“This is a story of milk.”
That’s how Efficiency Vermont director Karen Glitman explained her organization’s impact to the seven Milton residents and two Chittenden County senators who gathered for an energy forum in Milton last Thursday.
Sitting in the Milton Public Library, the group learned how with just one gallon of milk, Efficiency Vermont saves energy in four different ways.
On the farm, Efficiency Vermont helps support efficient lighting and barn fans, Glitman said. Then, it supports equipment upgrades and process improvements during delivery. At a store, it adds refrigerator controls. Once purchased, the organization helps provide efficient home refrigeration.
The explanation was a bit simpler than the lengthy conversation to follow.
Attended by Sens. Ginny Lyons and Chris Pearson – the former on the Joint Energy Committee at the statehouse – the forum was the last of five around the state meant to gather Vermonters’ views to inform the company’s next three-year plan.
Founded in 2000 as the first energy efficiency utility, Efficiency Vermont consults with local businesses, homes, retailers, manufacturers, vendors and installers to find energy savings. Its client Champlain Orchards, for example, now saves $35,000 per year.
Much of last Thursday’s forum centered on rebates and what products do and don’t meet Efficiency Vermont’s requirements. Glitman said Milton’s conversation differed from what she heard in Bennington, Brattleboro, Newport and Randolph.
There, the focus was on the technical support Efficiency Vermont provides, she said.
Milton resident Ian Donahue asked about rebates specific to do-it-yourself projects. To the surprise and praise of the four Efficiency Vermont staffers present, Donohue said he installed a heat pump in his home but found out later he didn’t qualify for a rebate because the pump came from out of state.
Fellow Miltonian Rob Ward said he was thankful Donahue questioned this policy, because it was a project he was considering himself, but Thursday night’s discussion changed that.
“That’s the kind of pitfall I’m looking to avoid,” Ward said. “It was something I was thinking of tackling, but maybe not anymore.”
Ward, who works for a mechanical company, said he was familiar with Efficiency Vermont’s commercial side before attending the forum, but he wanted to learn more about its residential programs.
Residents Michael and Claudette LaValley and Helen and Will Wheatley came to the forum not knowing Efficiency Vermont’s mission. They thought solar energy was on the agenda but found out otherwise once arriving.
Stressing Efficiency Vermont is “your resource,” Glitman encouraged people to learn more about the program. Donahue agreed.
“It’s a good resource for Vermonters,” he said. “I’ve tried to take advantage of it on a couple items.”
Looking at the bigger picture, Pearson brought the conversation to a relatable level for everyone present.
“What have we saved for the entire grid in Vermont, and what does that mean for people?” he asked.
Electric bills are 5 percent lower than before Efficiency Vermont formed, Glitman answered.
Hitting the point home, Pearson clarified that without Efficiency Vermont, the state would have to buy more energy generation and construct more telephone wires through the public utility at higher cost.
Another factor setting Milton apart was its natural gas use. When Glitman asked residents what factor contributes most to their total energy, a majority said electricity. Yet the common answer in other towns was heating and cooling, she noted.
Residents wanting to save money on their electric bills were pointed to instructional pamphlets resting on a nearby table, layered with Efficiency Vermont handouts.
“It’s an ongoing journey,” Glitman said of Vermonters’ path to greater energy efficiency. “But the most important thing is to take that first step and decide: What are you trying to achieve?”