(TNS) -- Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday he's speeding up efforts to meet energy efficiency goals under the Virginia Energy Plan, a move praised by conservation groups worried about the state's poor record on efficiency.

Under the new plan, the state will reduce retail electricity consumption by 10 percent by 2020 — two years earlier than the previous goal. To help make it happen, McAuliffe appointed 12 individuals from the public and private sectors to an Executive Committee on Energy Efficiency.

"The energy sector is a key strategic growth area as we work to build a new Virginia economy," McAuliffe said in a statement. "And improving energy efficiency is one of the real opportunities."

Soon after the announcement, Dawone Robinson at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in D.C. called the measure a "win-win situation."

"Increasing energy efficiency is our lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to reducing the carbon emissions fueling severe weather and sea-level rise," Robinson said. "Currently, Virginia ranks toward the bottom of U.S. states in reducing energy use, which is a big reason our families pay the eighth-highest average electric bills."

According to the most recent figures by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Virginia ranks 35th in efficiency measures and policies out of all the states and the District of Columbia. The ACEEE is a D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group.

Glen Besa at the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club called the governor's move a "very positive development."

"The energy you don't use is our cheapest, cleanest source of power," said Besa. "And efficiency is an important strategy for meeting the EPA's Clean Power Plan to address climate change."

But Besa also urged the governor's new committee to "light a fire" under the state's largest utility, Dominion Virginia Power, to do its part to meet the new goal.

One of Dominion's vice presidents, Ken Barker, is among the 12 people named to the governor's committee.

The others are Cynthia Adams of LEAP Virginia, an advocate for energy-efficient technologies; Carol Davis, sustainability manager for the town of Blacksburg; Jim Fawcett of the Appalachian Power Company; Bill Greenleaf of Virginia Community Capital Inc.; David Koogler of the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative; Angela Navarro of the Southern Environmental Law Center; Michele Peterson of Honeywell; Bill Prindle of ICF International; Saifur Rahman of Virginia Tech; William Reisinger of the state attorney general's office; and Dana Wiggins of the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

Under the terms of the state's energy plan, the committee is charged with developing a strategy to meet the 2020 reduction. Its specific duties include:

  • Develop within 12 months a way to track energy consumption at the retail, residential and commercial levels;
  • Identify barriers and opportunities toward meeting the reduction goal;
  • Develop a plan to coordinate statewide outreach efforts and education;
  • Identify and help implement creative financial tools for both the supply and demand sides; and
  • Recommend any new programs and policies that could support energy-efficient building upgrades for low-income residents, particularly in Southside and Southwest Virginia.

©2015 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.