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Commercial Energy Efficiency

According to the 2014 Virginia Energy Plan, commercial energy use makes up a little over 25% of total energy used across the Commonwealth.  About 67% of commercial energy use is from electricity, and 26% is from natural gas. 

2012 Virginia Commercial Sector Energy Consumption Pie chart

Offices, schools, retail businesses and other commercial establishment can increase the energy efficiency of their buildings by investing in a variety of actions, including:

  • Increasing the amount of and ensuring proper installation of insulation, allowing a business to use less heating and cooling energy to achieve and maintain a comfortable temperature.

  • Tight building design, including energy-efficient windows, well-sealed doors, and additional insulation to reduce heat loss by 25-50%.

  • Turning off lights when a room is unoccupied, and changing incandescent light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs), which use up to 75% less energy and last 6-10 times longer than incandescent lights.

  • Replacing old appliances with new Energy Star or higher-tier rated appliances to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy usage.

  • Using programmable thermostats in buildings to automatically set temperatures higher or lower during a 24-hour period, depending on the time of day and occupancy of the building.

  • Placing landscaping around businesses to provide shade and block wind.

  • Opening and closing window blinds and drapes to either let in or block out sunlight that can affect the temperature and comfort level in your building as the seasons change.

  • Unplugging energy “vampires” – equipment such as computers, TVs, cell phone chargers, etc. that continue to use electricity even when “off” or in “sleep mode.”

DMME Division of Energy Commercial EE Projects

Through the development and deployment of initiatives/deliverables in the areas of policy, best practices/protocols and pilot program implementation, DMME partnered with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) and others to significantly increase the infrastructure and uptake of energy efficiency retrofits in commercial buildings in Virginia and Maryland.  Through a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant administered by DMME between September 2011 and May 2014, this Accelerating Commercial Building Retrofits Project proposed to increase the depth and breadth of ongoing commercial retrofits by incrementally facilitating improvements to both contractor capacity and consumer demand. DMME also proposed to accelerate the policy and programmatic changes necessary to build and sustain a robust market-based industry for this sector into the future.

Goals of the project included the development of tools to advance energy efficiency retrofits in the commercial building sector, and the implementation of commercial building retrofit pilots through local government and building owner actions.

DMME identified the following project objectives to be met over the grant period, which should lead to the acceleration of commercial building retrofits in the Commonwealth:

  • Develop and promote a range of innovative financing opportunities that will enhance energy retrofit projects in commercial buildings and pursue legislative support if necessary.

  • Promote voluntary benchmarking, labeling and recognition initiatives of commercial buildings at both the state and local levels.

  • Promote expansion of utility incentive programs.

  • Promote green leases and other lease adjustments to fairly apportion benefits and costs of EE retrofit projects.

  • Develop model energy service agreements for use by both design/build firms and energy service performance contractors.

  • Research, write and distribute a guide to help building owners and operators build a sound business case for aligning EE retrofit projects with the building owner’s financial needs.

  • Develop case studies of successful commercial property EE retrofit projects.

  • Promote best practices in building benchmarking and labeling.

  • Encourage business association members to undertake EE projects on their commercial buildings.

  • Develop training modules for Building Facility/Operation Managers.

  • Assist commercial building owners to implement commercial building retrofits in Northern Virginia and Charlottesville.

  • Promote innovative financing opportunities with business associations and local governments.

Several fact sheets, templates, and resource tools were produced that documented the results of this commercial building retrofits project.  Click here to read the Final Administrative Report submitted to DOE in July 2014. Additional resource documents prepared by Virginia DMME, NVRC, MEA, and other partners can be accessed below:

Resource Documents


Fact Sheets


Energy Service Contractor (ESCO) Templates

Tools and Resources for Commercial Customers

Commercial customers , including  retail businesses, small offices, and  schools, can take advantage of energy efficiency programs designed to help specific types of commercial operations reduce their ongoing energy use and costs.

For Offices

  • EPA's Low Carbon IT - Save up to $50 per computer annually. Computers use a large percentage of an office's energy budget. However, if you activate the power management features on your computers and monitors, you can save energy, save money, and lower your carbon footprint! Learn more and take the pledge to join the ENERGY STAR Low Carbon IT Campaign.

  • Portfolio Manager is an interactive energy management tool that allows you to track and assess energy and water consumption across your entire portfolio of buildings.

  • Energy Star Guidelines for Energy Management - This guide will lead you through steps of energy management similar to the "Plan, do, check, act" strategy used in environmental management systems.

  • Office Energy Checklist  - This simple checklist provides energy conservation/efficiency measures to use at the office.


For Schools

  • EnergySmart Schools - Schools spend more on energy than any other cost except personnel. Learn more about planning, financing, designing, and building a high-performance school.


For Retail Businesses