Fuel dealers, Efficiency Vermont combine to tighten homes

Jim Merriam, director of Efficiency Vermont, announced a partnership between fuel dealers and the Efficiency Excellence Network during a news conference in Shelburne on Thursday. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Jim Merriam, director of Efficiency Vermont, announced a partnership between fuel dealers and the Efficiency Excellence Network during a news conference in Shelburne on Thursday. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

SHELBURNE — Two seemingly strange bedfellows have teamed up to reduce home heating costs — fuel dealers and energy efficiency contractors.

The odd couple are Efficiency Vermont, the state’s efficiency utility, and the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, a trade association representing fuel dealers, who have partnered to offer home heating fuel and thermal efficiency rebates.

Trained fuel dealers participating in the Efficiency Excellence Network – as the partnership is called – will serve as liaisons between homeowners and energy efficiency contractors. As a result, participating fuel dealers will become “whole home energy providers,” said Matt Cota, executive director of the fuel dealers group.

All projects completed through home efficiency contractors under Efficiency Vermont’s programs will be eligible for incentives totaling up to $2,100.

Though most dealers primarily sell fuel, the partnership will give some of them a competitive advantage by offering a holistic heating service, Cota said Thursday at a news conference in Shelburne.

“The fact of the matter is, customers don’t call our offices asking how they can use more of our product, they want to use less,” Cota said. “And in a competitive environment, if we don’t provide those tools to our customers to make them safe, warm, more efficient – to save them money – then they’ll go to a different source.”

The association represents 120 fuel dealers, 10 of which have signed on to the partnership, Cota said.

“Will it be for everyone, no, but that’s OK,” he said. “That’s part of this interesting competitive landscape that we have.”

Vermont Gas Systems, a natural gas provider, recently announced a similar program offering rebates, financing and technical assistance through its thermal efficiency program.

“It’s not that we are doing something that is entirely new – I mean this type of work is happening in homes all across Vermont. It’s just that we are working together,” Cota said. “We are working more efficiently at delivering efficiency.”

Vermont Fuel Dealers Association Executive Director Matt Cota. VTD/Josh Larkin

Vermont Fuel Dealers Association Executive Director Matt Cota. VTD/Josh Larkin

The 10 dealers participating in the partnership are Energy Co-op of Vermont; Champlain Valley Plumbing & Heating; Jackman’s Inc.; MacIntyre Services LLC; Keyser Energy; Johnson Energy; Cota and Cota Inc.; Dead River Co.; Bourne’s Energy; and Patterson Fuels.

An Energy Co-op of Vermont fuel truck parked outside a Shelburne home for a news conference Thursday as a testament to the partnership’s swift launch.

John Quinney is general manager for Energy Co-op of Vermont. Recently, the co-op installed a $4,600 furnace for the Shelburne homeowners. The homeowners said they received a $500 rebate, but their installation occurred before the partnership’s launch.

Quinney said customers and co-op members reward dealers with loyalty when dealers provide efficiency services. He said the partnership aligns well with the co-op’s goal to keep homeowners “warm and comfortable.”

Jim Merriam, director of Efficiency Vermont, said the partnership allows fuel dealers to expand the services they offer. But the partnership is also a pathway for homeowners to access Efficiency Vermont rebates, he said.

“I would love to have the press conference with you sometime because we have run out of money because this has been so wildly successful,” Merriam said.

Efficiency Vermont will conduct energy audits of the homes before and after the thermal efficiency improvements before allocating rebates, he said.

Green Mountain Power’s seed fund provided $50,000 to launch the project. This money got the project off the ground and will help pay train fuel dealers, Cota said. GMP officials did not attend the news conference.

Darren Springer, deputy commissioner for the Department of Public Service, said the department supports the partnership because it moves the state toward having 80,000 energy-efficient homes by the year 2020.

Comments

  1. Jim Barrett :

    HOLISTIC approach?????? That use of the word holistic scares me to death when used by some bureaucrat in Montpelier. There is nothing free and even a discount has to be paid by someone else. The problem is the low wages in Vermont and lack of good jobs while the shumlin administration is pushing great companies out the door like VTY! If you don’t have businesses competing for employees then wages are not good and people would rather draw unemployment than work. This is the socialist quagmire that so many in Vermont think is cool but someone is going to pay for this fairytale.

