Editor’s note: This commentary is by Karen Glitman, who is the director of Efficiency Vermont.
When people think about their local electric utility, their first thoughts are likely of poles and wires, and the electric meter on the side of their house. We think of them as energy producers: regulated businesses that provide us with reliable electricity – an enormous, complex and critical task. For the past 17 years, however, Vermont has had a different kind of energy producer, one that doesn’t generate power at all. It saves it.
Efficiency Vermont was the nation’s first statewide energy efficiency utility. It became a regulated utility, just like the utilities that bring power to your home, in 2000. Energy efficiency is as integral to the delivery of power to Vermonters as poles and wires. Instead of line workers it deploys energy consultants to work with businesses and residents, retailers, vendors, manufacturers and installers to deliver energy savings. Its job is to take power off the grid, and pass the savings and benefits from that reduction on to Vermont ratepayers. Those savings are significant: without energy efficiency programs, ratepayers in our state would be paying about 5 percent more for electricity than we do today. Since 2000 Efficiency Vermont has helped its customers save more than $2.4 billion over the lifetime of the efficiency improvements made.
Efficiency Vermont is working – consistently meeting its savings requirements and delivering value to the state. Efficiency Vermont is most effective and most impactful when Vermonters share their needs and expectations from this service. Vermont has changed over the past two decades. Our original mission – to achieve all cost-effective efficiency by reducing electricity consumption – has evolved as new technologies and products are developed and as Efficiency Vermont’s achievements have helped Vermont progress towards achieving some of our state’s energy goals. Today, the most cost-effective efficiency may be achieved by increasing, not reducing, electricity consumption by moving from fossil fuels like propane, to heat pumps that rely on electricity. Sometimes the cleanest and cheapest energy solution is to electrify appliances and systems. Through strategic, beneficial and efficient electrification of processes and activities we can help increase the efficiency of our electric grid, which presently is less than 50 percent efficient. As Vermont adapts to a changing energy ecosystem and innovation, Efficiency Vermont is adapting along with it.
As our energy landscape keeps evolving, we need help from Vermonters to make sure that Efficiency Vermont is adapting to best serve Vermonters’ needs. That’s why we’re excited to announce a series of community forums across the state. From Bennington to Newport, we’re going to be visiting Vermont communities in September and October. We’ll be sharing Efficiency Vermont’s vision for its next three-year plan, which is currently under development, and to talk about how Vermonters and their businesses can take advantage of Efficiency Vermont’s services and partnerships.
But mostly we’ll be in communities to listen. How can Efficiency Vermont support the state’s renewable energy goals and comprehensive energy plan? What is the future of efficiency efforts in Vermont in light of changes at the national level? How can we ensure that all Vermonters – regardless of background, location and income – are benefitting from everything that Efficiency Vermont has to offer? How can Efficiency Vermont’s programs be better integrated into existing state programs – from human services, to housing and the environment.
These questions, along with questions and comments you bring to the forums, are what we look forward to discussing with you. Please join us at any (or all!) of the forums coming to the communities below. And no discussion is complete without a meal. We’ll provide the food so you can focus on the conversation. I look forward to seeing you, and hearing from you soon in one of these communities:
• Bennington: Wednesday, Sept. 27, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Southwestern Vermont Career Development Center Assembly Room, 321 Park St., Bennington.
• Brattleboro: Thursday, Sept. 28, 6 to 7:30 p.m., American Legion Hall, 32 Linden St., Brattleboro.
• Newport: Tuesday, Oct. 3, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Gateway Center, 84 Fyfe, Newport.
• Randolph: Saturday, Oct. 7, noon to 5 p.m., Maker Faire Event in Depot Square, 2 South Main St., Randolph.
Visit www.efficiencyvermont.com/about/community-forums for full event details and to let us know you’ll be there. If you aren’t able to make it to any of these gatherings, we’d still like to hear from you. You can share your thoughts by filling out a survey on our website via the link above. And as always, you can give us a call, we’re always happy to talk to you about how we can help you meet your energy needs.