Energy planning at the regional and municipal level can take many forms. Any municipality with an adopted Municipal or Town Plan should have an energy chapter, the content of which is guided by V.S.A. Title 24, Chapter 117, section 4382(9), which states that an energy plan should:
“…Including an analysis of energy resources, needs, scarcities, costs and problems within the municipality, a statement of policy on the conservation of energy, including programs, such as thermal integrity standards for buildings, to implement that policy, a statement of policy on the development of renewable energy resources, a statement of policy on patterns and densities of land use likely toe result in conservation of energy.”
The reality is that in order to ensure a future in which we are not dependent on fossil fuels as our primary energy source, we need to look beyond the energy chapter in our planning documents. The single largest user of energy in Vermont is transportation, which includes private transportation as well as shipping of goods and the provision of services. Additionally agriculture, which is a cornerstone of Vermont’s natural landscape, is a large user of energy resources. Municipalities in themselves are also energy users. On a yearly basis, municipalities must budget for expenses related to heating and electrifying public buildings, providing fuel for community services (road crews, emergency services and school busses).
"The cheapest, cleanest energy is the energy we don't use."
Municipalities should focus initially on reducing energy use through changing behavior, improving energy efficiency in municipal buildings and services and promoting energy efficient land use policy. TRORC staff can help you with these efforts. Contact Chris Sargent, AICP at email@example.com for more information.
Form an Energy Committee
Create a team of community members that can help to increase collaboration, build consensus, and meet the challenges of establishing and implementing your community's energy goals.
Develop an Energy Baseline
An energy baseline helps communities assess their current status and track progress in terms of fossil fuel reduction, and can assist committees as they set goals. Consider the points listed below to help you ensure that information is accurate, easy to update, and supportive of the committee's potential projects.
Inventory and Assess Municipal Infrastructure
Conduct a comprehensive inventory and assessment of the community's physical assets. This will help your community think strategically about planning for expansions, repairs and upgrades. Include buildings, schools, water supply, wastewater and stormwater systems, and vehicles.
Assess Town Building Efficiency
One of the easiest ways to achieve goals for energy efficiency is to make sure that buildings of all types are as energy efficient as possible. Committees can use energy audits and building performance assessments to provide information on cost-effective energy retrofits.
By identifying and ranking the assets most in need of repair, improvement or replacement, your community can identify the projects with the most potential for cost savings and environmental benefit. Funding mechanisms should also be explored.
Assess Town Energy Policy and Suggest Alternatives
Municipal energy policy can take two forms - internal and external policy. Internal policies are those that govern municipal staff and officials. External polices are those that govern the community as a whole, such as zoning or subdivision regulations. A town energy committee should work with the planning commission and selectboard to review and update internal and external policy to encourage reduced energy use and/or the use of alternative energy.
Once your energy committee has completed its assessments and collected baseline inventory, here are some suggested projects to consider. For additional information and resources on how to start these types of projects, please go to the "Energy Planning Resources" section of our web site.
Community Weatherization Project
Form a Home Energy Assistance Teams of trained volunteers to implement simple weatherization measures in homes of those in need and community buildings. While each project's scope varies, the major goal is to educate and mobilize citizens to undertake low-cost conservation measures in their homes. There are a wide range of weatherization techniques that can make a building more comfortable and energy-efficient.
Sell compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or to undertake a community-wide "change a light" campaign. Promoting the sale of CFLs is a great way to increase community awareness and achieve cost-effective electrical savings in your community. CFL campaigns are also relatively easy to organize, provide good visibility, community awareness and education, achieve very cost-effective electric savings, and can raise some money for future efforts. Sales can be done at large gatherings, like town meetings, town fairs, public forums, at the recycling center or even on the street.
Start a No-Idling campaign
This is a campaign aimed at getting people to stop idling their cars which is harmful to their health, the environment, their cars, and their wallets. Start by turning off your engine if you are stopped for more than ten seconds. Reduce warm-up idling and start driving after 30 seconds - more than that is harmful to your engine.
Start a solar hot water campaign
The average home uses about 15 percent of its fuel for hot water. Solar hot water systems can reduce hot water energy needs by 50 percent or more. Record high fuel prices coupled with federal, state and local incentives make this a great time to consider solar hot water. The payback period on a typical solar hot water system costing about $8,000 (after incentives worth about $2,500) is about five to seven years. Solar hot water is also a cost-effective way to cut down on your fossil fuel usage.
Town street lighting campaign
Street lighting is one of a town's more expensive utility bills. Most towns currently use old, inefficient light fixtures with drop-down lens fixtures that spill and waste light to the sides and upward to the sky. Through a community-wide streetlight initiative, towns can save money, reduce energy use, and cut down on night time light pollution. TRORC staff can assist you with the street light inventory process.
Revise Bylaws, Policies and Town Plans
Towns may develop their own bylaws or policies to achieve specific objectives, such as purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles, implementing energy conservation practices, or siting renewable energy projects. Ensure that new development in town is as sustainable and energy efficient as possible by examining your town plan. Remove obstacles and create opportunities for energy efficiency, renewable energy generation, and compact land use patterns.
Climate and Energy Plans
Create climate or energy plans to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and foster sustainability.