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Vermont Climate Action Communities

 

 

The Vermont Climate Action Communities (VCAC) program is designed to help Vermont municipal governments achieve significant energy efficiency savings, reduce local emissions, participate in the transition to a clean energy economy, improve resilience in the face of climate change, and provide locally supported renewable energy generation for municipalities and the communities they serve. Led by VLCT in partnership with a wide range of support organizations, Vermont Climate Action Communities offers technical assistance, training, and information to help municipalities reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 

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MUNICIPAL RESOURCES

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

 

Please don’t hesitate to contact the organizations coordinating this effort: Karen Horn, VLCT (khorn@vlct.org); Paul Markowitz, Efficiency Vermont (pmarkowitz@veic.org, 802-540-7608) and Rob Fish, Energy Action Network (rfish@eanvt.org, 802-383-8527) with any questions or concerns.

 

Resource Guide - Municipal Energy

  1. Click on Any of the four category headings below to expand the category.
  2. Click on any of the subcategories to view Resources & Stories and Case Studies and Case
  3. You may also download and print a PDF of the full guide

Note: This page is under development.  Email rfish@eanvt.org to suggest a resource to add.

 

Municipal Energy Use

 

  • Tracking Municipal Energy Use - Tracking municipal energy usage is an important first step toward achieving your town’s energy goals. This is essential for identifying opportunities to improve efficiency and for evaluating the effectiveness of efficiency projects your town has already implemented. Through municipal energy use tracking, your town can establish energy use benchmarks so it can compare its energy usage with state and national averages. Municipal energy tracking also enables your town to evaluate the cost reductions that result from town-wide efficiency upgrades.
    • Municipal Energy Inventory
      Municipal energy costs are usually embedded in different departmental budgets, such as road crews, buildings, and street lighting. Thus, a key first step in tackling municipal energy costs is creating a municipal "energy bill" to track total municipal energy costs. This involves compiling electrical, heating, and transportation costs.
      • Resources and Guides

        • Energy Data Management Webinar Series - Part I: Energy Data Collection - The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy hosts a two-part webinar series to cover energy data management. Part 1 covers the creation of a comprehensive energy end-use inventory, improving utility data access, and identifying other sources of consumption data.
    • Benchmarking
      Benchmarking is the practice of comparing the measured performance of a device, process, facility, or organization to itself, its peers, or established norms, with the goal of informing and motivating performance improvement. When applied to building energy use, benchmarking serves as a mechanism to measure the energy performance of a single building over time, relative to other similar buildings, or to modeled simulations of a reference building built to a specific standard (such as an energy code). More information about benchmarking can be found at the Department of Energy website here.
  • Identifying Energy-Saving Opportunities - Before embarking on efficiency upgrades, municipalities should determine where their resources will have the greatest impact. There are a number of different approaches municipalities can take to identify the most profitable energy-saving initiatives.
    • Comprehensive Energy Assessments
      How can municipalities determine where to get their biggest bang for the buck? Conducting energy assessments or energy audits of all its major properties is an important step in developing a comprehensive list of energy-saving opportunities. These assessments are conducted by certified energy professionals who provide a prioritized list of recommended improvements along with associated costs.
      • Resources and Guides

