A bill that would create an energy efficiency program for state buildings is close to passage through the West Virginia Legislature.
The bill would aim to reduce energy usage in all state buildings to 25% below 2018 levels by 2030, and require annual reports to the Legislature on building energy performance compared to similar buildings in similar climates. Under the bill, the West Virginia Office of Energy would audit at least 20% of energy-metering devices at state buildings each year so all devices are audited by the end of 2026.
The net benefit to the state from the bill would be a 9-to-1 return on investment, according to a state Department of Commerce estimate projecting a five-year project cost of $300,000.
Under the legislation, the state would establish a program for measuring and benchmarking the energy efficiency of all state buildings by July 1. The state would also be required to compile and submit energy usage data for all state buildings to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-operated benchmarking tool by Oct. 1 and again each subsequent year.
Energy benchmarking refers to measuring a building’s energy use and comparing it to the energy use of similar buildings.
Karen Lasure, an Office of Energy development specialist who administers energy efficiency and resiliency throughout the state, addressed the bill in testimony before the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee last month. She predicted the bill would save taxpayers money in the first year upon implementation.
Lasure estimated the state spends $88 million to $100 million in utility costs per year. She noted benchmarking, utility auditing, and other low-cost and no-cost measures can save a combined 15% to 28% on those costs. She noted that the state has embarked on a U.S. Department of Energy-funded program to inventory and benchmark all state buildings.
That push started with public K-12 schools in 2018 and is currently 80% complete, quantifying potential energy savings for those buildings.
State energy officials have determined how much utilities cost schools per square foot. The state can save between $11 million and $16 million by lowering public school energy consumption by about 30% down to the national average, Lasure said.
A study resolution from last year’s legislative session requested the Joint Committee on Government and Finance study how state agencies can better manage the amount of state taxpayer dollars spend on utilities.
Lasure reported that 60 state buildings out of between 3,300 and 4,000 total statewide had been benchmarked so far.
The House of Delegates passed the bill in a 97-3 vote on March 30.