Louis R. Lawson Jr., Gov. Mills E. Godwin's energy "czar," ordered half the overhead lights turned off in his office, and sometimes walks up the stairs rather than use the elevator. But good intentions, Lawson notes, "are nowhere near as good as a good energy policy."
That is precisely what Lawson and the state of Virginia have been trying to put together. While they welcome the attention that President Carter's energy proposals have attracted, Virginia officials are determined - more so than their counterparts in many states - to put their own stamp on them.
Carter's original proposals, announced in April, are still making their way through Congress. They included standby gasoline taxes, a tax on cars with relatively poor gas mileage, a wellhead tax on crude oil, an increase in the price of natural gas and a provision requiring new utility plants to burn coal and not oil.
In addition, the President's proposal would offer homeowners a tax credit for insulating their homes. Also, efficiency standards would be established for home appliances, new electricity rates would be established to reduce "peak loads" and tax credits would be given for use of solar energy.
But Virginia is not waiting for all this to endure the legislative process.
For example, the state was the first in the east to test a program in which a utility company offers insulation loans and installation for private homeowners.
The experiment is being conducted in southern and western Virginia by Appalachian Power Co. Planning for the experiment was done with the cooperation of the State Corporation Commission, which regulates state utilities.
For another example, Virginia Electric and Power Co., the state's largest utility, will soon run a one-year "peak-load pricing" experiment. Special meters will be placed at the homes of the state's 9,000 largest residential users. They will see what it would cost them for electricity actually used, at a rate determined by the half-hour of each week in which their individual demand is heaviest.
In addition, Virginia and VEPCO are studying a system, located at a power substation, which could shut off electricity to specific home appliances at certain times on "peak load" days. "The technology for it now exists. It's just a question of how to go about it," said James C. Dunstan, director of utilities regulation for the SCC.
Meanwhile, state energy officials have been lecturing on conservation to community college classes, church and civic groups and employee organizations all over Virginia. Officials have also placed more than 6,000 "how to conserve energy" manuals in the stat'e public schools.
But Virginia cannot put any of the Carter proposals into force, and cannot act on any of its own studies, until at least late this year.
The reason is that the General Assembly has scheduled a review of the entire state's energy situation in November. Lawson's office is scheduled to deliver a report to the Assembly Nov. 1. The report is expected to be the basis of any appropriations the Assembly then makes.
Another cause for hesitation may be the bad political "vibrations" that cropped up in the state last winter.
Godwin imposed a state of emergency then, and ordered schools and businesses closed because extreme cold weather hampered fueld deliveries and increased residential demand. He was severely criticized, especially in Northern Virginia, by many who felt he was overreacting.
But as far as specific preparations go, Virginia is farther along than many Eastern states.
It has one of the largest planning grants the Federal Energy Administration has made - $485,000. The money was granted under the terms of a 1975 law that requires states to plan for a five per cent reduction in projected energy use by 1980.
The most recent General Assembly appropriated another $60,000 for administrative costs. According to Lawson, the state expects as much as $1 million in further FEA grants over the next two years so that it can execute its plan, and perhaps and additional $500,000 to publicize it.
But according to Dunstan, one of the most troubling aspects for Virginia of the Carter plan, if it is implemented by Congress, is that "nobody's said who's going to pay for all these things."
Dunstan said state officials are especially worried about Carter's proposed gasoline and gas-guzzler taxes. Virginia has little public transportation, and its major cities are far enough apart that driving is often the only feasible way of getting from one to another, Dunstan said.
Through the first quarter of 1977Q, Lawson added, gasoline consumption in Virginia was 5 per cent higher than in the comparable period in 1976.
Dunstan noted that Virginia also has unusualy year-round pressure on electricity supply. Largely because of weather variation, the northern and eastern parts of the state have peak loads in the summer air conditioning season. The southern and western parts have peak winter heating loads.
Year-round demand has led to an unusualy high ration of power-producing plants to customers. If plants have to be converted from oil burners to coal burners, "there could be real trouble," Dunstan said.
As in most states, Virginia energy officials expect the first widespread energy-saving step to be the "retrofitting" of private homes with insulation, or the improvement of existing insulation.
BUt in Virginia, according to Dunstan, "we have run into difficulty with banks and savings and loans."
The question is whether private utilities, and not banks, should be allowed to get all the insulation business.
If utilities get the business, would they do the insulating themselves, or subcontract it to the state's home repair businesses? If utilities do everything themselves, how do they propose to come up with the cash for "retrofting loans"? How do they propose to collect bad loans from customers who can't even pay their bills now? Would a rate increase be necessary?
In its experiment, Appalachian Power will do the entire job itself. But that is not binding on future state policy, Dunstan said. And what that policy will prove to be is itself uncertain. "No one knows how big a job this is because no one knows how many homes in this state are insulated at all," Dunstan said.
"I welcome the attention Carter brought to this problem," said Lawson. "I can't yell but just so loud."