Vermont has a steep climb to meet its 2020 goal of insulating and air sealing 80,000 homes. It’s a worthy cause to make Vermont homes more affordable, more comfortable, and more sustainable. But on our current trajectory we’ll only meet about half of that goal; it’s clear we have a lot of work to do to accelerate Vermont’s weatherization effort.
The climb ahead of us may seem daunting, but there is cause for optimism. This year’s Button Up Vermont weatherization campaign, a collaborative effort between dozens of community organizations and companies, suggests that Vermont can achieve its aggressive weatherization goals through strong partnerships.
Button Up Vermont started in Newport, Vt. back in 1983 as a parade to raise awareness of the need to weatherize. In 2008, Capstone Community Action revived the Button Up Vermont brand in response to a dramatic spike in heating fuel prices; holding more than 200 workshops in two years and educating 4,000 people about home weatherization. Since then the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN), the network of town energy committees, has been working to organize local energy groups to support local Button Up Vermont activities each fall. More recently, Efficiency Vermont offered to play a lead role to scale Button Up Vermont to a statewide campaign.
Button Up Vermont is having a break out year in 2018, with more partners reaching out to more Vermonters than ever before to help families get ready for winter. Efficiency Vermont’s statewide scope allows us to play a coordinating role in Button Up Vermont, but the campaign’s success is the result of many organizations working together, including:
• Energy partners like Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, Vital Communities, and Energy Action Network
• Electric utilities
• Energy efficiency utilities
• Media partners
• Home energy contractors
• Town energy committees
• Regional planning commissions
In all, 37 town energy committees signed up this year to be Button Up Vermont Community Partners, and their combined efforts have led to more than 60 local weatherization events and workshops throughout Vermont in just the past two months.
In 17 towns, Community Partners are building on the successful model piloted last year by Vital Communities through their Weatherize Upper Valley initiative. In partnership with Efficiency Vermont, volunteers in these towns are reaching out to encourage households to sign up for free home energy assessments by qualified contractors. In only two months they have generated 360 signups. Home energy assessments help people understand which energy investments will bring the highest value. Families are connected with incentives, financing, and technical support to turn their plans into reality.
Button Up Vermont Community Partners helped drive more than 6,000 unique visits to buttonupvermont.org this fall – bringing weatherization tips, tools, and resources to more and more Vermonters.
Their engagement has also helped launch Efficiency Vermont’s new Do It Yourself (DIY) Weatherization program, which provides up to $100 cash back to Vermonters who complete Button Up projects on their own. Early results are encouraging; more than 600 online forms have been downloaded since October, showing strong interest in this pathway to reducing home energy costs. In addition to DIY projects, 520 Vermonters have completed comprehensive home energy projects with qualified contractors, and we expect that number to reach 700 before the new year.
Vermont should be optimistic about reaching its weatherization goals despite the steep climb we face. This year’s Button Up Vermont campaign represents an acceleration in our weatherization pace and the model we are using offers proof that partnership in Vermont is alive and well. When we have a shared goal that we all work toward, we can come together to share information and resources in a way that makes us all more effective.
Rebecca Foster is the director of Efficiency Vermont. Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and is regulated by the Vermont Public Utility Commission to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy, and protect Vermont’s environment. For more information, contact Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990 or visit efficiencyvermont.com.