News Release: Heating Report Lays Out Job Creation, Energy Savings, and Environmental Benefits for Vermonters

Montpelier, VT – A report released today found that Vermonters will save an additional $1.4 billion by improving the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses and switching to renewable heating sources if the state expands funding for these programs. According to the report, the typical homeowner could cut their heating bill by $1,000 per year through efficiency alone. The findings from the Thermal Efficiency Task Force drew praise from numerous trade associations, low-income advocates and environmental organizations.

Following through on the report’s recommendations would lead to:

  • $1.4 billion in new savings on heating costs, beyond what is expected from current efforts.
  • In-state jobs created in energy efficiency and renewable heat.
  • 6.8 million tons avoided CO2 emissions, equivalent to removing over 1.2 million passenger cars from the roads for one year.
  • Better resiliency against future shocks in the price of oil and other fossil fuels.
  • Increased benefits for low-income Vermonters, who could better access weatherization assistance.

Groups including the Building Performance Professionals Association, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Efficiency Vermont, Conservation Law Foundation, Renewable Energy Vermont, 350 Vermont and the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club called on the Legislature and the Shumlin Administration to move aggressively on the report’s recommendations in order to save money, reduce Vermont’s impact on climate change, reduce energy usage, protect the environment, grow the state’s economy and create jobs.

“Helping Vermonters weatherize their homes and businesses and switch to less costly, renewable heat is one of the best investments our state can possibly make,” said Ben Walsh, Clean Energy Advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “Right now millions of dollars worth of heat are leaking out of buildings in Vermont, and as fuel costs increase we’re wasting more money every year. Frankly, we can’t afford not to make these investments.”

In 2008, the Vermont Legislature set a goal to weatherize one in four Vermont homes by the year 2020. Due largely to limited available resources, Vermont is not on track to meet that goal. To tackle that discrepancy, the Public Service Department convened a Thermal Efficiency Task Force in March of 2012 to determine what is necessary to get the state on a path to weatherizing the 80,000 homes that goal represents. The result of that work is a report that was released earlier today, which notes that Vermonters have the opportunity to save $2 billion in heating costs, create local jobs and grow the state’s economy by improving the efficiency of their buildings, with $1.4 billion of those savings coming only through additional investment by the state. The report also highlights the opportunity such an investment represents to help Vermont’s low-income residents.

“Heating costs in Vermont have doubled over the past 10 years, making it increasingly difficult to keep housing affordable for Vermont families,” said Erhard Mahnke of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. “The TETF created a roadmap for increasing housing affordability and protecting the sustainability of our affordable housing stock in the future. Making this investment is especially critical for low-income families, who too often have to make impossible choices between paying to keep their homes warm or to keep food on the table.”

“We work with Vermonters every day who are forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children – or heating their homes and taking their medications,” said Paul Zabriskie, Director of Weatherization for the Central Vermont Community Action Council. “This report provides common sense recommendations that will have a positive and lasting impact by helping reduce energy usage and costs for our neighbors.”

“In Rutland County, we have seen firsthand that the impact of reduced energy bills is truly transformative, reducing the average homeowner’s annual fuel oil needs by 386 gallons, which is a savings of about $1700 a year at today’s prices. That’s dramatic,” said Ludy Biddle, Executive Director of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont. “There is no better investment for us as Vermonters that our state could make.”

The groups also highlighted the fact that the plan is expected to have other significant economic and jobs benefits, on top of the projected $1.4 billion in additional avoided heating fuel costs.

“Our organization is excited about the release of the Thermal Efficiency Task Force Report. Improving the energy efficiency of our buildings is the best engine for economic stimulus in Vermont,” said Jonathan Dancing, Executive Director of the Building Performance Professionals Association of Vermont, the trade association representing Vermont building performance contractors. “The report makes concrete recommendations for harnessing the potential of energy efficiency to help achieve all Vermonters’ goals. Skilled workforce development and creating jobs is one of Vermont’s highest priorities, and investment in energy efficiency is a proven jobs creator that will keep our heating dollars in Vermont.”

“Renewable Energy Vermont is pleased to see recommendations for expansion of not just efficiency, which is critical, but the next step – investment in renewable heat – as well,” said Gabrielle Stebbins, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont. “The cost of fossil fuels has been going up and up, so it’s important we help Vermonters transition to sustainable, renewable heating sources. This report not only looks extensively at efficiency, but incorporates biomass, heat pumps and clean, renewable energy. It represents a great undertaking to assist legislators in meeting legislative goals.”

Vermont is one of the few states in the United States that heats primarily with delivered fuels such as heating oil and propane, and the other states in that position are in the Northeast. That puts Vermont in a unique position to lead its neighbors, the groups contended.

“Oil is one of the dirtiest, most expensive heating fuels,” said Sandra Levine, Senior Attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation. “Reducing fossil fuel use in our homes and businesses creates a good low cost model for other states to reduce pollution and save money.”

“Vermont has saved nearly $800 million over the past decade because we made a commitment to investing in electric efficiency,” said George Twigg, Public Affairs Director at Efficiency Vermont. “Now is the time to build on that proven record of success by making the same commitment on the heating efficiency side.”

The groups also pointed out that since the heating sector is nearly a third of Vermont’s global warming emissions, increasing efficiency and moving away from fossil fuels is essential to the state’s efforts on climate change.

“There is an increasingly painful price tag that comes with heating our homes largely with fossil fuels,” said Johanna Miller, Energy Program Director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “Couple that with the costly consequences of climate change — brought home to us here in Vermont by Hurricane Irene — and failing to adopt the task force’s recommendations is illogical, economically as well as environmentally.”

“In the past two years the US has seen record breaking heat, drought, floods and wildfires, to say nothing of the devastation of Irene and superstorm Sandy,” said Maeve McBride of 350 Vermont. “If we want any chance at a positive legacy for our kids and grandkids, now is the time to get off of fossil fuels, and this plan is a good start down that road.”

A copy of the full report will be available at http://publicservicedept.vermont.gov/topics/energy_efficiency/tetf.

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