Vermonters Gather to Shape State’s Energy Future
By Johanna Miller
Published in the Times Argus/Rutland Herald on November 21, 2010
On December 4 energy leaders from across the state will gather for the third annual Community Energy and Climate Action Conference in Fairlee. Anyone interested in Vermont’s energy future is welcome to attend.
Concern about energy use has been intensifying for some time across the Green Mountains. In the absence of needed state and federal leadership saving energy, making the transition to renewables and reducing our contribution to climate change, Vermonters are taking matters into their own hands.
Local energy committees have now formed in more than 100 communities across the state. As these grassroots efforts proliferate, partnerships are forming with neighboring towns and regional and state organizations. Many projects are now underway to increase public awareness, reduce electric bills, get solar panels onto homes and municipal buildings and much more.
Just a few examples of the local, people-powered energy initiatives that have occurred over the last couple of years include:
· An energy fair in Hardwick that drew over 1,200 people to the rural region when the local energy committee — HEART — piggybacked on the town’s annual spring fair to co-host the event.
· The Middlesex Energy Committee’s 21st Century Barn Raising, where the committee partnered with the local school and professional energy consultants to undertake an ambitious, two-day volunteer-driven effort to weatherize seven attics in the local school. The result? A savings of about 2,000 to 2,500 gallons of fuel oil a year that reduced taxpayers’ costs by thousands of dollars.
· The Ripton Energy Committee’s very successful community energy mobilization initiative, where trained volunteers made targeted energy-saving changes — installing low-flow showerheads, programmable thermostats, CFLs and more — in over 50 percent of the community’s households. This project helped Ripton residents save about 39,000 kilowatt-hours in one year for a combined annual savings of over $5,700.
· An effort largely led by the local energy committee, Waterbury LEAP (Local Energy Action Partnership), to successfully get solar photovoltaic panels installed on the roofs of both the elementary and middle school. Building off that success, Waterbury LEAP is now working to make solar energy generation a reality for interested homeowners by partnering with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group on their new ‘Solar Communities’ initiative.
These are just a few of the meaningful ways that communities are working to help shape our energy future. Such efforts are especially critical at this juncture in the state’s history.
In less than two years, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is set to retire on schedule, leaving a fairly significant electricity gap to fill. Simultaneously, the recent November 2 national elections have empowered an emboldened group of climate deniers in Congress, making any effort to address climate change and transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels virtually impossible.
In Vermont, meanwhile, the new governor-elect, Peter Shumlin is a vocal and committed champion of a climate action and clean energy.
These developments, combined with the grassroots momentum that is already well underway, are creating new opportunity and imperative for Vermont.
At this crucial time, initiative from all Vermonters is essential. If you want to help chart a new energy future for Vermont, foster a clean energy economy and make the state a model for the nation, mark your calendar. On December 4, energy leaders from across the state will convene at the Community Energy and Climate Action Conference in Fairlee.
This third annual event, co-hosted by the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network and UVM Extension, is a unique gathering of some of the most active, engaged and visionary Vermonters. It offers interesting workshops, regional energy networking sessions, information tables and keynote speaker, Jared Duval, activist and author of “Next Generation Democracy: What the Open-Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change.” The state’s newly elected governor, Peter Shumlin, will kick off the event by laying out his vision for Vermont’s energy future.
Speaking this week, Governor-Elect Shumlin said, “Vermont can and must be a leader in creating jobs through developing renewable, community based power and implementing the most aggressive energy efficiency programs in the country. The imperative for our planet’s future and the success of our economy is to move as swiftly as we know how.”
“I’m looking forward to speaking with Vermonters on December 4 because I know that to accomplish this mission it will require as many Vermonters as we can enlist as foot soldiers in this transformation,” Shumlin noted. “I’m humbled and honored to provide the leadership that it will take for all of us to pull together and transition to the clean energy economy.”
If you want to help shape Vermont’s energy future, in your community or beyond, be sure you don’t miss this great event.
Johanna Miller is the Energy Program Co-Director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. VNRC is a founding partner in the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, a group working to start, support and strengthen community energy committees in Vermont. For more info about VECAN or the December 4 conference visit www.vecan.net.
Who: Hosted by the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network and UVM Extension
When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., December 4
Where: Lake Morey Inn — Fairlee, Vermont
Why: To bring community energy committee leaders, municipal officials and energy-interested Vermonters together to network, share strategies and learn about some of the most pressing and promising energy issues and programs. Anyone is welcome to attend. Conference organizers expect attendees will walk away more inspired, armed with more information, better connected and better prepared to advance clean energy solutions at the local and state level. The cost is $25 for the day and includes a fantastic lunch.