Commentary

Karen Glitman: Efficiency Vermont — yesterday, today and tomorrow

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Karen Glitman, the director of Efficiency Vermont.

Nearly two decades ago when growing electricity use was leading to increasing costs as well as environmental and financial risk, a group of Vermonters had a bold idea to tackle that era’s energy challenge. In contrast to building power plants, these leaders knew that electric efficiency — “energy not used” — could be quickly deployed at a fraction of the cost, and with little risk.

Born in this context, Efficiency Vermont became the nation’s first statewide energy efficiency utility, Vermont’s bold idea of providing efficiency as a public good. Created in the public interest, Efficiency Vermont operates under a performance-based contract with a requirement to serve all Vermonters outside of Burlington (which receives efficiency services through Burlington Electric Department). Energy solutions are provided to homeowners, small businesses, large industrial customers and more via education, services and incentives. By promoting efficiency as a clean, cost-effective and local fuel source, Efficiency Vermont is a leading market maker and a catalytic force.

The success of this bold idea in transforming markets and increasing economic growth has been significant: 90 percent of Vermonters have directly participated in efficiency programs, 8,500 Vermonters are now employed in energy efficiency jobs, and electric bills are 5 percent lower than they would have been without Efficiency Vermont. By working with manufacturers, vendors and retailers, Efficiency Vermont has given our state far greater market strength than our size would suggest, giving Vermonters access to leading-edge, affordable products and top-notch services before other states.

The structure that Efficiency Vermont’s founders created allowed it to bid efficiency into our regional electricity market (ISO-New England) as a reliable, cost-effective resource to meet our energy needs. At 15.5 percent, efficiency is now Vermont’s largest single energy value in this market. Since 2009 this has brought $28 million to Vermont.

Electric efficiency programs must remain central in this effort, as efficiency frees up capacity to electrify heating and transportation energy needs without requiring new power generation.

 

Ten years ago, Efficiency Vermont was assigned with a new task: helping Vermonters reduce heating, or thermal, costs. Through this new scope more than 18,000 Vermonters have received services through Efficiency Vermont partners funded by bids in the regional electricity market (mentioned above) and proceeds from RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), a regional cap and trade program.

Two decades after Efficiency Vermont was founded, Vermont is faced with new energy challenges. Energy to heat and power our homes and get us where we need to go costs us $2.67 billion a year. And while our electricity is increasingly produced by clean sources, our heating and transportation energy is still largely derived from fossil fuels — expensive and distant energy sources that take Vermonters’ hard-earned money out of state and leave behind unhealthy air.

Today, we must consider the full energy picture. This means exploring ways to replace dirty and inefficient fuel sources with clean and efficient ones, keeping our energy dollars closer to home while reducing the harmful impacts of fossil fuel use. Electric efficiency programs must remain central in this effort, as efficiency frees up capacity to electrify heating and transportation energy needs without requiring new power generation. While growing electricity use was a problem 20 years ago, continued efficiency plus new technologies mean that electrification can be part of the solution to today’s energy challenges.

Our homegrown energy efficiency utility can help all Vermonters have access to clean, affordable and efficient energy to meet their daily needs. As the energy system of the future emerges, Vermont’s bold idea, Efficiency Vermont, is evolving, too. The economic and climate imperatives require nothing less.


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Commentary

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  • Edward Letourneau

    This is nonsense. Most people will never get the money back that Vt Efficiency collects through GMP. the state is in a hole. Eliminate the agency.

  • Gary Murdock

    “Efficiency Vermont is a leading market maker and a catalytic force.”
    Can anyone tell me what this means? I’ll tell you what it means…a tax on my utility bill that does nothing but pass out a few tubes of calk to low income residents, provide silly self promotion signs at the airport, and pay for another bloated quasi government agency. Oh but wait, they did buy new snow making equipment for ski area’s after coming off a record season, yea I really want to pay for that. End this agency now!

  • Edward Letourneau

    They do not keep electric rates lower. They add to the bill every month.

  • Glenn Thompson

    In answer to Karen Glitman’s commentary. What isn’t mentioned is costs vs increased energy efficiency.

    First, I’m going post a link to the Residential Energy Code hand-book for those who are unfamiliar to just how strict these codes are.

    http://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/Energy_Efficiency/RBES/2015_VT_Energy_Code_Handbook_V4.1.pdf

    Second, it’s difficult to find any contractor within the construction trade who won’t admit Vermont has gone way overboard on residential construction codes and regulations and that includes energy efficient codes and regulations. All of this of course leads to more costly construction costs.

    Case in point. Required R-value factors for insulation. In many cases in order to meet R-value as required by efficiency Vermont, one may be required to meet those standards with foam insulation which is extremely expensive. That is just one example I can pick apart in the handbook I just linked.

    For most of us, the main reason for doing energy efficiency improvements is to cut down on our energy usage, but do it where the payback time is reasonable. It appears the State of Vermont has written these stricter standards without giving it any thought how much it will set the homeowner back financially, but instead focus only on energy savings.

    And they wonder why there is no such thing as affordable housing in Vermont anymore!

