Campaign hopes to reduce energy use in four regions of Vermont (Vermont Public Radio)

By Ross Sneyd

(Host) Campaigns are under way in four regions of the state urging consumers to buy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.

The light bulb promotions are part of a new targeted effort by Efficiency Vermont to reduce electricity use.

VPR's Ross Sneyd reports.

(Sound of showroom)

(Sneyd) Hundreds of people packed into a Burlington hotel ballroom for an annual conference devoted to advances in efficiency technology.

(Hamilton) There's a lot of interesting stuff in here about really what's the next wave of technology in energy efficiency. For example, right here what we've got, it's a co-generation system which usually we ...''

(Sneyd) Blair Hamilton is executive director of Efficiency Vermont and impromptu tour guide at the conference.

Of all the displays, what the public is interested in the most are the funny little light bulbs.

Efficiency Vermont is selling them for less than $1 apiece. Manufacturers charge $3 to as much as $12.

Electricity growth was flat last year. Now Efficiency Vermont wants to actually lower demand.

Hamilton hopes to accomplish that by focusing on some of the state's primary growth areas one light bulb at a time. Those areas are around St. Albans, Derby, Burlington and in towns stretching from Brattleboro to Bennington.

Homeowners are a big part of Hamilton's target audience.

(Hamilton) While Vermont is a leader in the country in the amount of switching that consumers have done from incandescent to more efficient compact fluorescent lighting, we still have a tremendous amount of remaining opportunity for savings. For most homeowners it is the single most cost effective thing they can still do.''

(Sneyd) The Public Service Board has authority over Efficiency Vermont's budget. The board ordered that the utility concentrate its efforts where they'd make the biggest difference.

The goal is to scrap - or at least delay - the need for new power plants or transmission lines in the state's fastest growing areas.

But one of the challenges is to persuade consumers to switch bulbs. Some don't like the shape - a swirled tube that's a hybrid between a regular light bulb and a fluorescent tube. Now, there are more traditional shapes that give a softer light. And there are dimmable versions and others designed for a three-way light socket.

Gregg Laber sells them all at Green Mountain Electric Supply in St. Albans. More and more, he says, people want the new lights because of the energy savings - one 13 watt compact fluorescent can replace a 60 watt incandescent, saving $16 in the first year.

(Laber) You have the regular customer, that it is an upsell. But everyone, really I think, we're getting to the point that people know what's right to do.''

(Sneyd) The people at Efficiency Vermont hope so. By the end of the year, they want to replace a quarter-million traditional light bulbs in their four targeted regions with efficient compact fluorescents. They think they can replace a half-million more in the rest of the state.