WEST RUTLAND — U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders said he hopes the home energy improvement projects by NeighborWorks of Western Vermont become a model for the rest of the country.
Sanders visited Neighbor-Work’s offices in West Rutland on Friday as it kicked off the HEAT Squad Town Energy Competition, a countywide energy efficiency competition that urges communities in Rutland County to achieve the greatest number of home energy improvements throughout the next year.
"This (competition) is enormously important,” Sanders said. “We want to save homeowners money.”
The one-year competition urges all of the towns in Rutland County to join Neighbor-Works in its pursuit to improve home energy efficiency in at least 1,000 homes in Rutland County.
“It started with a pilot project in Shrewsbury in the fall,” said Ludy Biddle, executive director for NeighborWorks. “We challenge the towns to compete for the big red apple and $10,000 for the town.”
Each participating town will have a community energy team that will spearhead the project and establish a target number of home energy improvements.
Each town that achieves its target will receive a financial award equal to $50 per home that has completed home energy improvements certified by Efficiency Vermont. All improvements must be completed by May 31, 2012.
The purpose is to help homeowners save money on their energy bills, lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in what Sanders called a “win-win-win-win project.”
“People will see a reduction in their gas bill,” Sanders said. “They will be saving an average of $1,000 a year. That is saving a hell of a lot of money.”
The competition also offers $10,000 rewards to the communities in the county that show the greatest percentage of home energy improvements and the highest average energy savings per home. It is funded by a $4.5 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant awarded to NeighborWorks last year.
“Since receiving the grant, we have 250 homes completed or in progress around the county,” Biddle said. “We are a quarter of the way to our goal.”
NeighborWorks of Western Vermont is also celebrating 25 years helping homeowners in Rutland County. “Vermont is leading this nation in energy efficiency and what is being done in Rutland County adds to that,” Sanders said. “This is a smart investment of federal money.”