Green Scene Blog: Citizens to Richmond: Get efficient


Hi folks. Here’s Tom Cormons–who heads up the local office of Appalachian Voices–on why you should care that the SCC is considering energy efficiency.

It can seem like a very long way from the ridges, hollows, and creeks of our part of the Appalachians to the austere headquarters of the State Corporation Commission (or SCC) in Richmond. The SCC regulates electric utilities in Virginia, however, and the decisions made there have profound impacts on these mountains—and on our health and natural heritage.

This is why Appalachian Voices, along with partners like the Southern Environmental Law Center, is committed to engaging the SCC—and why we are urging citizens to do the same. The SCC regulates utility decisions that affect Virginia’s energy mix, and if we’re going to shift the Commonwealth away from dependence on destructive sources of energy like coal and toward clean energy solutions like energy efficiency and renewable energy, we need to advocate for this shift before the SCC.

The environmental impacts of our over-dependence on coal are no secret. About half of Virginia’s coal is strip mined, usually through mountaintop removal, which is destroying many of our region’s mountains and filling creeks with waste. Besides climate change, pollution from coal-fired power plants causes hundreds of premature deaths in Virginia each year, the haze that obscures the Blue Ridge, and mercury deposition in rivers that leads to strict fish-consumption advisories. That’s why we need to advance alternatives to coal.

The SCC plays a critically important role. It is charged with putting the interests of the public and consumers first, in a world where the public interest can differ significantly from the interests of the big corporations it regulates. The good news: We have a major, underexploited clean energy resource that can both reduce our electric bills and boost the economy: energy efficiency.

Promoting efficiency can advance money-saving technologies while also seriously reducing our reliance on destructive energy sources. Efficiency—which involves improving HVAC systems, building envelopes, lighting systems, etc.—puts a lot more people to work than any other way of meeting electricity demand, at a fraction of the cost. We’re making real progress when it comes to advancing efficiency in Virginia, but we have a long way to go before efficiency is treated as an equal alongside conventional energy sources. The SCC is currently accepting written public comments related to efficiency on Dominion’s grid and there is a hearing in Richmond on March 6. Citizen engagement before the SCC can make a difference, because it’s our interests the Commission is charged with protecting! To get involved, please click here.