VERMONT – Efficiency Vermont is wrapping up a year of partnerships in four communities across Vermont, bringing together energy service providers and community groups to expand access to money and energy saving solutions. 2019 was the fourth year of the program, a collaborative effort launched by Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) to bring efficiency solutions directly to residents in selected communities around the state. Residents, businesses, and non-profits in Rutland, Bellows Falls, St. Johnsbury, and Swanton were eligible for free home energy visits and consultations with an efficiency expert and enhanced incentives to bring down the cost of efficiency upgrades. In total, fifteen communities have partnered with Efficiency Vermont since the program launched in 2016, and four new communities have been selected for the upcoming year.
“Every home is unique, and every community is unique. By engaging directly with our partners on the ground in communities, we can provide customized solutions that will help Vermonters save money and energy,” said Rebecca Foster, Director of Efficiency Vermont. “This is a coordinated effort from the state, utilities, community groups, municipalities, and statewide organizations to keep Vermonters warmer this winter.”
Over the course of the year, Efficiency Vermont worked with local organizers to coordinate nearly 60 community events in the four communities. This engagement resulted in hundreds of free home energy visits, over 20 free assessments for multi-family rental properties, and over 70 free energy assessments for small- and medium-businesses. In each of these visits, Efficiency Vermont or VGS technical experts provided residents and business owners an overview of efficiency solutions that could save them time and money. Over the course of the year, the program helped increase access to efficiency programs through incentives and education of energy options.
“Energy costs remain one of the largest expenses for residents and small businesses in Vermont,” said Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Ted Brady. “By providing residents and businesses energy consultations and incentives, this program assists Vermont businesses and residents in lowering their carbon emissions, reducing their costs, and building stronger communities.”
These community-based efforts rely on a host of partners. In Swanton, for example, the Vermont Council on Rural Development started work in early 2019 as part of their Climate Economy Model Communities Program. They invited Efficiency Vermont, along with VGS, Swanton Electric, and Vermont Public Power Supply Authority (VPPSA), to offer incentives, technical expertise, and resources to help residents weatherize and invest in efficient technology. In Rutland, St. Johnsbury, and Bellows Falls, Efficiency Vermont and Green Mountain Power partnered to help residents and businesses access incentives for heat pumps and other efficient products. In all of the communities, Efficiency Vermont worked with the local municipal government, the Chambers of Commerce, and the Regional Planning Commission.
“This partnership enables a deeper level of engagement with residents and businesses in Vermont communities,” said Jon Copans, Program Director for the Model Communities Program at the Vermont Council on Rural Development. “By working together, we are able to help Vermonters achieve their goals to reduce emissions, save energy, save money, and strengthen their communities.”
The program expanded its impact by offering efficiency solutions to local non-profit service providers in the communities. These organizations operate on tight budgets that are focused on providing direct service to those who need it. By lowering the cost of efficient upgrades for these non-profits, Efficiency Vermont was able to reduce costs and increase the impact of their service.
“Changing out our lights will save us money, energy, and hassle over time. But from day one, it’s given us our community spaces back,” said Caleb Rupp, Director of the Swanton Public Library. “We had these spaces for community use, but I used to cringe every time someone went in due to the constant buzzing noise and poor quality of light. Now we can proudly open them back up to community art classes and meetings.”
As the 2019 program was winding down in the fall, Efficiency Vermont worked with key stakeholders, including VCRD, Vermont Electric Co-op, Green Mountain Power, VPPSA, ACCD, and the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network to select communities for the 2020 effort. In 2020, the program will be offered in Irasburg/Barton/Orleans, Johnson, Brighton/Island Pond, and Barre City. The selection committee looked at energy burden data, data from the Vermont Community Foundation, geographic location, and demographics to select the 2020 communities.
“Swanton Village, a member of the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority, was the recipient of over 100 free home energy visits thanks to this program’s work in 2019,” said VPPSA General Manager Ken Nolan. “Three of our public power utilities, Barton Village, the Village of Johnson, and the Village of Orleans, will partner with Efficiency Vermont in 2020, and we’re expecting similar success. VPPSA will be offering enhanced financial incentives to help these communities weatherize their building stock and reduce fossil-fuel use.”
A dedicated Efficiency Vermont community manager will work with each community to create community-specific goals, execute outreach and educational activities, identify new efficiency opportunities, and support local businesses, municipalities, and non-profits in efficiency upgrades with enhanced incentives. Community residents will have access to in-depth energy consultations throughout 2020.
About Efficiency Vermont: Efficiency Vermont is helping our state transition to a more affordable and cleaner future. Since 2000, Efficiency Vermont has brought Vermonters together to reduce the cost of energy. We work with our partners to provide incentives, technical advice, and efficient products to help customers save money, and lower carbon emissions. For more information, contact Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990 or visit www.efficiencyvermont.com.