Virginia Energy Sense interviewed LEAP Executive Director Lesley Fore to discuss how her organization is playing a role in encouraging energy efficiency and environmental stewardship in Virginia.
Please provide a short summary of what LEAP is and the work it does.
As a trusted nonprofit, LEAP delivers direct education and services for improved energy performance to address climate change; create cost savings for families and businesses; healthier, safer, and more durable buildings; and local jobs and economic growth.
Homeowners struggling with high energy bills or uncomfortable houses, and business owners seeking to cut energy costs, come to LEAP for building science expertise and, when available, special rebates and loans to make energy upgrades more affordable.
Our programs include energy evaluations of all building types including homes and businesses, low-income weatherization services funded by utilities, workshops, events and outreach to educate and empower the community on energy efficiency and clean energy topics, and Solarize campaigns that offer discounts and a streamlined process for homeowners and businesses to add solar energy systems.
Since 2010, LEAP’s programs have saved over 20 gigawatt-hours of energy and $2.4 million in energy costs.
How is LEAP helping Virginia meet its goal of reducing energy consumption?
Our alliance model is a community-based, public-private partnership. Our programs help local governments meet their carbon emission reduction targets, improve the affordability and durability of our businesses and neighborhoods, and stimulate the local economy through job creation and retention. Energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy upgrades benefit the local economy first with local jobs, and secondly, by keeping utility costs down.
Between our homes and businesses, we consume 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. By working building by building to increase efficiency, LEAP not only reduces energy use, but also educates residents and business owners on energy use and efficiency, helping to create more energy aware citizens more likely to value and conserve energy.
In addition, our Solarize campaigns make it easier for home and business owners in northern and central Virginia to go solar, reducing reliance on emission producing energy sources. We negotiate discounted upfront pricing with solar installers, hold community information sessions and serve as a resource throughout the process. The campaigns are executed in partnership with local governments including the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and Piedmont Environmental Council.
What are some ways in which your organization has encouraged environmental stewardship?
At LEAP, we have always known the importance of our work in mitigating climate change. In 2017, we doubled down on our commitment to energy efficiency and clean energy as a means of combating climate change, linking it directly to the work we do. With this commitment front and center, we work toward energy efficiency for all and a clean energy future.
Last year, over 800 people came out for a LEAP hosted screening of the climate change documentary, “Before the Flood.” The film was followed by an expert panel and many sponsoring organizations offering climate solutions were on hand. The screening proved to be a major event for the Charlottesville, Va., community and many left feeling more informed, inspired and empowered in the face of an uncertain climate future.