One of the smartest investments Vermont can make as a state is in the weatherization of our homes and businesses. Our old housing and building stock means that too much of Vermonters’ hard earned money ends up going up the chimney or out the door. Our legislature is currently considering increased investments in weatherization. As the director of the Northeast Kingdom’s Regional Planning and Development Corporation, I support this investment as it is a win-win for our economy, pocketbooks and the climate.
Affordability is a key challenge for many people living in our region and the state. I regularly hear from businesses and residents about the high cost of living and doing business in Vermont. The average Vermont household spends roughly $1,200 each year on home heating. Prices for fossil fuels like propane and fuel oil have historically been the highest and the most volatile. Any step that we can take that reduces these costs and shifts reliance to less volatile heating options goes a long way toward making Vermont a more attractive, sustainable place to live and do business. Increased weatherization represents an opportunity to create a more affordable, cleaner heating future that keeps more money in the state.
Weatherization not only saves money on the consumer end, but it creates good paying jobs for Vermonters. Vermont’s weatherization agencies are recognized nationally as innovative industry leaders. Their programs create good paying jobs for Vermont electricians, builders, and plumbers. Weatherization and thermal efficiency currently provide jobs to roughly 7,800 Vermonters today. Increasing weatherization investments and efforts would create additional jobs and workforce development and training opportunities.
In 2018, our regional organization assisted Efficiency Vermont with local outreach for their targeted community efforts in the Newport – Derby area. Efficiency Vermont was able to conduct 84 home energy visits during the year. This work included complete Home Performance projects, and other smaller projects to improve the efficiency of the homes’ thermal shells. While the true results of the visits won’t be known for a while, we expect to see significant reductions in fossil fuel use and energy savings over time.
Weatherizing Vermont’s buildings reduces the amount of fossil fuels we must burn and greenhouse gas emissions – a benefit not only to our economy but to our climate. According to a recent report from the Energy Action Network, thermal heating is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after transportation. We must continue to do more to reduce those emissions as our economic future depends on it.
As lawmakers consider a proposal to increase funding to Vermont’s weatherization assistance program, I would point out that this will have clear benefits to both our economy and the environment, and I urge our elected leaders to support the proposal. Recognizing that there are many demands on the state budget, this investment will provide returns to Vermonters through an immediate reduction in energy bills, and to the State through a decreased need for heating fuel subsidies over the long term.
An increased investment in weatherization is a win for our economy, a win for affordability and a win for the climate.
David Snedeker is the executive director at Northeastern Vermont Development Association.