RD256 - The 2021 Report of the Independent Monitor on the Status of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Stakeholder Process

Executive Summary:

During the 2018 General Assembly session, legislation was approved relating to electric utility regulation, grid modernization, and energy efficiency requiring Appalachian Power (APCo) and Dominion Energy Virginia (DEV) to each develop a proposed program of energy conservation measures. Each utility is required to utilize a stakeholder process to gather and receive input and feedback for the development of proposed energy efficiency programs to be filed with the State Corporation Commission (SCC) for review and approval. The intended result is to have petitions that are filed with the SCC for its review, that have included the knowledge, expertise, and buy-in of the energy efficiency stakeholders so that implementation will contribute to the desired energy conservation goals of the state. In 2020, the General Assembly revised and reenacted the legislation.

Chapter 397 of the 2019 Virginia Acts of the Assembly, as directed by § 56-585.1 of the Code of Virginia, mandates that the process must be facilitated by an independent monitor, to ensure representation of stakeholders, progress toward obtaining input and feedback, and to report on the stakeholder process objectives, stakeholder recommendations, the status of the recommendations, and status of petition filings. This report, describing the third year of the stakeholder process, by the independent monitor is submitted in accordance with Chapter 397.

Stakeholder Process

Between July 1, 2020, the submission of the last annual report, and June 30, 2021, the stakeholder groups for Appalachian Power (Phase I Utility) have met three times and Dominion Energy Virginia (Phase II Utility) have met four times. Meetings were used to inform stakeholders of the status of program recommendations from previous years, develop program recommendations for the 2021 filing year, and to integrate legislative changes from 2020 into the stakeholder process.

During the past year, stakeholders had multiple opportunities to generate ideas for energy efficiency programs, specific conservation measures, prioritize their recommendations, and offer feedback on initial proposed programs from each utility. To maintain ongoing communication meeting notes have been provided to stakeholders and a collaborative online site, one for each utility-based stakeholder group, is used as a repository to house all documents and communication between the meetings. For DEV, seven stakeholder subgroups were also established to further stakeholder input and discussions. Several of the subgroups met multiple times in addition to the large stakeholder meetings previously mentioned.

The Appalachian Power stakeholder group has 122 current members, and the Dominion Energy Virginia stakeholder group has 236 current members, which represent an increase of 12.3 percent and 17.4 percent respectively for each group from the previous year. Each group represents over 20 different types of organizations, including the utilities, SCC, Department of Mines and Minerals and Energy (DMME), local government, energy conservation organizations, energy efficiency organizations, program implementers, and low-income advocacy and assistance organizations.

Stakeholder Objectives

The objectives of the stakeholder groups for the 2021 filing year are aligned with the legislative changes from 2020 and were addressed as:

• Categorize programs into “portfolios".

• Align program recommendations, energy savings, and reporting with the Virginia Clean Economy Act goals and other related mandates.

• Research and review reforms of constraints that inhibit cost-effective deployment of energy efficiency technology.

• Align evaluation, measurement, and verification processes and reporting with total annual energy savings goals.

• Ensure participation of relevant directors, deputy directors and staff of the Commission into stakeholder meetings.

• Increase the transparency of utility decision making between program recommendations, RFPs, and petition filings.

In addition, the stakeholder group placed importance on several areas they wanted to ensure the 2021 programs addressed. These were:

• Increase and clarify programs for low-income customers – generally by segmenting audiences through single family and multi-family unit programming.

• Ensure customer engagement and increased education programming – by building in more behavioral approaches to program design.

• Identify the connection of where solar programs fit with the GTSA program recommendations – these have been addressed through program recommendations or pursued through separate processes.

2021 Program Recommendations

In preparation for the 2021 filings, each utility used the stakeholder feedback to develop request for proposals (RFPs) to solicit bids from vendors for program implementation. Stakeholders recognized that several programs were launched in early 2021 (filed in 2019) and more programs are awaiting approval from the SCC (filed in 2020), which resulted in fewer recommendations for 2021. The anticipated 2021 programs focus on gaps in the existing and pending programs. APCo and DEV invited bids in June 2021 and will be reviewing responses during summer of 2021. The utilities are anticipating program recommendations for 2021 to cover the following areas.