An energy efficiency roadmap
Efficiency Vermont is hoping to bring more focus to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as prioritize the effort to make sure we are serving every Vermonter in the work we do. These focus areas and others are outlined in our Demand Resources Plan (DRP), which we recently proposed to the Vermont Public Utility Commission.
The DRP is a roadmap for how Efficiency Vermont will invest funds from the Energy Efficiency Charge, which appears on all electric bills each month to pay for programs that reduce Vermont’s overall electricity use and costs for ratepayers. It also guides how we allocate resources to support thermal efficiency programs that help Vermonters heat their homes and businesses more efficiently.
Efficiency Vermont does this by:
- Offering rebates and incentives on energy-efficient products, technologies, or projects
- Providing customers and partners with education, advice, and technical support on energy project opportunities
- Connecting contractors, retailers, and other trade organizations with trainings to support their work
- Engaging with “upstream” supply chain partners (such as global manufacturers or national retailers) to ensure energy efficient products are available in our state
The DRP will guide these investments during the 2024-2026 planning period.
For our services and programs to be most effective, they need to be accessible and relevant to our customers. That makes customer input important.
To gather a broad range of input on our proposal we fielded a survey over the summer with our residential customers. The response was terrific. During the six weeks that the survey was open, we heard from 1,321 Vermonters on a variety of questions. Some of the big takeaways for us:
- When asked if Efficiency Vermont could do one thing to benefit their household, the largest percentage of customers (31 percent) pointed to help with lowering heating and cooling costs. With rising heating fuel prices, things like weatherization, advanced wood heating, and high-efficiency heat pumps are more important than ever. 81 percent of respondents said they would find it “helpful” or “very helpful” if Efficiency Vermont supported their shift away from heating with fossil fuels, and toward using renewable energy sources.
- More than half (57%) said they support Efficiency working to increase equity, even if that means reducing the overall energy savings Efficiency Vermont can deliver. We were glad to see this strong support for making investments that will help us serve all Vermonters, especially those from marginalized communities who historically have not participated in our programs in large numbers.
Delivering energy efficiency services to customers in every corner of Vermont takes a lot of partnerships, including with distribution utilities, business customers, economic development organizations, supply chain and trade allies, advocacy groups for disadvantaged populations, environmental organizations, and others.
Over the summer we reached out to folks in all these groups and conducted hour-long interviews with 58 stakeholders. Despite the diversity of interests and focus among our partners, there was a lot of agreement around what Efficiency Vermont’s priorities should be.
Two priorities had the broadest support:
- Helping the state cost-effectively meet its GHG reduction goals
- Achieving energy equity so that each and every Vermonter benefits from the clean energy transformation
Many partners also agreed that Efficiency Vermont should focus on improving access to our core programs and services and do more to help coordinate programs and offers by other energy service providers in the state.
Between customers and partners, there was broad agreement that helping reduce GHG emissions and promoting energy equity is important work for Efficiency Vermont. Our DRP proposal reflects the input we’ve received from customers and partners.
For example, we propose to build on the work we’ve already done to help customers reduce leaks from commercial refrigeration systems common in the grocery and food services sector. The chemicals used in these systems are more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, so stopping these leaks has a big impact on overall GHG emissions.
In this DRP we hope to practice reducing GHG in new ways, such as working with customers and supply chain partners to encourage insulation materials with a lower “embodied” carbon footprint. These materials produce fewer GHG emissions to make and transport, in addition to reducing the fossil heating fuels needed to keep buildings warm.
We recognize we need to invest in relationships and engagement with communities to better serve all our customers. We’re proposing a three-year initiative that focuses on engaging with underserved customers, marginalized communities, and the partners who serve them. What we learn through this effort will shape future energy programs and services to make them more accessible.
We’re also proposing to assign deeper levels of financial and technical support to:
- low-income households
- small and medium businesses
- and other underserved customers.
Efficiency Vermont will also support the existing programs and services that have helped customers invest in energy efficiency at the lowest possible cost. In recognition of inflation rates that have risen sharply this past year, Efficiency Vermont is proposing to increase its budget by 2 percent each year in 2024-2026. By always looking for operational efficiencies that make our programs and services more cost-effective, we are committed to keeping energy efficiency the lowest-cost strategy for reducing GHG emissions and building resilience to the effects of a changing climate.
The input we received from customers and partners was invaluable to shaping a DRP proposal that is responsive to the evolving needs of Vermont. We appreciate everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts with us.
If you would like to follow our DRP proposal as it is considered by the Public Utilities Commission, visit https://epuc.vermont.gov/?q=node/64/171403. The case number for our DRP proposal is 22-2954-PET.