Representatives from around the country gathered in Burlington, Vt., on Monday for a conference on how better buildings can save energy and improve the environment. Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee, welcomed conference participants to the most energy-efficient state in the nation. "Vermont is doing a great job on efficiency," Sanders said, "but we also know we can do even better and all of you gathered here will lead the way in showing America how we can do more."
A nationwide shift to more renewable and sustainable sources of energy would help the environment, reduce reliance on foreign oil, and create millions of good-paying jobs in the United States.
Sanders commended the conference participants for from 41 energy-efficiency projects, including one in Rutland County. They all shared $454 million in competitive grants for innovative projects like the one in Rutland, where Neighborworks is spreading the word on the benefits of energy efficiency and putting contractors to work performing energy audits and home energy upgrades. The average energy savings for each home that is retrofitted through this project is between 36 and 50 percent.
The funding for Neighborworks and the other projects came from an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, which was created by a provision by Sanders and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey in the 2007 energy bill.
Sanders also told the conference about his proposal to let utilities lend money to customers for energy efficiency improvements or sustainable energy projects. The Senate is poised to approve a bill that includes Sanders "on-line billing" measure, which would let customers repay loans over time through savings on their utility bills.
American homes and businesses use 40 percent of the energy consumed in the United States at an annual cost of more than $400 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Efficiency improvements like new lights, better insulation and more efficient heating and cooling systems and proven approaches to bring down costs.