  2. Wayne Andrews :

    I applaud the concept but this is going to be the twin brother to the electric changeovers. Like your electric bill the users will save dollars for a moment in time but their savings will not be long lived.
    Sooner or later the distribution company will have to raise rates to maintain their infrastructure ( by selling less product) be it transmission lines or trucks and other equipment.
    Conclusion: saving electric and oil does not 100% mean the user is saving dollars.

  3. John Greenberg :

    Wayne:

    You’re half right. When customers use less energy in regulated distribution systems, rates have to rise to cover non-energy fixed costs: distribution, overhead, etc.

    BUT …

    Because customers are using less energy, their bills do NOT go up accordingly: depending on how much energy they save, their bills will remain the same or go lower even as rates rise. (Naturally, those customers who are NOT using less energy WILL see higher bills.)

    Because Vermont’s consumption of electricity is considerably lower than the national average, our electric BILLS are much lower on average, despite some of the highest RATES in the country.

    In short, the distinction between bills and rates is a very important one that you appear to be missing.

  4. Glenn Thompson :

    John Greenburg states! “Because Vermont’s consumption of electricity is considerably lower than the national average, our electric BILLS are much lower on average, despite some of the highest RATES in the country.”

    Here we go again with this line of BS! Been down this path before! If one has similar properties in different states…one of which has considerable cheaper electric rates…in which state would lower electric bills occur?

    Again…I ask the question since no one bothered to answer it before….”why would Vermont consumers on avg have lower consumption? Could it be related to heating costs in the state and the type of systems Vermonters have to power and heat their homes? If so, that figure must be part of the equation to give people a better idea of what overall utility and heating costs are compared to other states.

    You can’t make the assumption Vermonters have lower electric bills without understanding what factors went into the equation!

    • John Greenberg :

      Glenn:

      Various people HAVE answered you before. You just refuse to hear the answers and keep repeating your anecdotal evidence.

      There’s really no great mystery here. Vermont has been promoting energy efficiency for almost 30 years now; other states have not. Especially in the early days, utilities were encouraged to promote fuel switching for heating and hot water systems. The unsurprising result is that Vermont households use less electricity, on average, than their counterparts elsewhere.

      Indeed, basic economics would lead you to the same result even without programs to promote fuel switching and efficiency: if you make anything less expensive, people will tend to consume more of it. Electricity in New England has always been relatively expensive, so folks use less.

      Vermonters use, on average, about 1/3 less power than the rest of the country in their homes. That means that the breakeven point for rates is about 50% higher than the average. In other words, if the average Vermont household uses 600 kwh per month, and the average US household 900, then unless rates are MORE THAN 50% higher in Vermont than elsewhere, Vermont bills (at least the portion which covers power consumed) will be lower than average.

      According to the DOE, the actual statistics bear this out. In 2012, the average Vermont bill was for 565 KWH per month @ $.1701 for an average bill of $96.09. The US average was 903 KWH @.1188 for an average bill of $107.28. Since you keep raising the issue of your home in Arizona, the figures there are 10612 KWH per month @$.1129 for an average bill of $119.84. The figures are here: http://www.eia.gov/electricity/sales_revenue_price/xls/table5_a.xls.

      There are MANY factors which impact specific electric bills, which is why your anecdotal evidence leads nowhere: basic geography dictates much of how power is produced and consumed in a country as large as ours. Arizona has vast resources of sun, but not much hydro power; the opposite is true on the northern coasts. Southern households use far more energy in cooling than in heating; northern ones, just the opposite. Etc. Densely populated areas have far lower distribution and transmission costs (per customer) than rural areas like Vermont. And so on and so forth.

      None of this changes the fundamental principles which have I (and others) have pointed out repeatedly. You just don’t want to hear them.

      • John,

        Thank you for the reference of average electric bills. It looks like all NE states (not just Vermont) practiced energy efficiency (using less than the US average) and had electric bills of less than $100/month, except CT which has many energy-guzzling households (Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, etc.,) with very high incomes to raise its average.

