MONTPELIER, VT—Three months after a plan to switch much of Montpelier’s downtown from oil to wood heat got a new lease on life, the Montpelier City Council cast a final vote on the project last night. Up for debate was whether to pump the extra heat from an upgraded wood fired boiler run by the state to Montpelier’s municipal buildings and local businesses. The City Council’s decision to build the full project rather than a shorter line that wouldn’t reach the business district or municipal buildings was well received by the attending crowd.
“The City Council’s decision to build the full project will slash the dirty oil used to heat downtown buildings,” said Ben Walsh, clean energy advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “After Irene, Sandy, and the worst drought in the US in decades, it’s abundantly clear we need to cut global our warming pollution. This project does that.”
The District Heat project as approved will cut Montpelier’s purchases of oil by over 60,000 gallons a year, and several local businesses have also signed onto the opportunity to cut their global warming footprint and fuel bill at the same time.
“I’m very pleased that we received a construction bid within our budget and the project can go forward as planned,” said Mayor John Hollar. “We remain on track to have our downtown offices and public buildings heated with a stable, renewable and local source of power by next fall.”
District Heating systems similar to the Montpelier proposal are common in Europe, but are just beginning to be adopted in the United States. Several other Vermont communities, including Waterbury, Brattleboro and Randolph, have recently considered or are currently considering similar projects.
“I’m heartened to see the City Council decide to build the whole project,” said Johanna Miller, energy program director at Vermont Natural Resources Council and member of the Montpelier Energy Committee. “This project is good for the city, and it’s an example for other cities around Vermont and New England.”
The project was nearly abandoned when a majority of the City Council voted against it in August, but was revived following an outpouring of public support and last minute negotiations between the City and the State. This final approval comes after years of research and deliberations by the City’s Energy Committee and city government as well as the City Council, and was welcome news to many longtime supporters.
“I’ve been a supporter of the District Heat plan from the beginning,” said City Councilor Angela Timpone. “It’s a smart investment that saves taxpayers money and protects the environment at the same time. I’m glad my fellow Councilors joined me in deciding to approve the full project.”
“As a City Councilor it’s important to look at this project from multiple perspectives, including the economic, environmental, and social aspects,” said City Councilor Anne Watson. “I am confident that the City Council made the right decision tonight, and that our decision will benefit Montpelier for many years to come.”