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Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

New Year’s Resolution – Cut your Fossil Fuel Use

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

As we ring in the new year, we can celebrate some good news for homeowners looking to cut their fossil fuel use in 2016. At its final session in December, the U.S. Congress passed an extension for many of the most popular tax incentives for wind and solar. This provides a healthy boost to the development of new renewable power sources and will speed up replacement of fossil fuel and nuclear electricity generation with cleaner sources.

The economic advantages of extending the wind and solar tax credits go beyond price. A recent article in Bloomberg New Energy Finance states, “This is exactly the sort of bridge the industry needed. The costs of installing wind and solar power have dropped precipitously—by more than 90 percent since the original tax credits took effect—but in most places coal and natural gas are still cheaper than unsubsidized renewables. By the time the new tax credit expires, solar and wind will be the cheapest forms of new electricity in many states across the U.S.”

What does this mean for the average Vermont homeowner? It’s wonderful news because in 2016, many Vermont homeowners will qualify for credits and rebates for:

  • Making home energy improvements such as new windows, adding insulation, envelope and duct sealing.
  • Installing efficient air conditioners and heat pumps.
  • Purchasing gas or oil furnaces and furnace fans; and gas, oil, or electric heat pump water heaters.
  • Purchasing hybrid gasoline-electric, diesel, battery-electric, alternative fuel, and fuel cell vehicles.
  • Installing qualified solar water heating and photovoltaic systems, small wind and geothermal heat pump systems.
  • Installing qualifying fuel cells and microturbines, although these systems are not widely available for homes.

Many of these incentives are available for new construction as well. So if you are building a new home in 2016 be sure to talk to your builder about getting your house Energy Star® rated.

There’s no doubt that with so many different programs, credits and rebates, the average Vermont homeowner may be confused about where to begin. Start by checking these on-line resources:

For low-income Vermonters there are additional options for low-cost loans and subsidies for home energy improvements. Check the LIHEAP Clearinghouse website for more information.

Don’t forget about low-cost loans for efficiency upgrades that are widely available for all homeowners in Vermont through the Heat Saver Loan program. Also, VSECU offers a number of energy-related loans.  In many cases, the cost for your loan payment is more than covered through immediate savings on heating fuel and electricity costs.

Our core mission at the Energy Co-op is to provide our members with information, incentives and services that help to reduce their fossil fuel use. That’s why we’ve established our business model as a one-stop shop for home energy efficiency. Our service and installation teams are all NORA certified and because we are a non-profit Co-op, you can rest assured that the price you pay for service and upgrades will be fair and competitive. We’ll help you navigate through the maze of options for rebates and incentives and prioritize improvements that will offer the best return on your investment.

Why not contact us today?  We’ll be happy to help you make a New Year’s resolution that will improve the safety and efficiency of your home, keep more money in your wallet and help save the planet at the same time.

How to be a Climate Change Hero

Monday, December 21st, 2015

The Paris Climate Action agreement signed last week has given new hope to those of us who are concerned about climate change and want world  leaders to join together to find ways to help. At home, President Obama has announced that by 2025 he wants the United States to reduce its total carbon footprint by up to 28% of 2005 levels.

While we applaud the global agreement and think that government goals and promises are a good start, we know that change must also take place from the bottom up, starting in our own homes and backyards.  These changes give new meaning to the old adage, “Think global, act local.”

Most experts in climate change science agree that increasing efficiency is the low-hanging fruit for reducing our carbon emissions.  In fact, many sources including the Natural Resources Defense Council, continue to put efficiency at the top of the list for consideration by both individuals and businesses.

Energy Efficiency 101

Being energy efficient doesn’t mean going without a comfortable and well-lit home or making painful sacrifices. Many energy efficiency measures are low cost and easy to implement. With the many attractive financing options now available, some upgrades can even save you money from day one. Consider these five options:

  1. Upgrade your home energy systems.  Consider a new energy-efficient furnace, cold-climate heat pump, or roof top solar panels.
  2. Weatherproof your home. Install storm windows and close curtains at night to reduce heat loss and energy use. Upgrade insulation in walls, basements and attics to save up to 30% of your energy bill. Not sure where to start? Get an energy audit to provide guidance and to set priorities.
  3. Install low-flow showerheads and wash your clothes in cold or warm water.
  4. Change your lights. Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs to eliminate 150 pounds or more of CO2 per year for each bulb you replace.
  5. Plant trees and shrubs. Trees absorb CO2 and give off oxygen. One tree will absorb over a ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

What About Conservation?

If you aren’t willing or able to spend money on efficiency improvements, consider conservation. Often confused with efficiency, energy conservation involves behavior changes that don’t cost anything extra but can have a big impact on your home energy use.