      • Stories and Case Studies

        • According to the Orleans County Courthouse, Orleans County reduced energy use by 57% and the Sheriff’s Department by 59% with the help of Efficiency Vermont. 
  • Building Energy Efficiency Improvements - Reducing the energy used to heat, cool and light buildings is essential to reducing energy use and saving money.
    • Thermal Efficiency
      Air sealing and insulation go hand-in-hand and are two of the most cost-effective ways to save on thermal energy. Air sealing creates an air barrier that prevents heated/cooled air from leaving the workplace, while insulation creates a thermal barrier that prevents conductive heat loss.
    • Hot Water Efficiency
      Water heating is often the second largest energy consumer. Low-cost measures include installing low-flow water devices and pipe wrap. Depending on your current water heating needs, heat pump hot water heaters can offer enormous savings on your water heating bill.
    • Electric Efficiency
      Electrical savings opportunities are varied for municipalities – from HVAC controls and lighting in the town hall to pumps and aeration in the wastewater treatment facilities. Check with Efficiency Vermont for opportunities to improve electrical efficiency.
    • Retro-Commissioning
      Retrocommissioning is a process that seeks to improve the efficiency of existing building equipment and systems. By analyzing system performance in areas such as heating and lighting and making adjustments to improve them, large savings could be seen with relatively little upfront cost.
  • Renewable Energy for Municipalities - Supporting renewable energy can be a great way for municipalities to reduce energy costs, stabilize and predict energy expenses, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help support local jobs and the economy.
  • New Building Construction - New construction provides an opportunity for buildings that will save energy, dramatically cut a lifetime of energy costs, and limit greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Street Lighting - Street lighting is one of a town’s more expensive utility bills. Many cities and towns currently use old, inefficient light fixtures with drop-down lens fixtures that spill and waste light to the sides and upward to the sky.
    • Municipally-leased street lighting
      Street lighting is an important part of a municipality’s nighttime landscape—lighting can be used to enhance public safety and security while improving the aesthetic appeal of the surrounding properties. By eliminating unnecessary street lighting and converting older lighting technologies to LEDs, municipalities have the opportunity to reduce the cost of outdoor lighting while enhancing the nighttime environment.
    • Municipally-owned street lighting
      Many of the streetlights and public space lighting in the downtown areas are owned by the municipality, while those outside of the downtown are often leased from the electrical utility. LED streetlight technology has made rapid improvements and costs for a wide variety of LED streetlights, while utility rates associated with municipally-owned streetlights are lower for LED streetlights.
    • State-owned street lighting
      Many towns have bridges or other state-owned infrastructure with outdoor lighting. For assistance converting this lighting to LED, please contact Daniel Edson at the State Energy Office (Daniel.Edson@vermont.gov, 802-505-3386)
  • Water Treatment Facilities - Water and wastewater treatment facilities require a significant amount of a municipality's energy resources to operate.
    • Drinking Water Facilities
      Drinking water treatment facilities can account for a significant portion of a municipality’s electrical bill. Major facility upgrades are an opportune time to ensure efficiency measures are incorporated.
    • Wastewater Facilities
      Wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs) can account for 50% or more of municipal electrical costs. Many municipal WWTFs can reduce their energy use by 20-30% and often have a broad range of opportunities for saving energy. Many WWTFs are 30-40 years old and are due for major facility upgrades. Efficiency Vermont can work with your municipality to help it consider the most cost-effective, long-term solutions.
  • Municipal Energy Storage - Solar+Storage projects can provide economic benefits (by reducing demand charges) to a municipality while making it more resilient.
  • Transportation - For a municipality, transportation costs come from moving goods and people. There are many strategies that a municipality can implement to foster a more energy-conscious culture. Adding electric vehicles (EVs), to your fleet, for example, is an excellent way to be environmentally conscientious and save money.
  • Financing Municipal Energy Improvements - Energy investments are different from other investments because the return on investment is money that is not spent on future energy bills. Municipalities have a variety of funding options at their discretion that can be utilized for energy efficiency improvements, including bonding, annual budgets, tax-exempt lease purchases, and energy saving performance contracting.
    • Resources and Guides

    • Grants - There are a wide variety of potential grant opportunities to help fund municipal energy projects.
    • Bonds & Financing

      • Resources and Guides

      • Stories and Case Studies

    • Revolving Loan Funds - One unique approach to financing municipal energy improvements is to establish a revolving loan fund wherein an initial pool of capital is used to fund energy investments, and the energy savings associated with these projects are put back into the fund to fund additional energy improvements.

      • Resources and Guides

        • Green Revolving Funds: A Guide to Implementation & Management combines the expertise of energy professionals and college administrators from dozens of institutions to establish best practices for designing and managing green revolving funds (GRFs). The resource is a co-publication of the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI) and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and was developed with the consulting firm ICF International.

      • Stories and Case Studies

        • Montpelier Launches Revolving Loan Fund for Energy Saving Projects - After the successful completion of several major initiatives including bringing a district heating system on-line in downtown Montpelier, installing one Megawatt of municipal solar, and seeing significant savings at the Water Resource Recovery Facility, MEAC wanted to find out if there was a way the City could reinvest savings from these municipal projects into additional energy-related initiatives.

 

Public Policy, Planning & Infrastructure

 

  • Getting Started
    • Town Energy Committees
      For over a decade, Vermont’s all-volunteer town energy committees have been playing an increasingly meaningful role in Vermont’s energy landscape – getting town buildings weatherized, solar installed on schools and homes, advancing transportation options and far more. There are now well over 100 Town Energy Committees in Vermont, working with their municipalities, businesses, and residents in their communities to implement energy-saving, clean energy initiatives -- all helping Vermont achieve its total energy and climate commitments
      • Resources and Guides

        • Learn more about municipal energy committees via the Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network -- the network of grassroots groups and the partners who support them. VECAN’s mission is to start, support and strengthen town energy committees. VECAN and its project partners are working collaboratively to develop, inform, and strengthen community-based energy and climate action to help Vermonters plan for, prioritize and implement energy-saving, greenhouse-gas emission reduction strategies at the local level. Contact VECAN for information (or help) starting or strengthening a local energy committee.

        • How-To Start an Energy Committee: VECAN’s “Community Energy and Climate Action Guide.” This guide provides communities with information on how to start and maintain an energy committee started and operating, ideas on various energy saving techniques and suggestions for advancing them in their communities.

