WV is now one of 26 states to have an energy services
coalition. The mission of the new West Virginia chapter is to increase the
implementation of energy efficiency and building upgrades throughout the state.
The coalition is made up of representatives from public and private entities. Andy
Cocina of Wendle Energy Services is the private sector co-chair.
“The goal of the coalition is to increase the understanding
of energy performance contracting and overall energy efficiency for public and
private entities across the state. How to best take advantage of those and to
save themselves money, ” Cocina explains.
He says the coalition first met in May of this year and has
since met three times to discuss best practices and public outreach.
“We’re trying to solidify the mission of the chapter which
is to do outreach and education to make sure there’s good educational
documents, and to set up things like work shops. And we’ve had folks volunteer
for these different committees.”
Cocina says interest and involvement is growing with at
least six West Virginia companies partnering with national energy performance
companies and state organizations—like the state’s Division of Energy and the
West Virginia School Building Authority.
Cocina believes Energy Performance Contracts can be
important tools that provide an option for county school systems and other
public entities to pay for much needed facility improvements.
“Energy Performance Contracting goes back to its roots in
the early 1980s. It was pioneered by the federal government as a way to pay for
facility improvements. The notion behind it simply is that if you can make
facility improvements that will lower your energy costs or reduce your
operating budget, then you would have the ability to make payments on debt
service for these facility improvements.”
Cocina says the chapter’s public-private collaboration model
fits the state’s needs and keeps the public interest the paramount concern of
“The use of the coalition as a public-private partnership
made an awful lot of sense—where it’s a collection of state officials really
managing the overall message, and private companies supporting this. We’ve gone
out of our way to make sure that even though they may not be energy services
companies, well-qualified companies in WV, and a whole laundry-list of them,
are included and part of this because they ultimately are capable of doing the
work to help keep the jobs in West Virginia.”
According to the Energy Information Administration,
coal-fired electric power plants accounted for 96 percent of West Virginia's
net electricity generation in 2011, and in 2010, 56 percent of its net
electricity generation was consumed outside the state. Still residents have
begun to see hikes in electric bills. While electricity was hovering around 5
cents a kilowatt hour for more than a decade, 2010 numbers revealed an average
of nearly 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour. The state’s Division of Energy estimates
that over the past two years, West Virginians have seen an additional 47%
increase in energy costs. Meanwhile, WV
ranks 44th in the country when it comes to energy efficiency.
Cocina says the state’s previously lower energy costs have
had unintended benefits for residents today. Because energy costs have only
just begun to spring up, many residents are becoming energy-conscious as the
latest phases of energy-saving technologies are being made available, making
the financial benefits of upgrading facilities more worthwhile.
“Maybe energy efficiency wasn’t a critical factor even five
or six years ago, where today we’re seeing these ramped-up costs and there’s a
real need to do something about the rising costs. That coupled to the fact that
we have aging infrastructure in our schools, in municipal buildings, in water and waste-water
treatment plants, at higher education facilities, and commercial and industrial
users as well.”
Cocina says sometimes with very simple tactics it’s not
inconceivable to see energy savings reduced by 25-30 percent, and he hopes the coalition’s
work will provide transparent and consistent public information to help improve
West Virginia’s energy efficiency ranking.