        Historical Real Median Household Income for the United States and Vermont
        http://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/vermont/

        US: 2012 $51,371; 2011 $51,557; 2010 $52,703; 2009 $53,760; 2008 $55,484; 2007 $56,189; 2006 $55,176; 2005 $54,387

        VT: 2012 $52,977; 2011 $53,878; 2010 $52,029; 2009 $55,256; 2008 $55,564; 2007 $55,266; 2006 $54,281; 2005 $53,733

        Cost of Living Index, by state
        http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm

        US: 100
        ME: 110.4
        NH: 120
        VT: 120.1
        MA: 121.9
        RI: 123.3
        CA: 124.3
        NJ: 127.9
        CT: 131.4
        NY: 131.4
        AK: 131.5
        DC: 141.6
        HA: 158.3

        The VT cost of living index is about 20% greater than the US COL index, but the Vermont mean real income is not 20% greater than the US mean real income.

        Does that mean VT’s standard of living is less than the US SOL?

      • Lance Hagen :

        John,

        Your claim that Vermont’s promotion of energy efficiency is the dominate reason Vermont’s usage is low, is hogwash.

        Scatter plot your referenced data and you we see that it is the higher electric rates that appear to cause the lower usage. People, like water running downhill, find the path of least resistance. Meaning the more it costs, the less they use and they find other lower cost sources to meet their energy needs.

        If ‘efficiency’ was such a strong factor, than Vermont would rank a great deal better than the middle of the pack (20th out 51) in total residential energy consumption per capita.

        • John Greenberg :

          Lance,
          I know you like to disagree with me, but I did write:
          “Indeed, basic economics would lead you to the same result even without programs to promote fuel switching and efficiency: if you make anything less expensive, people will tend to consume more of it. Electricity in New England has always been relatively expensive, so folks use less.”

          Moreover, my comment — and the discussion I’ve had with Wayne Andrews and Glenn Thompson — pertains to ELECTRICITY consumption, where, if you got to the same URL I quoted above, Vermont ranks 3rd after Maine and Hawaii, not 20th.

          Moreover, the price of power in Maine is actually lower than Vermont’s, while the price of power in NY, CT and Alaska are all higher while consumption is also higher.

      • Glenn Thompson :

        John Greenberg, you are not understanding my point at all. I’m not talking about avg generic data, but actual real life data. It is highly likely you are correct….for whatever reason Vermonters could very well be using less electricity. It could be due to economics. It could also be due to Vermont’s poor rural areas bringing that average down!

        I’m looking at this from a personal perspective. AGAIN! Using my own data

        Vt electric rates = $.191/kwh
        Az electric rates = $.124/kwh

        In theory, if both my residences have equal electricity consumption, my electric bill will be more expensive in Vt. It’s simple math John!

        You do bring up a great point about Geographic location. But once again comparing my data and factoring in cooling/heating…I use less electricity in Arizona. Also if you wish to compare heating costs. We use Natural Gas in Arizona. In Vermont due to a lack of Natural Gas access for a majority of Vermonters…..Natural Gas is considerably cheaper than Propane and Fuel oil. You can continue to ‘sugar coat’ your generic data…but my facts show my energy consumption, rates, and overall energy costs to be considerably less in Arizona than Vermont!

  5. rosemarie jackowski :

    “Warm and comfortable”… really? Many older folks I know have developed serious medical problems because they keep their homes at 55 degrees all winter. After working all their lives they still cannot afford adequate heat. There are a lot of ‘programs’ – many do not help those in need.

    One issue that gets too little attention are some of the simple things, like placing as many windows as possible on the south side of the house for new construction. Also, discouraging the construction of unnecessarily large houses.

  6. Wayne Andrews :

    John: I was more focused on the electric side of the equation. If miraculously we all installed new devices that use one half the electric the suppliers would have to double their rates in order to meet the same cash flow and profit margins.
    I know at my place of work the EE people keep contacting us to install new fixture sand project a certain payback period. before we can see that payback period another new fixture is created and they knock on our door again. We could spent ourselves into oblivion to save power but not necessarily dollars. Thanks for the reply.

