By Johanna Miller
Vermont has a goal of improving the thermal efficiency of a quarter of the state’s old, leaky homes: 80,000 — by 2020.
Unfortunately, the state is far from meeting this target.
In March 2012, the Public Service Department convened a Thermal Efficiency Task Force (TETF) charged with recommending policy, program, funding and financing strategies to meet this important goal. Additional goals the TETF has explored, and will make recommendations to meet in a final report due out late December, include:
- Reducing annual fuel bills by an average of 25%;
- Reducing fossil fuel consumption across all buildings by an additional 1/2% each year;
- Saving $1.5 billion on fuel bills; and
- Increasing weatherization services to low-income Vermonters.
Reducing the amount of oil or gas used to heat most Vermonters’ homes is a no brainer. Weatherization saves money, makes buildings more comfortable, creates much-needed jobs and reduces our reliance on the dirty fossil fuels that are destroying our planet. It is an investment in Vermont’s long-term economic and energy security.
What will it take to turn Vermont’s energy efficiency goals into reality?
The TETF has identified several things, including:
- Improving public understanding of, demand for, and investment in thermal efficiency. This will require compelling case making, grounded in real-world results that bolster consumer confidence in the value of energy efficiency investments.
- Creating an easy, understandable, seamless path for people to invest in comprehensive energy services.
It will also take money.
Jumpstarting the thermal efficiency market — like Vermont has done with the electric sector — will take both financing (private dollars) and funding (public dollars).
The financing exists, and Vermont lenders are eager to work with qualifying home and business owners. What’s missing, however, is consistent and sufficient public funding that will lead to thermal efficiency success.
Thankfully, informed by the recommendations the TETF will put forward in January, the Vermont Legislature is poised to consider thermal efficiency funding this session.
While the funding source, and amount, is not clear, the need for it is. Public dollars invested in thermal efficiency leverage three to four times the amount of private dollars. A state commitment to weatherizing our leaky homes and businesses will position Vermont not only to meet its efficiency goals, but also to build a thriving clean, green energy economy.
While many Vermonters — including Vermont’s 100 energy committees — will follow the funding conversation under the Golden Dome with great interest, they are not waiting to act on this imperative. They are digging into an exciting effort focused on “neighbors helping neighbors save through efficiency” — the 2013 “Home Energy Challenge.” Learn more about the Challenge, find resources and tools to support your town in participating and SIGN UP! — www.efficiencyvermont.com/homenergychallenge.
Help seize this opportunity! To get involved or for more information, contact Johanna Miller, Energy Program Director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council: firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-223-2328 or www.vnrc.org.