St. Albans: Targeted energy savings with statewide benefits

by Jim Merriam, Director of Efficiency Vermont

We live in a small town State. It’s one of the many things I love about Vermont. But this rural quality often makes it easy to forget that the localized actions of one community can affect the state as a whole.  This is particularly true when it comes to electric loads. The electric grid is a large web that connects each energy user, casting impacts far beyond town lines. So sometimes, in order to make state-wide changes, we have to zoom in to the community level.

Target practice: a new project underway

The Vermont System Planning Committee (VSPC) and the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) have recommended that Efficiency Vermont focus efforts within specific geographic regions of the state to help lighten the electric load on transmission and distribution systems. Utilities across Vermont experience a peak demand for power during the summer months, leaving high-use regions with the potential of needing more electricity than is available. So what is the solution? At a high level, there are two options – either reduce use, or build new power plants and transmission lines (a costly endeavor which would impact rates state-wide). Needless to say, we prefer the former.

In 2014, Efficiency Vermont is focusing on one transmission-constrained region, St. Albans. When Efficiency Vermont finalized its geographic targeting plan back in 2012, it was estimated that a new 35.5/12.47 kV substation might need to be constructed in the St. Albans area, at a cost of $1.5 million in order to maintain existing backup capability in the event of transformer outages. Our goal is to allow the community to grow while eliminating the need for expensive new infrastructure.

Hitting the energy savings bull’s eye

To that end, two Efficiency Vermont energy consultants recently took to the streets of St. Albans in search of energy savings. They went door to door, visiting 26 small businesses in two days. Their exploration revealed a high energy savings potential, but conversations with the business owners made it clear that just learning about energy-saving opportunities isn’t always enough to make a difference. Business owners often find themselves managing busy schedules and financial concerns, which can deter them from pursuing upgrade projects. In order to make going efficient easy for St. Albans business owners, Efficiency Vermont decided to take the door to door approach to the next level.

Efficiency Vermont is partnering with Shelter Analytics, Inc. in an effort we are calling the "St. Albans Power Play for Small Businesses." It will provide enhanced customer support, project management, and contractor liaison services to St. Albans small business owners for the remainder of 2014. The goal is to use a hands-on, supportive approach, along with a variety of rebate options, and help get St. Albans businesses on the fast-track to energy savings.

Working together, Vermonters have already made a big impact on energy usage in our state. Are you interested in cutting your energy usage - and costs? Give us a call, or share your comments below.

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