EAN and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) collaborated with Middlebury College on a semester-long program to devoted to “Energy and Equity” through the Environmental Studies Department.
Students completed four projects that addressed different aspects of helping low-income Vermonters benefit from the transition to a sustainable energy future.
- Group 1: Leveraging Energy Equity Programs to Support Lower-Income Vermonters
- Lower income communities often face unique challenges accessing energy equity programs, including high upfront capital costs, old housing stock, and related health and safety issues. As Vermont begins to build a low-carbon economy, it is important to consider how the energy transition can benefit lower income populations.
- This report developed case studies for 4 energy equity programs in Vermont and assessed strengths and challenges. It also researched and highlighted lessons drawn from six out-of-state programs relevant to potentially strengthen Vermont’s efforts to better serve communities with the highest energy burden.
- Group 2: Visualizing and Communicating Energy Actions
- This project developed a series of targeted infographics to effectively communicate the benefits of different energy choices across all three energy sectors (electricity, heat, transportation) to average Vermonters. The objective was to clearly demonstrate the advantages (especially potential savings) of transitioning to a more energy efficient and renewable lifestyle. The infographics effectively address actions ranging from switching out lightbulbs to weatherization, from installing a heat pump to switching to an electric-vehicle.
- This project also researched and tested “energy financial calculators” for total energy choices (available online) to assess pros and cons of each, including user-friendliness, effectiveness across three sectors (electricity, heat, transportation), etc. The goal was to see how effectively they help average consumers make energy choices.
- Group 3: Recommendations for Developing Arrearage Management Programs (AMPs) in Vermont
- The issue of energy equity is one that is of particular importance in the state of Vermont, where cold winter temperatures and an aging housing stock often contribute to the ways in which energy costs take up an unsustainable portion of people’s’ incomes. Arrearage Management Programs, popularly referred to as AMPs, aim to break the cycle of energy inequity by helping customers avoid falling into arrears, the term for debt accrued from failing to pay off energy bills.
- This report provides findings on trends and best practices from AMP programs around the country, as well as suggestions on how to implement and support AMP programs in the state of Vermont. Interviews with AMP and energy equity experts from across the United States were used to assemble a list of recommendations for creating or improving future AMPs in Vermont.
- Group 4: Storytelling for Zero-Energy Modular Homes
- There is no question that energy costs disproportionately burden low-income Vermonters; plenty of data and analysis exists to prove that point. However, we are missing the stories and voices that would serve to humanize and contextualize that data. It remains surprisingly easy for policy makers, community stakeholders, and even homeowners themselves to ignore or reject the scientific evidence– but much harder to discount an individual and their lived experience, particularly when presented in a compelling format.
- Through interviews and storytelling this project shared the unique experiences of a range of different individuals who are living in—or are considering transitioning to–Zero Energy Modular (ZEM) homes in support of Efficiency Vermont’s Mobile Home Replacement Program.