        • Strategic Energy Action Toolkit: – Produced by the New Hampshire Local Energy Workgroup, this toolkit offers step by step tools to help groups implement energy projects, identify opportunities and challenges, create action plans, and evaluate success.

        • This document from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources can help your municipality identify potential team members for your municipal energy committee.

        • For more background information on municipal energy committees and advice on how to structure your municipality’s energy committee, visit VNRC’s page on Town Energy Committees where you can also read about Waterbury's success with establishing their own municipal energy committee.

        • Energy committees also play an important role in informing and shaping public policy. The Vermont Natural Resources Council -- the coordinator of VECAN -- helps connect energy committees to policymakers. Reach out to the energy program at VNRC for more information about state policy and how it can support your municipal goals.

    • Town Energy Coordinators
      Vermont law enables municipalities to appoint town energy coordinators to advise select boards on energy issues. These coordinators often work very closely with town energy committees. In some Vermont towns, the town energy coordinator is a paid municipal position.
  • Land-Use Planning - Reducing Sprawl and Encouraging Compact Development - Land-use planning can help create communities that are environmentally sustainable, economically viable, inclusive and resilient. Sprawl is a pattern of land use characterized by dispersed, automobile-dependent development outside of compact urban centers. Sprawl has many negative impacts on quality of life and community health
    • Resources and Guides

      • Community Planning Toolbox from Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC): The toolbox provides background information on land use planning in Vermont, an overview of legal issues associated with planning, tools to help address particular planning needs, and case studies.
      • Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. The Smart Growth Program offers state and local REALTOR® Associations to way to engage with government officials, community partners and the general public in planning and designing community’s future.
      • The Better Connections Program seeks to align state and local investments to increase transportation options, build resilience, and strengthen economic vitality in Vermont’s community centers. The program does this through an annual grant program administered by Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), in partnership with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). Municipalities annually compete for approximately $200,000 in projects funds. A 10% local cash match is required. The program supports implementation-focused, municipal planning initiatives that:

        1. Provide safe, multi-modal and resilient transportation systems that support the Vermont economy

        2. Support downtown and village economic development and revitalization efforts Lead directly to project implementation

    • Stories and Case Studies

  • Energy Planning
    Addressing energy in the town plan involves an analysis of energy use, identifying efficiency opportunities, including land use and transportation strategies, and identifying potential renewable energy resources.
    • Act 174
      Under Act 174, municipalities have the option to complete enhanced energy plans. If determined to meet standards established by the law, approved plans carry a greater weight in the process of selecting sites for energy generation.
    • Renewable Energy Siting - There are many important considerations to keep in mind when selecting sites for renewable energy generation, including opportunities for electricity generation, and possible constraints, such as avoiding or minimizing impacts to ecologically sensitive areas.
      • Resources and Guides

        • VECAN Community Solar Toolkit - The toolkit provides information about the many factors to consider when selected a site for a renewable energy project

  • Energy Building Codes
    Vermont has energy code requirements that apply to all new residential and commercial construction and certain renovation projects known as Residential Building Energy Standard and Commercial Building Energy Standards, respectively. In addition, Efficiency Vermont offers technical and financial assistance to help builders and homeowners meet and exceed these standards. Municipalities have a critical role to play in making sure that all new buildings are built to, and even exceed energy code.
  • Transportation
    • Bike Pedestrian Paths
      Often physically separated from conventional roadways, shared-use bike and pedestrian paths can increase the share of bikers and walkers in your community. By providing a safe and enjoyable alternative to conventional energy-intensive modes of transportation, shared-use paths can help shrink your community’s energy footprint.
    • Complete Streets
      Complete Streets is an approach to transportation development that aims to make streets accessible to people of all ages and abilities, placing equal emphasis on all modes of transportation including walking, biking, and driving.
      • Resources and Guides

        • Local Motion "technical assistance" program works with local governments and community groups to make streets and roads safer for walking and biking.

        • The Community Planning Toolbox offers more information -- and resources -- you can tap to explore “Complete Streets”

        • The Better Connections Program seeks to align state and local investments to increase transportation options, build resilience, and strengthen economic vitality in Vermont’s community centers. The program does this through an annual grant program administered by Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), in partnership with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). Municipalities annually compete for approximately $200,000 in projects funds. A 10% local cash match is required.

      • Stories and Case Studies

    • Public EV Charging Stations
      Developing public EV charging stations is a great way to encourage electric vehicle usage in your municipality. Public EV charging stations can also help attract new residents, improve property values and provide a revenue stream for your municipality.

