By George Harvey
We have a new networking resource in southeastern Vermont and adjoining areas, the Sustainable Energy Outreach Network, or SEON. Modeled on successful initiatives in Europe and Canada, SEON is very different from the networking operations most people are familiar with.
SEON was formed through a collaborative effort of local energy-related businesses, and Guy Payne, whose background is in leadership and organizational development. The founding members recognize that when businesses operate independently and isolated from one another they miss out forming business connections, becoming a learning exchange for new processes and products, as well as marketing their region’s economic assets. It was out of this group’s passion, knowledge, and experience that the network was founded.
SEON is first and foremost devoted to sustainability, with a particular emphasis on efficient energy solutions. SEON promotes the development and commercialization of renewable energy, including energy efficiency technologies, products, services, and processes. A further focus is on the economic and physical well being of people in communities, the communities themselves, businesses, and those who work for businesses.
The goals of the organization include promoting the region as one of the foremost centers of sustainable energy and resiliency in rural America, including fostering a work environment in which people can develop thriving businesses and careers. This means educating people who are here, and it also means attracting talent into the area. The health and safety of the people, the natural environment, and economic well-being are all concerns. Activities focus on sustainable use of energy, efficiency, renewable power, net-metering, and whatever other sustainable projects members might find of important interest.
One activity is to have community forums every other month, at which time topics on sustainable energy are presented for the public. The November topic will be heat pumps. Past topics included European energy cooperatives, and a report by Margaret Cheney and Bob Walker on Vermont’s delegation to Germany in 2012. Often, members at any meeting may find that their discussion reveals some common interest that warrants further development. When that happens, a group is formed devoted to that interest.
The Building Science Guild (a working group of SEON) has already formed, so practitioners in the trade can network, participate in problem solving of members’ projects, learn and apply advanced concepts of building science, and form stronger business relationships and connections. For example, the technology and science behind moisture control, heat, and air movement is developing rapidly, and it is important that builders understand current knowledge. The Building Science Guild helps them share that sort of information. Members of the guild include general and building-performance contractors, architects, energy consultants, manufacturers of SIPs, building suppliers, and faculty from higher education.
Another group that is forming will deal with biomass. While this group may attract builders, it is as likely to be useful to potential large scale users of biomass (municipalities, schools, institutions, landlords, commercial end-users, housing trusts), members of town energy committees, and all elements of the ‘supply chain’ who are likely to be involved in the decision making processes for communities.
Most people in our area do not really appreciate the importance of biomass. Very few people realize that biomass is the largest source of renewable energy worldwide, in terms of energy output. Problems with traditional biomass include unsustainable harvesting and extensive pollution. The understanding of how these problems can be solved by using currently available technology, based on sustainable fuel production, efficient energy use, and elimination of nearly all pollutants is vital, as we move forward with our communities. SEON offers people who need the information a place to discuss these things.
Other groups being envisioned relate to facility management at industrial and commercial sites as well as the PV sector. SEON does not have a schedule for these as yet, but is always adapting and expanding its operations as they are needed. Yet as these groups form, SEON will emphasize they represent systems thinking and how they all relate to energy efficient solutions. They must always function to ensure the interdependency and interrelatedness of the various processes and technologies.
SEON’s offices are at 532 Putney Road, Suite 204, Brattleboro, VT 05301. The telephone number is 802-376-9262 and information can be found at www.seon.info .