In a nearly unanimous vote Tuesday, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that would create a cost savings program to reduce energy usage in state buildings.
House Bill 2667 would aim to reduce energy usage in all state buildings by 25% below 2018 levels by 2030. The bill would also 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 bill passed in a 97-3 vote and now goes before the Senate.
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 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 to the House Energy and Manufacturing Committee earlier this month. She predicted the bill would save taxpayers money in the first year upon implementation of the proposed state building energy efficiency program.
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, and that 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.