Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed into law a bill promoting incentives for homes using clean-heating technologies like cold-climate heat and geothermal pumps, energy-efficient heating sources that save consumers money, stimulate the economy and create jobs, and protect the environment.
"For years, through Efficiency Vermont and other organizations, our state has focused like a laser on reducing our electric energy consumption. Add up all the efficiency investments since the year 2000, and Vermonters used an astounding 13 percent less electricity in 2013 than we would have otherwise," Gov. Shumlin said.
He noted that it costs half as much to save a kilowatt hour of energy through efficiency than to buy that same kilowatt hour on the grid. In addition, investments in efficiency and local renewable energy helped defer nearly $400 million in Vermont transmission projects.
"While we've accomplished a lot, we still have a long way to go on helping Vermonters reduce their heating costs, which is why we are here today," the Governor said.
Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia said that technology has advanced and now Vermonters have new clean heating options, including cold-climate air source heat pumps and geothermal ground source heat pumps. Recchia said that based on Department data, in February in Vermont, if you were heating with a cold-climate heat pump, you were doing so at less than half the cost of heating with oil, and a third the cost of heating with propane. However, because our efficiency programs primarily focus on cutting electric use, Efficiency Vermont does not offer statewide incentives for cold-climate heat pumps the way they do for efficient light bulbs or appliances. This bill changes that, Recchia said.
The legislation will start a process at the Public Service Board to determine how efficiency providers like Efficiency Vermont can use their resources to help Vermonters install technologies like cold-climate heat pumps or geothermal heat pumps. This bill also makes sure that incentives for heat pumps are coordinated with traditional efficiency improvements like insulation and air sealing to get the most bang for the buck for homeowners and businesses.
"Efficiency Vermont is always looking for new ways to help Vermont families and businesses reduce their energy costs," said Jim Merriam, Director of Efficiency Vermont. "Over the past three years, Efficiency Vermont has helped over 3,100 Vermont homes all across the state significantly reduce their heating bills through comprehensive improvements like insulation and air-sealing. Heat pumps have the potential to further reduce what Vermonters pay to heat their homes and businesses. Efficiency Vermont actively sought this legislation to better enable us to deliver these savings to Vermonters. We are very pleased to be here today to see it signed into law."
The Governor signed the bill at Mark and Sara Borkowskis' Rutland home, a model in energy efficiency with solar panels, weatherization, energy tracking technology and two air source heat pumps.
"We are really pleased to see yet another initiative that will help our customers realize the benefits of using technology to reduce emissions, save money and be more comfortable," said Mary Powell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Green Mountain Power. "This will be an important part of our approach to help customers achieve a whole energy solution."
The market is recognizing the economic and environmental benefits of this technology. About 2,400 air source heat pumps were sold last year in Vermont, according to Efficiency Vermont, and dealers expect that growth to continue.
Gov. Shumlin thanked the Public Service Department, Efficiency Vermont and utilities like Green Mountain Power for working with lawmakers on the legislation. In addition to the leadership of House Speaker Shap Smith and Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, he thanked members of the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee and Sen. Mark MacDonald, and members of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee.