SEEA Grant Proposal Update



Passing of SEEA Grant Resolution



Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, and Shadman, and Ms. Temple







May 6, 2009


ACTION:     X          INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:              INFORMATION:   







On December 5, 2007 the Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the U.S. Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration committing to reduce the County’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. A baseline greenhouse gas emissions inventory has been completed by staff. This inventory data, along with the City of Charlottesville’s data, reveal that energy consumption by the existing building stock (residential and commercial) is the major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.  As such, a clear strategy is needed to address cost savings, energy savings and emission reductions by property owners in the community.


On January 14, 2009 the Board passed a resolution authorizing the County to work collaboratively with the City of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia to address energy efficiency and climate change, including collaboration on the development of a joint proposal for the Southeastern Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) grant. SEEA is a non-profit organization that promotes energy-efficient policies and practices by bringing together governments, businesses, environmental organizations, low-income energy advocates, large energy consumers, universities and others to promote energy-efficient policies and practices.


This grant opportunity, issued in February 2009, will provide up to $500,000 to a city, county or regional organization in one of the eleven southeastern states to design and implement a community energy alliance (the Request for Proposals, or RFP, also refers to this as an “operating company”) that would work to achieve unprecedented gas, electricity, and water savings by retrofitting buildings and installing renewable technologies in all end-use sectors. Goals outlined in the RFP include 30-50% market penetration, 20-40% comprehensive efficiency gain / conservation, a 5-7 year performance period, and a replicable model.


According to the letter of intent sent to SEEA, the proposed local energy alliance would help tie together, leverage, and accelerate local efforts in energy efficiency and climate protection, community design, and workforce development.  Supporters of the proposal may include the County, the City of Charlottesville, the Charlottesville Community Design Center / SPARK! Initiative, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and the University of Virginia. The grant proposal deadline is May 15, 2009.  


The RFP suggests that this community energy alliance could be modeled after the Cambridge Energy Alliance (CEA), a non-profit corporation that provides financing and assistance for Cambridge, Massachusetts residents and businesses in the form of loans to make energy efficiency improvements, the costs of which are anticipated to be offset by utility bill savings.



Goal 1 - Enhance the Quality of Life for all Citizens

Goal 2 – Protect the County’s Natural Resources



Enabling Legislation Issue

The overall purpose of the SEEA grant is for a locality to use the awarded funds to establish a community energy alliance or “operating company” to implement the program. Currently the County and the City do not have the enabling authority from the State to establish an “operating company” as part of a community energy alliance as envisioned by the RFP and as demonstrated by model programs such as the Cambridge Energy Alliance. The goals of a community energy alliance, however, are compatible with existing City and County environmental sustainability goals, therefore the approach the City and County will take in respect to the RFP will be unique.


The current approach the County and City plan to undertake is to identify in the proposal the legislative constraints and barriers to establishing an operating company as described in the RFP, identify strategies towards addressing these roadblocks, and continue the development of partnership opportunities and links between the range of local and regional interests involved with this proposal.


Although the City and County are not currently authorized to establish an operating company as described in the RFP, the recent passing of SB 1212 by the Commonwealth of Virginia enables the County and City to authorize and issue, by ordinance, contracts to provide loans for the initial acquisition and installation of clean energy improvements.  It enables Virginia localities to establish public-private financing initiatives to help property owners to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their homes and businesses.


Therefore, if awarded the grant, the City and County’s approach may include:


·                     Using of a portion of the awarded funds to draft model legislation and obtain enabling authority so that cities and counties in Virginia  are able to form independent local entities or “operating companies” to act as local energy alliances and undertake activities currently prohibited by the State. This would also help make this a replicable effort (one of the goals identified in the RFP).

·                     Using the authority granted to localities in SB 1212, enter into a “joint exercise of powers” agreement with the City to establish a unified loan program that could finance the private acquisition and installation of clean energy improvements in the commercial and residential sectors.

·                     Designating a temporary “operating company” (i.e. the State of Virginia itself or the grantor, SEEA) until the County and City have the enabling authority to form an operating company for this endeavor.

·                     Evaluating a range of other administrative and logistical steps necessary to implement this type of program.


Benefits and Opportunities

The proposal team, consisting of a consultant hired by the State, State representatives, City and County elected leaders and staff, and University of Virginia representatives and staff, believes this is a timely venture given all of the recent national attention regarding energy efficiency and climate protection. Significant efforts are underway to analyze the energy characteristics of the community’s building stock. The team has been in discussions with Dominion Virginia Power in order to gage their support, and Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) is interested in being the local sponsor for the home performance assessment program, building in quality assurance and work credibility. They see this effort as one that would create and support “good green jobs,” and could help to revitalize the area’s construction sector. At this moment, there is significant public and private interest regarding the development of a local energy alliance (see Attachment A for a non-exhaustive listing).


Compelling cases have been made that an effort of this kind and magnitude can be extremely effective in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the residential and commercial sectors on an 80% by 2050 pace. An additional, practical reason to pursue this grant is that the work, analyses, and initiatives undertaken for the development of the SEEA application are relevant to the preparation of applications for Federal Stimulus funds from other sources, such as the Department of Energy.



The RFP calls for a Resolution addressing the localities’ support towards submission of this proposal. (See Attachment C).

If the Board chooses to apply for the SEEA Grant, staff agrees that it would strengthen the application to include a reference in the Resolution that the County would consider using a portion of the formula Energy Efficiency Block Grant (EECBG) funds (additional information regarding the County’s EECBG funds is included in Attachment B) the County expects to receive in stimulus funding in support of applicable energy efficiency-related programs in the residential and commercial sectors, which are efforts consistent with the SEEA grant goals. Given that a resolution is called for in the RFP, this would help demonstrate the County’s commitment to the establishment of a community-wide energy efficiency effort, and ensure that the SEEA grant proposal is as competitive as possible. Staff further recommends that, while it is listed as an eligible activity, the County’s federal stimulus funds should not be included in a revolving loan fund or other activity that will result in long-term monitoring and compliance requirements. In addition, the County’s EECBG funds would need to be allocated to activities that meet all federal, state and local requirements, including applicable procurement laws. 



According to the RFP, the County and City will be informed by May 30th as to whether they have been selected as a finalist for the SEEA grant, and the grant will be awarded by June 20th. Since the County is not required to submit an application and strategy for its EECBG funds until June 25th, staff will still have time to make adjustments, if desired, to its strategy included in our EECBG application, if the SEEA grant is not obtained.



If awarded the $500,000 SEEA grant, the County would use its share of these funds in accordance with the potential uses described above.



Staff recommends that the Board adopt the attached Resolution (Attachment C).



Attachment A - List of organizations with which local energy alliance discussions and planning have occurred

Attachment B - EECGB Fund Information

Attachment C - Resolution

Return to regular agenda