by Joshua Jerome
BARRE — After a six month pilot period, Barre City’s energy efficiency effort is showing results. State officials set the goal of reaching 90 percent of Vermont’s energy needs from renewable resources by 2050 and Barre is doing its part to get on board with these lofty goals.At a recent meeting, Mayor Thom Lauzon held court at a Barre Saves Energy Inititiative workshop. From a statewide perspective, since 2011, Vermont has gained over 100 megawatts each of in-state generated wind and solar photovoltaic electric as reported by the Department of Public Service in their Comprehensive Energy Plan 2016. Additionally, the cost of electricity in Vermont has remained below inflation and makes Vermont rates the second lowest in New England.
The combination of increasing renewable energy generation capacity and energy efficiency is driving developments to meet energy goals. Since 2000, Efficiency Vermont has been working with Vermonters in their homes and businesses. Efficiency measures installed since 2000 have saved 1,026 gigawatt-hours which in 2015 dollars, equals nearly $119 million. Last year, Efficiency Vermont teamed up with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s Downtown program to help bring more awareness of efficiency investments available for residential, commercial and business owners to select Vermont communities. One of the communities selected was Barre and the Barre Partnership, Barre’s downtown organization, worked with Efficiency Vermont to bring stakeholders together during the six-month pilot project.
The Barre Saves Energy Initiative, a joint initiative of the Barre Partnership, Efficiency Vermont, City of Barre, Barre Area Development, Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Barre City Energy Committee and the Vermont Downtown Program worked in partnership to make energy efficiency programs and services more accessible to businesses and homeowners in the Barre area. The joint effort resulted in a series of workshops targeting multi-family property owners, cold climate heat pumps, modern wood heating, slash your energy bills and hosted a Button-Up Vermont open house. Efficiency Vermont’s energy experts conducted energy walkthroughs in residential and commercial properties throughout the Barre area identifying a number of opportunities for property owners to save on energy costs. The joint effort brought multiple networks together and created a critical mass of learning opportunities for consumers who found them receptive and action oriented.
The overall results during the six-month pilot period were positive and include over 391,000 kilowatt hours in energy savings for Barre-area businesses and over 92,000 kilowatt hours in energy savings for Barre-area residents. Even though the Barre Saves Energy Initiative was to be a six-month pilot program, the joint partners will continue informing one another of cost saving opportunities for residential and commercial property owners. The unique partnership is one example of what it will take for Vermont to reach its goals of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. It also highlights an important role Vermont’s downtown organizations play in bringing community partners together on projects for high impact.
The success of Vermont’s downtowns in attracting entrepreneurs will depend on continued public and private investment in our infrastructure, commercial buildings and housing stock. Unique partnerships between Vermont’s downtowns and organizations like Efficiency Vermont will help to increase opportunities for downtowns to remain competitive as commercial centers in our global economy and as a gathering center for social capital creation.