As part of his Solar Summer Tour, Gov. Peter Shumlin today announced that as of July 1, Vermont fuel oil has a low-sulfur requirement that will result in cleaner air, increased heating system efficiencies and lower maintenance costs for consumers.
The new requirement was part of the 2011 Vermont Energy Act, lowering sulfur content to 500 parts per million on July 1, 2014, and 15 parts per million by 2018. Other states in the region are phasing in these low-sulfur requirements, as well.
In addition, the Governor announced progress on a new Thermal Energy Finance Pilot Program through the Department of Public Service, to help Vermonters improve efficiency in their homes. The program builds on the Efficiency Excellence Network (EEN) of fuel dealers established by Vermont Fuel Dealers and Efficiency Vermont.
"Today we can mark progress on cleaner air as a result of new low sulfur fuel oil standards that took effect July 1. I am also very proud to announce that through a partnership between the Department of Public Service, the Clean Energy Development Fund, and VLITE, we will be making $7 million in financing available to Vermonters to invest in energy efficiency and clean heating technologies such as solar hot water," Gov. Shumlin said. "We are supporting a new business model for fuel dealers who want to help their customers save energy and save on their fuel bills."
Speaking to the low sulfur requirement, Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said, "Vermont joins Massachusetts and New Jersey in introducing the lower sulphur limit on heating fuel July 1st. This fuel not only burns more efficiently, but also creates less scale and soot, leading to longer heating equipment life, as well as reducing harmful air pollutants."
"Since more than half of all Vermont home owners currently choose oil heat, the low sulfur fuel mandate now in effect will greatly lower emissions and improve air quality," said Matt Cota, Executive Director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. "It will also maximize efficiency and reduce service calls on existing systems, while allowing more Vermonters to install high efficiency oil heat units that require low sulfur fuel."
The Department's finance program was first announced in February of 2014 as a partnership between the Department, the Clean Energy Development Fund, and VLITE to provide attractive energy financing for residential customers of EEN fuel dealers. VLITE was created as a result of the Department of Public Service's MOU in the Green Mountain Power merger with CVPS, and receives revenue from shares of VELCO to dedicate to projects and programs that further Vermont's energy policies. Interest rate buy-downs and loan loss reserve will support financing for modest-income households.
"This is one of several initiatives the Governor has announced this summer to leverage private/public partnerships that help us advance our energy goals," said Public Service Department Commissioner Chris Recchia. "In this instance, we are leveraging private institutions and dollars to help Vermonters do cost-effective heating and cooling efficiency improvements."
The financing available through this program will help Vermonters insulate and weatherize their homes, upgrade to more efficient boilers and furnaces, and consider installation of high efficiency technologies like cold-climate heat pumps. Financing will also help Vermonters who want to install solar water heating to reduce their fossil fuel consumption and save money.
Some fuel dealers are already helping their customers who want to put in solar water heating. For example, Bourne's provides solar hot water installation and service for their customers. In addition, the Energy Co-op of Vermont, a fuel dealer, has partnered with Sunward, a solar hot water manufacturer based in Vermont, to provide discounted solar hot water systems for their customers.
"Sunward Systems and the Energy Co-op of Vermont have a great partnership. For three years we've been working together on Co-op Solar (www.co-opsolar.net). This program helps the Co-op's members install solar hot water systems at a terrific discount, so they save fuel oil and money, their carbon emissions are lower, and their homes are more comfortable," said Tom Hughes of Sunward. "The Co-op strengthens its bond with its members by offering a product and a service that their members want. Sunward installs more of Vermont's leading brand of solar hot water systems. It's a win-win-win."
The Department has selected two financial institutions to provide financing for customers -- the Vermont State Employees Credit Union and Opportunities Credit Union. This will be a two-year pilot program, and the State expects consumers to be able to start getting loans later this summer, to improve home energy performance ahead of next heating season.
Thanks to an additional $100,000 in support from VLITE, the Department can now provide up to $770,000 to support innovative financing. This includes $282,000 from Department, $240,000 from CEDF, and now $250,000 from VLITE. That means the State expects to leverage funding and provide approximately $7 million in energy loans for Vermonters whose fuel dealer is part of EEN.