  1. Drive less. You save one pound of carbon dioxide for each mile of driving you eliminate.
  2. Stop idling. Turn off your engine when you are picking up your children at school or waiting in a drive-through line.
  3. Cut hot water use. Turn your hot water heater thermostat down to 120 degrees. Run your dishwasher and washing machine with full loads only.
  4. Adjust your thermostat. Moving your thermostat down just two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer could eliminate about 2,000 pounds of CO2 a year for an average household.
  5. Turn off “ghost “power. Plug televisions, computers and other appliances into a surge protector and switch off the surge protector after you turn off the appliances – or use an advance power strip.
  6. Recycle and reuse. Recycle your old newspapers and magazines, cardboard, glass, metal, and recyclable plastic containers. Find creative ways to reuse items instead of discarding them.
  7. Be green in your yard. Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  8. Shop smart. Buy products with less packaging and reusable or recyclable packaging in the first place.

Calculate your household’s carbon footprint

Before you upgrade or conserve, you can check the EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to estimate household greenhouse gas emissions arising from your home energy use, transportation and waste disposal. This tool helps you understand where your emissions come from and identify ways to reduce them. It can also give you a way to measure your progress.

Spread the word

Don’t be afraid to tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for their homes and good for the environment. The small steps each of us take today to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air pollution will add up to a livable planet for our children and grandchildren.

Cigarettes, Coca Cola and the Carbon Tax

Friday, August 14th, 2015

At the Energy Co-op of Vermont, one of our key goals is to help our members stay informed about important energy issues that will have a direct effect on their lives and their bottom line. No energy or tax-related issue in recent memory seems more confusing than the Vermont legislature’s attempt to introduce a carbon tax. In fact, 47% of our members who responded to a June 2015 survey said they didn’t know enough about the carbon tax to take a position for or against it.

What does this have to do with cigarettes and Coca-Cola? A simple way to understand the carbon tax is to point out that it works in some ways like the familiar “sin” taxes. For example: taxes on cigarettes are used to fund quit-smoking campaigns. The recently passed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages supports programs to fight childhood obesity. Similarly, the carbon tax is designed to discourage the use of fossil fuel while benefiting a range of popular tax reduction options and energy efficiency programs.

Vermont’s Carbon Tax Bill (designated as H.412) will, in some form, probably come up for a vote in the Vermont legislature next year. The current draft proposes to establish an excise tax on fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases. The intention is that reflecting the external costs of greenhouse gas emissions in the price of fossil fuels will result in reduced use. It also proposes to offset 90 percent of the carbon tax revenues through:

• Reduction of the sales and use tax
• A refundable tax credit to personal income taxpayers
• A low-income taxpayer rebate
• A per employee rebate to employers

The remaining 10 percent of the carbon tax revenues would fund low-income weatherization and a Vermont Energy Independence Fund (VEIF) to promote energy efficiency and reductions in fossil fuel use.

The question becomes – Is a carbon tax the best way to reduce fossil fuel use or is it just another confusing government bait-and-switch tax rebate program?

A good place to look for a case study is to our Canadian neighbors in British Columbia. In 2012, B.C. implemented a carbon tax that has so far been successful on many fronts. David Roberts, a former energy policy staff writer for Grist.org, cites some important reasons why. His concluding point is that the B.C. carbon tax program, as implemented, is currently revenue-neutral, thanks to cuts in other taxes, mainly corporate and personal income.

According to a June 2015 New York Times op-ed titled “The Case For a Carbon Tax“, top executives of six large European oil and gas companies such as the BP, Royal Dutch Shell and others, have already called for a tax on carbon emissions. A world environmental summit in Paris later this year will certainly continue this dialog.

Opposition to a carbon tax in the environmental community often focuses on the exclusion of biomass as a taxable carbon source. In Vermont, it could be argued that a carbon tax on fossil fuels will increase the use of wood and wood pellet stoves, which would cause carbon emissions to increase, at least in the short term. Pending legislation in Vermont does not address this concern, so we will be watching to see if Vermont legislators find a compromise on this issue.

The bottom line is this: Climate change is real. It’s impacting our daily lives, endangering our planet and threatening the future well-being of our children and grandchildren. Burning fossil fuels is the major cause of climate change. Using less fossil fuel is a large part of the solution. By learning about and taking a position on the carbon tax issue you are taking a small step towards being part of the solution.

Energy Co-op Receives Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for Co-op Solar Program

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The Energy Co-op of Vermont’s Co-op Solar hot water heating program has received the Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for it’s contributions to protecting the environment, conserving energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The Vermont Governor’s Awards were established in 1993 to “recognize the actions taken by Vermonters to conserve and protect natural resources, prevent pollution, and promote environmental sustainability.”  In 2012, the innovative solar program led to the installation of over 40 solar hot water systems in Chittenden County, keeping an estimated 70,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and saving Vermonters approximately $500,000 over the lifetime of the systems.

Energy Co-op General Manager John Quinney and Program Coordinator Ben Griffin accepted the award on behalf of the Vermont residents, business owners and partners who participated in the 2012 program.  Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, presented the award at UVM’s Davis Center on Tuesday evening, May 14th saying, “The Co-op Solar program was designed to make solar simple and affordable by forming strategic partnerships, negotiating volume discounts, and providing cost-effective financing to reduce the overall cost.  Others are now using this model to promote solar installations around the state.”

Member: Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Renewable Energy Vermont, Local First Vermont

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