published · Science

Longwood goes green: Virginia Energy Sense educates students on how to save energy

A version of this story appeared in The Rotunda (archive)

Last Wednesday, Longwood was paid a visit by representatives of Virginia Energy Sense, a nonprofit corporation created by the Virginia State Corporation Commission to promote the responsible use of energy. Andy Farmer, the manager of the program for the Commission, educated students in Bedford on the organization and how to save energy. As he put it, it’s a statewide consumer education program on energy efficiency and energy conservation. They primarily focus on electricity, though they do work in other areas as well. He explained in his presentation that Virginia has a goal to reduce electricity consumption by 10 percent by 2020.

“We want people to be good, smart energy users, so that’s how we came up with the term ‘Virginia Energy Sense,’ ” said Farmer.

Most Virginians are interested in saving energy, and Virginia Energy Sense is here to help with that, Farmer said. Their website, virginiaenergysense.org, lists many tips for how to save energy in various ways, such as opening window shades in the winter to use the sun’s natural heat.

Farmer also shows two of the television advertisements that Virginia Energy Sense ran advertising their program. These feature “Jack,” a cheerful electric wall socket that informs Virginians on easy ways to save energy both at home and at work, such as unplugging appliances when they are not in use.

One of the audience members asked about Virginia’s performance on energy conservation in relation to other states. Farmer admitted that the Commonwealth’s more conservative leanings result in a more “business friendly” approach to energy policy, in which profit is often favored over creating environmentally friendly business models. This means that the interests of the various parties, environmentalists and the business world, have to be taken into account when determining energy policy.

Another audience member asked about the expenses that are associated with solar energy. While the use of solar energy can save money in the long run, the installation of solar panels can quickly become a rather steep upfront payment. However, there is a bright light on the horizon.

“The cost of the panels is going down; it’s getting better,” assures Farmer.

“Longwood has a partnership with Virginia Energy Sense,” says Brittany Atkinson, who is an eco-representative in the Office of Sustainability.

That partnership is being expanded, she said. Virginia Energy Sense’s do-it-yourself guides are going to be implemented in Longwood’s orientation program this upcoming semester. This partnership is also responsible for the recent changes in recycling programs.

James Wilson, a senior, found the event to be “very informative.” He wishes that the student body had “more energy sense and were more aware of how they… spend and how much they could save on their personal electric bills.”

Wilson explained that many of them would be shocked when they saw the numbers on their electric bills.

Farmer explained that he and his colleagues at Virginia Energy Sense are “the regulators in Virginia of the utility industry.”

Virginia Energy Sense plans to host several different talks all over the state throughout the spring, summer and fall. As for Longwood, they plan to come back for Energy Awareness Month in October.

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