Vermont Falling Short On Energy Efficiency Goal

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(Host) Vermont is not on track to reach the goal of making 25 percent of its homes more energy efficient by 2020.

And a new report suggests that it’s not lack of funding that’s kept people from making the investment.

As VPR’s John Dillon reports, the public simply may not be aware of the potential savings.

(Dillon) It usually costs about $7,000 to make to a home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. A contractor specializing in energy retrofits will plug air leaks, and add insulation to walls, basements and attics.

But the savings can flow right through to your wallet.

(Symington) "Typically you can save $800 to $1,100 a year. It’s hard to find other places to save that much money."

(Dillon) Gaye Symington is a former speaker of the Vermont House and now executive director of the High Meadows Fund. The non-profit works on issues at the intersection of the economy and the environment. So Symington wanted to find out why more people weren’t making their homes more energy efficient.

(Symington) "And we were surprised to find that actually the biggest barrier, while financing is an issue, the biggest barrier is that Vermonters really don’t understand the benefits of doing this work. And there are lots of different steps in the path to getting energy efficiency done."

(Dillon) The state has set a goal of making 25 percent of Vermont homes at least 25 percent more energy efficient by 2020. But studies commissioned by the High Meadows Fund say Vermont is falling short. Symington says we’re on track to reach just over half that goal.

(Symington) "I think part of the issue is that we need to talk about the opportunity to save money and have a more comfortable home. And the other barrier is that energy efficiency is really invisible. It’s very hard to see. It’s caulk and insulation and that’s in the basement and the attic. It’s not visible."

(Dillon) One way to make those savings more visible is to disclose a home’s energy use when it’s sold – much like a new car carries a miles per gallon label.

(Symington) "And I think probably home buyers are going to be asking for this information because it’s an increasingly large part of what makes a house affordable."

(Dillon) Symington says lots of people get energy audits that show how much heat a home is leaking. But they often don’t follow through to get the work done. The High Meadows Fund says simplifying the process and making bank financing more accessible could help.

Another recommendation is to do more coordination and outreach to those in the building trades. A contractor doing work on your roof, for example, may also be able to install more insulation.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

What steps toward energy efficiency are you taking at home? Let us know in the comments section.


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