Group Works To Make Rutland Energy Efficient

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(Host) A new federal grant is expected to help Rutland County residents retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient.

It’s anticipated that the $4.5 million project will also create hundreds of new jobs.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The grant is part of a nationwide energy efficiency block grant program created by Senator Bernie Sanders. It’s financed using federal stimulus money. Communities across the country applied for these funds and only 20 were selected to receive a grant.

Sanders says allocating money to retrofit homes makes a lot of sense for several reasons: 

(Sanders) "It’s just a win-win-win situation. It is totally absurd that we have many thousands of people throughout the state of Vermont who are just seeing their heat go through cracks in the wall because they don’t have proper insulation, they don’t have proper windows. So by investing in improving and retrofitting those units, the individuals save money, we end up using less oil and in the midst of a severe recession we’re creating jobs by having Vermonters do that kind of effort."

(Kinzel) Ludi Biddle is the director of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont – the group that received the grant.

Her goal is to distribute information about energy efficiency programs to 7,300 households in Rutland County. That’s 40 percent of all homes in the county. She hopes to conduct at least 2,000 individual home energy audits and then retrofit a thousand houses.

(Biddle) "NeighborWorks applied for this money with the idea of giving a big benefit to Rutland County, making us the first, the best, the most at energy efficiency. Because we were going to concentrate a big effort on getting a large number of households with energy efficient retrofits immediately."

(Kinzel) Biddle says that, in many cases, the money homeowners save from using less energy, will exceed the cost of a loan to retrofit the house.

(Biddle) "A household shouldn’t be out any more money than usual. But the benefit, of course, is that the outlay for the first couple of years is to pay for the energy improvements. And after that it’s money in their pockets. It’s no longer money they spend either on a loan or on energy. They save it."

(Kinzel) Biddle also expects that these projects will create at least 350 jobs.

(Biddle) "It’s very, very important and that’s why it’s so thrilling to me that we’re doing this for Rutland County. Because Rutland County has very high unemployment, very high foreclosure rates from job-related stresses on households. And we’d like this to be a significant benefit to Rutland County. And it isn’t often that Rutland County gets the shiny apple. But in this case we hope we can do that."

(Kinzel) The three-year grant is part of a $3.2 billion dollar national program that’s designed to help reduce energy use throughout the country.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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