    • John Greenberg :

      Wayne:

      It’s not quite right to say “If miraculously we all installed new devices that use one half the electric the suppliers would have to double their rates in order to meet the same cash flow and profit margins.”

      For-profit utilities make their profits based on a return on assets, not based on sales of power. If companies can PLAN for the new devices you’re hypothesizing, then they’ll simply contract for less power. Their revenues will decrease, but their costs will decline by the same amount. As long as overall revenues remain sufficient to cover all costs plus their profit margin, the utility in your example would NOT have to raise rates at all. At some point, if revenues were to decline past the point where fixed costs were no longer being covered, rates would have to rise, but bills would STILL be lower because consumption would have decreased. That’s the point I made previously.

      All of this is a product of utilities having a regulated rate of return, rather than market-based profit margins like normal businesses. The whole business side of an electric utility is quite different from a “normal” business.

  7. The EV/Fuel Dealer partnership means home owners will put in new , more efficient furnaces which the fuel dealers will install and service and deliver fuel to.

    The fuel dealer makes money on the new installation and the service contract and the homeowner gets a credit from EV to get him of the fence.

    To make it all happen, EV is looking forward to place a surcharge of about 5% on the fuel bills of Vermont’s already-struggling households and businesses, that have been dealing with:

    - a near-zero-growth economy since 2007
    - a growing state government with an insatiable appetite for more and more taxes and fees acting as a wet blanket on the shrinking private sector.

    • Addition to the above comment:

      The Fuel Dealers have been opposed to the proposed 5% Efficiency Vermont surcharge on fuel bills, but now that EV is providing subsidies to homeowners, and others, to change out their heating furnaces, the Fuel Dealers stand to gain business throughout the state for many years, by installing, servicing and fueling the new units.

      The Fuel Dealers have used their political clout to influence legislators to prevent new legislation for the EV 5% fuel surcharge, but now they have been given a bone to chew on, and their opposition evaporated; money talks.

  8. Anne,
    I revised the comment. Please post this one, instead of the prior ones.

    Putting new furnaces in energy hog buildings with EV subsidies is putting the horse behind the cart.

    Energy efficiency should be done first.

    Energy efficiency in Vermont, and in other states, is a farce. Even the state of Vermont does not practice it; lots of high-sounding pronouncements, but no deeds worth mentioning.

    Vermont State Government buildings; average 107,000 Btu/sq ft/yr.

    http://www.publicassets.org/PAI-IB0806.pdf

    Just imagine how low our heating, cooling and electric bills would be, and how little our CO2 emissions would be, if all of us lived in Passivhaus-type buildings.

    Here are some data regarding the energy use of houses.

    Energy hog house………..300 kWh/m2/yr……95,158 Btu/sqft/yr, for space heating, domestic hot water and electricity

    Well-insulated house…….150 kWh/m2/yr……47,579 Btu/sqft/yr, for space heating, domestic hot water and electricity

    My house……………………..72 kWh/m2/yr……22,896 Btu/sqft/yr, for space heating, domestic hot water and electricity

    Passiv house………………..15 kWh/m2/yr……..4,758 Btu/sqft/yr, for space heating, domestic hot water

    Passiv house………………..27 kWh/m2/yr……..8,531 Btu/sqft/yr, for space heating, domestic hot water, electricity 

    Passiv house………………..42 kWh/m2/yr……13,289 Btu/sqft/yr, for space heating, space cooling, domestic hot water, electricity

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house

    • Addition to the above comment:

      Adding PV solar and thermal solar systems to Passiv house buildings will easily make them “zero-energy” or “energy-surplus” buildings.

      As this is the direction we need to take anyway at some time in the future, why not start now and be a REAL leader for the rest of the nation and the world?

      Looks like a no-brainer to me!!

  9. Matt Fisken :

    If nothing else, the company providing you with your primary fuel should be doing so with the understanding that the more efficient a home is the fewer emergency deliveries they will be making. This is the most important service they can be providing. If possible rely on more than one fuel for heat. Using wood mostly and a tank fuel as a backup is ideal is Vermont, but a small passive building like Willem is talking about can require far fewer fuels for heat.

    It is time for fuel dealers to treat their “best customers” even better by helping them spend less.

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