    • Matthew Davis

      “Second, it’s difficult to find any contractor within the construction
      trade who won’t admit Vermont has gone way overboard on residential
      construction codes and regulations and that includes energy efficient
      codes and regulations.”

      That’s funny I work with several contractors that say the opposite. Perhaps you are talking to the old “swamp yankee” builders that will never do anything different than how they have always done it and likely never read a trade publication related to energy efficient design and construction.

      “In many cases in order to meet R-value as required by efficiency
      Vermont, one may be required to meet those standards with foam
      insulation which is extremely expensive.”

      Not true. One can easily achieve high r-values with fiberglass, cellulose and roxul. In my house we got to R-60 with cellulose and roxul bats. Sure it cost more, as did triple pane windows but we have no heating system except for the sun and a small wood stove. Burned about 2/3 of a cord of wood this season.

      “And they wonder why there is no such thing as affordable housing in Vermont anymore!”

      The better question is why are there so many inefficient houses in VT that cost so much to purchase?

      Efficiency is a smart investment and I find it very strange that “conservative” minded people disagree.

      • Edward Letourneau

        If its so funny, explain why there are so few housing starts across Vermont. Just about every county in southern states have more housing starts then all of Vermont.

  • Peter Chick

    Why do I have to be energy use shamed? Many of my neighbors live out of state, yet my usage is compared to theirs.

  • Glenn Thompson

    In my experience it makes no sense to spend an extra $2000 in increased efficiency if the savings only amounts to $500 over a 15 year period. For those who have the coins to do so…..go for it. For those who live paycheck to paycheck or are not in the position to purchase high end costly energy efficient equipment or spray in that expensive Closed Cell foam insulation those folks are limited by their budgets.

    It appears from reading some of the latest construction codes, Vermont has made the choice to gear those codes towards the rich that can afford it, and subsidize the costs for the poor. Once again, the Middle Class gets the double whammy. Increased construction costs, and increased taxation.

  • Edward Letourneau

    Nonsense. I use very little electricity and it costs me 6 or 7 a month, every month, every year. Not a dollar. You using that figure in your condescending post tells me you have something personal to gain in this.

    • Robert Lehmert

      You have something to gain but I can’t make you access it if you don’t want it. I did use it — and last month my Energy Efficiency charge was $0.76. Yours could be that low too.

      • Matt Young

        I have a great idea, keep your fingers off from the wallets and freedom of others and let people live.

        • Robert Lehmert

          We live in a advanced constitutional republic, not a jungle, cave or desert island. You may need to deal with things that you might not like because they are the law.

  • Robert Lehmert

    If a few bucks a month is “slamming the middle class” I do feel seriously sorry for them (i.e.: you). We could dump energy efficiency and just build some more power plants to provide the wasted power — got room in your back yard?

  • Robert Lehmert

    I have no idea what you mean. Why don’t you provide some data to substantiate your comment.

    • Edward Letourneau

      So you think we don’t have taxes and fees higher than other places? Is that what you mean? Lets see: In Georgia car registration is $20, unless you are Vet. then then registration is free. There are no taxes on any kind of retirement income, social security, IRA, 401K, pensions, etc. until it goes over $65,000. And most counties exempt seniors from school taxes. But if your not a senior, the property taxes are usually around 1400 for a 150,000 home. Now tell me again, we are not over taxes for the socialist programs.

      • Robert Lehmert

        You are at liberty to live in Georgia, if that’s what you want. You get what you pay for, and Georgia would be very far down the list for me.

        • Edward Letourneau

          I’ll rephrase; the monetary difference in taxes and fees between Vermont and Georgia over my projected remaining life is a quarter million dollars that I get nothing for. So while vermont is where I grew up, its not the place I can afford to retire. — The taxes and fees are also the reason Vt has a brain drain. The best and brightest have been leaving for years.

  • Matt Young

    Vermonts strict regulations have harmed working Vermonters. It can cost a farmer $30,000 to “give” one of their children an acre of land, the freedom to build your own home is almost a thing of the past. Once again many of the government solutions are worse than the problem.

  • Matt Young

    So when I fill up my car and go to work, I’m causing harm to those in the armed forces? Bologna

  • Robert Lehmert

    Nice article in the New York Times today about Vermont and Green Mountain Power: https://tinyurl.com/y9xbe4eb

  • Robert Lehmert

    No, we have all the comforts of a modern home. While I cannot post it here due to Disqus, but if you give me your email address, I’d be happy to prove it. Then you can apologize and promise not to be insulting about things you don’t know.

  • Robert Lehmert

    Tell you what — if VTDigger wants to act as an intermediary to provide you the information I send them, it’s fine by me. They would have to provide an email address for me to mail the bill, and you would get a copy from them FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF COMMENTING ON THIS ARTICLE. I’ll tell you in advance — the Efficiency Charge varies by use, and mine is very low.

  • Robert Lehmert

    Good news Ed! I got my August bill for the July use and the Energy Efficiency Charge was ZERO. Actually it has been zero for a few months already. The 76 cent bill must have been in April because the Efficiency Charge is based on net. I guess paying it encouraged me to use less. If you still want to see it, let me know.