By Jason Ha & Brian Wheeler

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What are the local benefits of energy efficiency?  What is the future of energy use in Virginia and the world?

These were among the questions discussed during a luncheon on energy-related issues hosted last week by the

Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce


Glenmore Country Club



David Toscano

(D-57) moderated a panel including Cynthia Adams, the executive director of the

Local Energy Alliance Program

, Michael Roman, with ExxonMobil, and Mark Webb, with Dominion.

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Adams described LEAP’s goal of helping create a “sustainable energy future” for Charlottesville-Albemarle.  She also provided an overview of some benefits of implementing residential and commercial energy efficiency measures.

“Energy efficiency means doing more and doing better with less,” said Adams. “Energy efficiency is generally the least expensive, most benign, most deployable, and yet the least visible, least understood, most neglected way to provide energy.”

Adams said LEAP’s programs were aimed at eliminating obstacles to improved energy efficiency for both homeowners and businesses, and that the resulting financial savings would provide local jobs and economic development.

“The more money that stays in the pocketbooks of building owners, the more money that can be spent in the local community,” Adams said.

During his presentation, Michael Roman shared ExxonMobil’s energy outlook and noted that developing countries like China have growing energy needs.

“One of the things we know is that there is a lot of developing demand throughout the world,” said Roman.  “We know with certainly that there is a direct link between economic growth and energy demand.”

Roman said that to balance the supply and demand for energy would require new technology and behavioral changes in the developed world.

“Efficiency is extremely important to getting us to a supply demand balance,” Roman said.

Roman concluded by saying that ExxonMobil was committed to providing “safe, reliable, [and] environmentally sound access to fuels.”

“We think we need more domestic access in resources, it’s something that’s sorely missing,” Roman said.  “It’s having an impact obviously in the marketplace…particularly with a lot of the volatility and uncertainty in the rest of the world.”

Dominion’s Mark Webb described the energy challenges in Virginia.  Webb said there is a projected gap of  4,500 megawatts of electricity that will be needed by 2021.

“We can buy power or build new power plants, and the other [approach] is demand-side management which is both conservation and efficiency,” Webb said.  “The efficiency angle is very important because it is not just what we do but it’s also what customers do.”

Webb described Virginia’s target for utilities to generate fifteen percent of its energy from renewables by 2025.  Wind and solar power are the largest sources, but, unlike coal and nuclear, they cannot provide power 24 hours a day.

According to Webb, off-shore wind has great potential, but it is also very expensive, needs more testing, and has to be implemented in concert with other ocean users.

“Off-shore wind is… potentially the greatest renewable resource Virginia has,” Webb said.  “I say potentially, because while the wind is there off-shore and Virginia has the coastline, there are a lot of competing uses for the ocean space from the naval operations, to the satellite launch facilities…to shipping in Hampton Roads.”

Webb also talked about Dominion’s initiative to build “smart grid” cities.  Charlottesville and Albemarle are part of a Dominion pilot project that allows a smart electrical grid to communicate with special residential power meters.

“It is essentially the convergence of energy technology and information technology,” Webb said.  “It is adding intelligence to the grid at every step of the way, and ultimately inside your home.”

“It will be up to consumers to put things in their home that will communicate with these smart meters…that will allow you to use energy, and your appliances to use energy more efficiently and more wisely, and you will elect how you intend to do it,” Webb said.

Webb also commented on the uncertain impact electric vehicles would have on the energy grid.  While in limited use today, Webb said Dominion expected more mainstream use in 2012-2013 and that Charlottesville was likely to be an early adopter.

“The key for us is to make sure that people…charge at night,” said Webb.  “At night we have more energy than we need.  If we can encourage people to charge at night versus the daytime, we can accommodate up to 10% penetration of the entire vehicle market with very limited need for additional new power.”


10:54 – Cynthia Adams, Local Energy Alliance Program

20:57 — Michael Roman, ExxonMobil Corporation

32:55 — Mark Webb, Dominion


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