 

Residential and Business Outreach and Engagement

 

  • Transportation - Transportation campaigns are a way to mobilize your community around achieving concrete actions relating to your municipality’s transportation goals.
    • Way to Go!
      Way To Go! is a two-week long annual transportation campaign for K-12 schools in Vermont. The goal of the campaign is to reduce carbon pollution and raise awareness about energy and transportation issues in Vermont by encouraging students, staff, and teachers to use alternative modes of transportation such as biking, walking or carpooling.
    • Community Bike Shares
      Community bike share programs seek to provide an affordable alternative to private vehicles and other motorized forms of transportation for short-distance trips mostly in urban or semi-urban locations. Community bike share programs help to reduce congestion, improve air quality and improve the quality of life for residents and tourists alike.
    • Travel Diaries
  • Heating - Heating campaigns are a way for communities to come together to take concrete actions toward achieving their residential heating and efficiency goals. Heating campaigns can be led by individuals within your community or by statewide organizations such as Button Up Vermont.
    • Button Up
      Button Up Vermont is an annual community-based, public outreach campaign to promote home energy efficiency improvements – particularly helping people reduce heating and cooling costs. The campaign focuses on all Vermonters and is designed to provide opportunities for all individuals to take actions – from simple weather stripping to comprehensive home energy efficiency improvements.
    • Weatherize Campaigns
      “Weatherize” is a community-based outreach program designed to help people increase air sealing and insulation in their homes. Under the program, weatherization contractors agree to conduct free-walk home energy assessments in exchange for homeowners completing an online energy survey. Community groups work with resident and contractors to usher the process along.
    • Educational Workshops
      Efficiency Vermont offers free educational workshops for community groups and businesses to help Vermonters make energy improvements. 
      • Resources and Guides

        • Efficiency Vermont offers free educational workshops for community groups and businesses to help Vermonters make energy improvements. Each workshop addresses how a particular technology works, associated economics, and available technical and financial resources. We provide an energy expert to deliver the presentation, guidance on how to effectively organize a workshop, and educational and public outreach materials.

    • NWWVT Heat Squad
      HEAT Squad is a service of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont that provides low-cost energy audits for homes and businesses. Audits are provided in Rutland, Addison, Bennington, Windham, and Windsor counties and to the neighboring communities. Heat Squad is in the process of expanding into the Northeast Kingdom.
    • Community Action Agencies
  • Electricity
    • Community Solar
      Community solar is a way of providing solar power to organizations that lack adequate access to the sun on their rooftops or land. 'Community solar' can refer to both 'community-owned' projects as well as projects owned by a third party whose electricity is shared by a community
    • Solarize Efforts
      Solarize is a program where communities partner with solar installers on outreach to make solar energy more accessible to residents. The program also includes a tiered pricing-structure that brings the cost of solar down as more residents sign contracts with their partner installers.
      • Resources and Guides

        • Solarize Toolkit - Solarize is a proven model for motivating your neighbors to go solar. Most towns engaging in the program more than double their number of existing solar homes in less than a year.

      • Stories and Case Studies

        • Thetford collaborated with Vital Communities and Strafford on a Solarize project that almost tripled the amount of residential on-site solar in our towns in 5 months! Learn more.
  • Energy Education - Schools can help students (and parents) increase their knowledge of energy and environmental issues, learn from experience, and take action to reduce their school’s energy use.
    • Resources and Guides
      • VEEP
        The Vermont Energy Education Program strives to help students gain a deep understanding of what energy is and how to use it efficiently. VEEP offers hands-on, "minds-on" science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for Vermont K–12 students and teachers state-wide.
      • Energy Fairs
        Energy fairs provide an opportunity for exhibitors to showcase their organizations and projects to the public, and also offer break out sessions, demonstrations, and information and products and programs that can help individuals save money and energy.
    • Stories and Case Studies

      • Waterbury LEAP Energy Fair - Waterbury LEAP hosts an annual energy fair which features 75 + exhibitors and breakout sessions on topics from going solar to heat pumps.

  • Financing - There are plenty of funding opportunities that make energy projects affordable to install.
    • Resources and Guides
      • Heat Saver Loans
        The Heat Saver Loan is a fast, easy, and flexible way to finance home weatherization and heating improvements.
      • Home Performance Energy Projects
        Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is an incentive-based program to improve insulation, air sealing, and heating and ventilation systems, to ensure safety and health.
      • Advanced Wood Heat Wood Stove Change Out
        Wood Stove Change-Out programs offer homeowners rebates to fund the removal of their old stoves and the purchase and installation of new, advanced wood heat stoves--usually a pellet boiler. Rebates are scaled based on household size and income, giving those with limited income the most assistance.
      • Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership
        Review the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships’ Innovative Opportunities for Financing Energy Efficiency Upgrades presentation on funding renewable energy and efficiency projects.
      • Community Energy & Efficiency Development Fund (CEED)
        Community Energy & Efficiency Development Fund (CEED) - Through Green Mountain Power, this fund is open to proposals from municipalities seeking to take on electric efficiency projects, renewable/clean energy programs, and new technologies in their communities.

 

Energy and Climate Resiliency