Notes from the February 24th Energy Roundtable
More than 20 Town Energy Coordinators, Committee members, and energy enthusiasts gathered at the Marlboro College Graduate School on February 24th 2014 to share recent energy activities in their towns and discuss challenges. Current town projects ranged widely, including the replacement of outdoor lights with LED bulbs in Dummerston, a Putney solarize campaign kick-off, and an initiative to pass a $50,000 Energy Efficiency Fund in Brattleboro. The focus for the evening was energy planning and implementation strategies.
The evening began with the opportunity for meeting participants to speak with Vermont Speaker of the House, Shap Smith. The Speaker sought feedback on energy issues and local project successes to help inform legislative changes. A range of topics were discussed, including thermal efficiency initiatives, public transit challenges, and recommended changes to the siting of solar/photovoltaic installations for municipalities.
Bruce Whitney, representative of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, provided a brief presentation on the opportunities that are available to homeowners throughout the Windham Region for reduced-cost energy auditing services and weatherization projects to create more comfortable and thermally efficient homes. He encouraged Energy committees and homeowners to contact Neighborworks, emphasizing that the organization is a “one-stop shop for home energy efficiency.”
A presentation was given by Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) representative, Kate McCarthy, about two resources to guide community action toward resiliency. The first tool, Resilient Communities Scorecard: A Tool for Assessing Your Community, helps communities assess their current resiliency and identify areas for improvement. The Scorecard guides the community through a series of questions related to twelve topic areas. Designed to start a community conversation, the results from these questions reveal opportunities for creating community resiliency. A second resource is the Energy Planning and Implementation Guidebook for Vermont Communities. Of particular value to Energy Committees, this tool provides guidance to communities wishing to create a more robust energy plan element in their Town Plans.
The evening wrapped up with a legislative update from VNRC representatives, Johanna Miller and Keil Corey. The most significant change to the energy bill is a proposal to raise the net metering cap that electric utilities are required to accept into their energy production portfolio from a current cap of 4 percent to 15 percent. Because some utilities have already reached their 4 percent cap, this change would provide continued incentives for the installation of new small-scale distributed energy facilities.