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Weybridge tops energy challenge

MIDDLEBURY — The town of Weybridge will receive $10,000 to invest in a municipal weatherization project of its choice, thanks to its victory in a statewide energy efficiency competition called the “Home Energy Challenge.”
Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network issued the challenge in January of 2013. Participating towns were given a target of weatherizing 3 percent of the homes within their communities during a one-year period. And aside from the benefits of having more weather-tight homes, communities were given an extra incentive: A $10,000 grant that the winning community in each county could direct toward a weatherization project of a municipal building.
The challenge was designed to help towns reach Vermont’s goal of achieving 25-percent energy savings in 80,000 homes statewide by the year 2020. Also recognized were towns achieving the highest percentage of residents committing to improving efficiency in their homes, based upon the submission of “pledge cards.”
When Efficiency Vermont had finished tabulating the challenge results, Weybridge emerged as the clear-cut winner in Addison County (and in the entire state), having weatherized 18 homes and received pledges from 59 homeowners declaring an intent to follow through with a project. That means the town nearly doubled the minimum 3 percent goal.
“We’re thrilled to win this award,” said Fran Putnam, a leader of Weybridge’s energy committee. “I am so proud of Weybridge.”
And Weybridge won an additional $500 for its pledge card gathering.
Putnam said the Weybridge Energy Committee will be taking suggestions on how to direct its winnings. She noted Weybridge’s small town office building could use more insulation.
“It burns a lot of fuel,” Putnam said. “It would be a big project, but it is not a big building.”
Putnam believes the town office building could be weatherized within the $10,000 budget. As a comparison, she pointed to the recent weatherization of the town garage — a substantially bigger building — for $15,000. Any additional funds over $10,000 would need approval by town officials and possibly local voters.
The Weybridge Energy Committee will also listen to the school board to see if the local elementary school is in need of some weatherization upgrades.
“We are hoping that a worthy project rises to the top,” she said.
Weybridge residents are being invited to celebrate its challenge win at a potluck supper scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, April 11, at their local elementary school. People are asked to bring a dish of food; beverages and dessert will be provided.
RUNNERS UP
While Weybridge won the challenge in Addison County, there were several, very impressive runners-up.
According to Efficiency Vermont statistics, seven Salisbury homeowners completed weatherization projects, 54 percent of its goal; five Cornwall homeowners completed projects, amounting to 39 percent of that town’s goal; and 37 Middlebury homeowners followed through with weatherization plans, helping the town reach 40 percent of its goal.
Paul Markowitz, Efficiency Vermont’s Community Energy Program manager, said Addison County towns should be proud of the way they responded to the challenge.
“A number of towns in Addison County really demonstrated the heart and the spirit of the Home Energy Challenge: Neighbors helping neighbors save energy and money through home efficiency improvements,” Markowitz said. “I would characterize the Addison County area in general as very engaged on energy issues — certainly on par with the top-performing Home Energy Challenge regions in the state.”
He gave special kudos to Weybridge.
“Weybridge, in particular, did an exceptional job in reaching out and convincing folks to move ahead with projects — that’s the reason they were the top-performing town (in terms of percentage of homes weatherized) in the state,” he said. “A lot of credit for that success goes to Fran Putnam, and the fantastic Weybridge Town Energy Committee. They know their community inside and out, and they are absolutely tireless in their outreach and engagement.”
Middlebury Selectwoman Laura Asermily was a major organizer of her town’s response to the Home Energy Challenge. She is a leader of the Middlebury Energy Committee. She said around 100 Middlebury residents received energy audits, a review that is customarily a precursor to weatherization improvements.
“We were at one time leading in the number of energy audits completed in the state,” Asermily said.
Looking ahead, Asermily said the town’s energy committee will focus on “keeping people mobilized and continue to educate the community on home energy improvement.”
She noted that a significant education opportunity for people from all over Addison County is coming up on March 29. That’s when Middlebury Union High School will host the Sustainable Living Expo from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The expo will feature demonstrations and product displays, educational workshops and a keynote speech by Kathryn Blume, a climate activist. Middlebury Energy Committee representatives will sponsor Vermont Green’s Home Energy Makeover Trailer to provide weatherization tips and information.
The expo is also organizing visits to energy-efficient homes on March 30.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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