experience of the energy efficiency trade are in agreement. Weatherization, specifically the air sealing of home attics or top floors, is the key to having a real impact on household energy use and the reduction in CO2 emissions.
We look forward to working with you to have SB 966’s additional energy efficiency funding make a substantive, measurable difference for households, utilities, and government of The Commonwealth. This presents us with a rare win-win-win opportunity for Virginia. Let’s go for it!
(1)This peer-reviewed paper discusses the best short-term options for reducing household energy use and its associated CO2 emissions until low-carbon energy technologies and cap-and-trade regimes for emissions are widespread. These options must (i) utilize readily available technology, (ii) at a low cost or an attractive return on investment (ROI), and (iii) without an appreciable change in lifestyle.
The best of the numerous options examined is weatherization, which the paper defines as (a) attic insulation, (b) sealing drafts, and (c) installing high-efficiency windows. Dietz, Thomas, “Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions,” Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, November 3, 2009, Vol. 106. No 44. http://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/106/44/18452.full.pdf
(2) The information on the air sealing of attics or top floors and energy efficiency costs was obtained by phone and email from Virginia home weatherization companies and Virginia instructors in home construction theory, safety, and energy efficiency.