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Climate group will help homeowners decarbonize

ADDISON COUNTY — The Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County is launching a pilot program that will offer free one-on-one support to county residents looking to reduce their home’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. 

The “Navigator Project” will kick off later this fall and is designed to help homeowners and renters identify decarbonization projects that meet their personal goals, as well as find available resources and incentives for those projects. 

CEAC Board Member and local architect Jean Terwilliger is leading the initiative. She said the project will help tackle local greenhouse (GHG) emissions in a key sector. 

“CEAC has over the last couple of years come up with a Climate Action Plan for Addison County and residential properties make up a third of the carbon footprint for the county, so figuring out a way to help people address that has to be a big part of any climate action that we take,” Terwilliger said. 

CEAC’s Climate Action Plan, published this past June, proposes steps community members can take to achieve reductions in local GHG emissions. Decarbonizing the energy use of homes is among the recommendations included in the plan, which outlines a local goal of weatherizing around 5,000 homes and installing about 6,200 heat pumps by 2030, in order to meet the county’s share of the state Climate Action Plan, issued by the Vermont Climate Council.

The Navigator Project is intended to assist residents in taking on such projects, in part by connecting individuals with the resources available for decarbonization work. 

“We were hearing from many people that there are a number of programs, through Efficiency Vermont or through groups like CVOEO (Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity) or HEAT Squad, which do cover a lot of the ground that we’re trying to cover, but they are either focused on energy reduction and not carbon reduction, or people just don’t really know about them or feel like they don’t really know next steps to take,” Terwilliger explained. “The whole idea is to provide the opportunity for one-on-one coaching, which will help people weed through the different programs and options that are out there.” 

In addition to helping residents’ achieve carbon and energy savings, Terwilliger said some decarbonization projects can provide other benefits for renters and homeowners. 

“Personal health and comfort can be greatly improved with weatherization work, because the weatherization can reduce both water and air leaks, which can reduce mold, and keep surfaces warmer and more comfortable,” she explained. 

The Navigator Project is free and open to anyone living in Addison County. Terwilliger said the CEAC team is still working to develop the program but hopes to begin working with residents by Nov. 1. 

Those that enroll in the pilot program will start by meeting with the project team to discuss their personal goals for reducing their home’s utility bills and greenhouse gas emissions. 

“We would set up a meeting to just hear from them about what the experience of their house is like, what their energy bills are, do they have issues with hot and cold spots, mold, humidity, any of those kinds of things,” Terwilliger explained. 

The project team would then look to sign residents up for a formal energy audit with one of the firms listed on Efficiency Vermont’s website. Terwilliger said energy audits available through the Rutland-based HEAT Squad are income dependent and cost around $50 for a moderate income household. 

Once a list of potential decarbonization projects has been identified, the team will reconnect with program participants to discuss next steps that align with residents’ specific goals and budget.  

“We would meet again with the homeowner or renter and talk through those projects, look at what are the costs and benefits for each one of those, available resources and perhaps lay out an even multi-year path of what are the next steps to take and how can a person or family make a plan to reduce the carbon load of their homes to get it down to zero,” Terwilliger said. 

Specific resources that the team connects residents with will vary depending on the scope of the projects individuals are looking to take on. 

“Some of those resources include CVOEO’s no- or low-cost weatherization, local contractors who provide electrical and heat pump installation as well as general construction and insulation, and then of course we will also provide information about rebates, tax credits, and low-interest loans and on-bill financing options that can greatly reduce the cost of this work,” Terwilliger said. 

The project team will continue to check in with residents as they explore decarbonization projects, helping with challenges that arise and providing other support. 

Terwilliger said as the pilot group works through the program, the project team will look to enroll more participants. 

“We’ll get everybody started and we will definitely not be waiting for everyone to finish all their projects before we roll out a larger program,” she said. “The initial idea is that the pilot group, we’d work with them for the next year, but we’d look at taking on additional people to work with.” 

The CEAC team is currently working to get the Navigator Project up and running. Those interested in signing up for the pilot program or learning more about the initiative can reach the team at [email protected].

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