U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Vermont Department of Public Service today hosted a Vermont Clean Energy Investment Summit.
The goal of the conference was to determine how the state could become a model for the nation in moving more aggressively toward energy efficiency and developing sustainable sources of clean energy.
"Moving forward aggressive in energy efficiency and sustainable energy is a win, win, win situation," Sanders said. "We protect our environment by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. We save homeowners money on their heating bills through strong weatherization and energy efficiency efforts and, in the middle of a recession, we create jobs in Vermont, not in Saudi Arabia and not in Iran."
Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie, the adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, spoke about a major investment in solar power at the guard's base in South Burlington. Richard Kauffman, one of the country's leading experts on private-sector investments in clean energy and a top aide to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, also addressed the conference.
Coupled with advancements in the state's current leadership on energy efficiency, Sanders said Vermont could become a showcase for the best ways to address climate change. "Vermont is a small state. We cannot solve global warming by ourselves, but we can be a model for the nation and help make America a model for the world," he said.
He focused on two ways to reverse global warming - and create good-paying jobs in the process - by bolstering investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
A concept called "on-bill financing" helps homeowners, businesses and school systems work with utilities or other lenders to provide upfront funds for energy upgrades. According to Efficiency Vermont, a $10,000 investment in better insulation, caulking, efficient lighting and windows, or a furnace upgrade could save a typical Vermont homeowner $825 a year on energy bills. A member of the Senate energy committee, Sanders put a provision in a bill that would encourage on-bill financing by letting consumers tap into their energy savings to pay for improvements over time.
The senator also advocated creation of a Clean Energy Bank to work with private investors and pension funds. The bank would provide a mechanism to leverage public incentives for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Connecticut already has such a bank. Sanders said it lets private investors make a fair profit while attracting resources for clean energy.