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A Roadmap to Vermont Building Efficiency

Posted by: Stuart Comstock-Gay on 1/23/2013
I’m not stepping out on a limb when I say that Vermont’s energy future is troubled. Vermonters are spending twice as much to heat our buildings as we were just a decade ago; most of what we spend on fuel leaves the local economy; our housing stock is old and inefficient; the energy used to heat our buildings is the state’s second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions; and Vermont ranks 44th out of 50 states for energy affordability.

Which makes the report and recommendations of Vermont’s Thermal Efficiency Task Force so important. Over the past year, a task force of government, private sector, and nonprofit folks studied how to increase the efficiency of our energy use in the state. The simple notion is this—by weatherizing the old and energy inefficient housing stock in Vermont, we can stop wasting money and fuel, have healthier homes, provide work for local contractors, and reduce our vulnerability to future spikes in fuel costs. Here is an excerpt from the report:

Investing in thermal efficiency improvements—primarily air sealing, insulation, and heating system replacements—can dramatically reduce heating energy use in a building. At current fuel prices, thermal efficiency investments in a home can bring savings of approximately $1,000 per year over the lifetime of the investment. The value of these savings increases as fuel prices rise. As each year passes in which investments in thermal efficiency are not made, cost burdens must be borne by individual Vermonters, businesses, and property owners—collectively burdening the Vermont economy as a whole.

The Rutland Herald described the recommendations, approvingly, as a “crash program to improve home energy efficiency.” The report focuses on the incredible amount of energy lost in heating our homes and businesses. Here’s the kicker: 

To improve Vermont’s economic security, create local jobs, and reduce the State’s impact on the environment, Vermont must also make a fundamental shift in how homes and businesses are heated. Making buildings more energy efficient should continue to be the first and best strategy for reducing the population’s reliance on fossil fuels—and paying the economic and environmental costs associated with them. In addition to efficiency, the State must shift toward local, renewable sources and renewable blended fuels for heating. These recommended changes can be undertaken in ways that create opportunities for existing fuel providers while also enabling a transition to a new, clean‐energy economy.

The cost isn’t small—$276 million over the next seven years. But the savings would be much more than that. Community Foundation partner Gaye Symington, head of the High Meadows Fund, was on that task force. High Meadows is highly focused on this very challenge.

“This report represents a great collaborative effort,” she says. “Improving the energy efficiency of Vermont’s housing stock is not just about reducing wasted money and fuel. It’s also about making homes more affordable, comfortable and secure. It’s about circulating our energy dollars within the Vermont economy and lowering the environmental impact of how we keep our buildings warm.”

Hear, hear.
And here, now.

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