Energy-efficient homes, although more common in recent years, remain rare. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some 99 percent of US homes remain damp, drafty and expensive to heat and cool. US Department of Energy data show that buildings, including residential properties, account for nearly 50 percent of US energy consumption, while transportation accounts for about 30 percent.
That is why the Department of Energy is awarding more $3.2 billion to assist US cities, counties, states, territories, and Indian tribes in developing, promoting, implementing, and managing energy efficiency and conservation projects and programs.
NeighborWorks of Western Vermont was recently awarded $4.5 million through this Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to implement local energy efficiency and renewable energy programs that will reduce energy use by homes, vehicles and businesses. Via NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, Rutland County will be one of two communities in New England to be served through the block grant program.
NeighborWorks of Western Vermont will use the funds to enhance an incentive program offered through Efficiency Vermont and will also work with Central Vermont Public Service, Green Mountain College and several local banks. They will offer efficiency audits, which look at what improvements can be made to a home, and then manage the construction while those improvements are made. They will fund improvements with a combination of cash rebates and loans and they hope to structure the loans so the payments from homeowners are less than the projected savings from the improvements.
NeighborWorks of Western Vermont hopes Rutland County will lead the state in energy efficiency, according to the executive director, Ludy Biddle. She said helping homeowners make such improvements has been a goal for the organization since an “energy summit” that they organized in September 2009.