Sen. Bernie Sanders today announced a new $1 million grant to support energy efficiency in Burlington. The senator was joined at a news conference by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and Vermont Department of Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller.
"This program may well become a national model for how we overcome hurdles to energy efficiency investments. It will help us reduce energy costs to make our businesses more competitive, support jobs as we retrofit our buildings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Sanders, a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees.
Authorized by a Sanders provision in a 2011 energy bill, the U.S. Economic Development Administration grant will help the Burlington Electric Department provide innovative on-bill financing for energy efficiency projects, initially focused on small businesses.
What Sanders called the "common-sense concept" behind on-bill financing is that utilities offer upfront funds to customers to make energy improvements, with the resulting savings used to pay back the loan over time in installments on the customer's energy bill. As chairman of the Senate's Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee, Sanders last year held a hearing to examine on-bill financing strategies.
"Today's grant announcement by Senator Sanders is great news and builds on Burlington's continuing commitment to improve energy efficiency and keep energy costs affordable for businesses in our community," Weinberger said. "This award will further our efforts to make Burlington a leader on sustainability."
"Burlington is once again showing its energy leadership by launching on-bill financing for its commercial customers. The state's Comprehensive Energy Plan recognizes that on-bill financing is a valuable tool to help customers make efficiency investments, saving energy and money," said Miller, the state commissioner. "This past year, the department worked with Burlington Electric to include its on-bill financing program in its program performance review, and so we are very pleased that this funding will allow Burlington Electric to accelerate its efforts, bringing greater benefits to its customers."
After factoring in Burlington Electric Department's energy efficiency incentives, the average cost of an energy efficiency retrofit for a participating business is estimated to be about $6,000. The investment will yield an average estimated savings of approximately $1,500 per year, providing a payback in four years.
Today, only about 40 percent of the businesses in Burlington that undertake an energy audit actually move forward with energy efficiency investments. This new on-bill finance program will help more businesses access funds to make efficiency improvements.