U.S. Senate candidate and former Gov. Tim Kaine visited the headquarters in Clarendon on Thursday as part of a tour across Virginia to promote his energy plan, which he and his campaign are calling "an all-of-the-above" solution.
In a brief town hall meeting with employees afterward, he said that includes energy conservation, investment in research and innovation, exploratory drilling for natural gas off Virginia's coastline, moving from coal to cleaner forms of energy and supporting nuclear power.
"Solutions like this are part of that focus," he said after seeing a demonstration of how GridPoint helps major companies reduce the amount of energy they use.
Kaine also advocated ending about $2.5 billion in subsidies to major oil companies and redirecting that money to research, investments and technology.
"Their level of profitability indicates they don't need help," he said.
Kaine toured the business, across the street from Market Common Clarendon, with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat in line to become either chairman or ranking minority member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
As such, Wyden said he would want Kaine's suggestions on shaping national energy policy. He praised Kaine for what he called a track record of bipartisanship.
"Virginia has a very special kind of leader in Governor Kaine," Wyden said. He did not talk much about Kaine's rival, former Republican Gov. George Allen, saying he never shows up "to run somebody else down."
GridPoint employs about 45 people at its Clarendon headquarters, and another 55 at a facility in Roanoke. Kaine helped recruit the company to Virginia about five years ago.
"Virginia has sort of taken the lead in getting people like us moving in this space," GridPoint CEO John Spirtos said.
GridPoint's customers, which include major retailers, grocers and other large consumers of electricity, average saving about 15 percent on their energy bills, he said.
He likened the company, in some ways, to a giant dimmer switch that ties into a large network of stores, allowing for better across-the-board energy practices for everything from lighting to heating and air conditioning.
A single big-box store may use as many as 15 air-conditioning units, for instance. Cutting out the need for one or more of them could save the company tens of thousands of dollars — which multiples per store — and reduces the overall amount of energy consumed. And that means extending the life of existing power plants or delaying the need to build new ones.
"The cleanest and cheapest unit of energy is the one you don't use," he said. "Technology finds its way to the market. The fastest adoption route … is to the people who are actually paying the bills."
Spirtos said the burgeoning clean energy industry would see "lots of winners and lots of losers." The jobs pay well and the industry is growing.
"Everyone's hiring," he said.
Kaine has visited a solar panel plant in Richmond, a Dominion Power plant in Chester and a regional water pollution control plant in Roanoke this week to promote his energy plan.
Virginia had no energy plan when he was inaugurated in 2006, he said.