RICHMOND, Va. — On Dec. 19, the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) in Richmond announced the agency took top honors in the first-ever Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards, given by the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC) and presented by Governor Terry McAuliffe.
VADOC executed the first executive branch energy services contract (ESCO) in the state, earning first place in the award’s state government category. ESCO contracts allow the state to pay energy-service companies using the funds saved by the installation of energy-efficient projects, according to a statement by the department.
“The winning entries are proof that energy efficiency has tremendous potential to drive economic growth, create jobs, shrink utility bills, conserve natural resources and reduce pollution,” said Chelsea Harnish, VAEEC executive director, in a statement. “They reflect the preliminary numbers from our 2016 Clean Energy Census which indicate that building energy efficiency alone accounts for $1.1 billion in annual revenue.”
The VADOC currently leads Virginia in ESCO volume, and ESCOs constitute an integral part of the department’s building renewal program. The department has already completed four ESCO projects, with two more in progress and one in development. The seven projects together total approximately $100 million, according to a statement.
Additionally, the department employs a broad portfolio, including renewable and alternative energy sources, and has furthered tied its energy-efficiency goals to its public safety mission through the creation of an inmate-training program in energy sector skills. In partnership with Milwaukee-headquartered Johnson Controls Inc., the department established the Green Learning Lab at Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake to provide practical training to offenders on mechanical equipment and offer industry certification. To date, more than 50 offenders have graduated with more than 35 employed upon release from prison, according to a statement.
The department’s use of renewable and alternative energy sources is also evident at Augusta Correctional Center in Craigsville, which uses wood waste to heat hot water. St. Brides Correctional Center, also located in Chesapeake, employs the state’s largest solar thermal system to provide hot water. Building and fixture improvements have further saved more than one billion gallons of water since the program began in May 2005.
“Our long-term vision involves being a progressive and proven innovative leader in our profession. This includes the measures we have taken to be more energy-efficient as well as the efforts we have made to train offenders to work in energy related fields,” said VADOC Director Harold Clarke in a statement. “We are honored to receive this award and we will continue to explore methods to enhance our use of renewable and alternative energy sources, acting as a good neighbor in the communities in which we operate.”