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Reaching Energy Equity Goals

Reaching Energy Equity Goals

Capstone Community Action in Barre has launched GreenSavingSmart, connecting financial coaching with energy savings for low- and moderate-income residents to ensure that a cleaner, greener Vermont is something everyone can participate in.

Vermonters face multiple barriers to accessing and affording heating, transportation, and home energy improvements. Understanding the complexity of programs, eligibility criteria, and incentives can be overwhelming. GreenSavingSmart offers a pathway to rebates, incentives, and services, in order to find cost savings and carbon reduction. 

“Addressing barriers to financial and energy security with GreenSavingSmart is an exciting new element to the climate justice agenda for the Vermont Community Action Partnership,” said Sue Minter, Capstone’s executive director. “Expanding upon our mission of building ladders out of poverty, this program further champions that energy upgrades must be for everyone.” 

GreenSavingSmart guides participants through services and programs provided by energy-efficiency utilities, financial institutions, utility companies, fuel providers, and others. In one-on-one sessions, GreenSavingSmart coaches help create a road map for reaching financial and energy goals. Participants can attend a virtual webinar series with GreenSavingSmart coaches to explore credit-building strategies, learn about energy efficiency, and consider small and large steps to reduce their carbon footprints. 

Low- and moderate-income Vermonters spend more of their income on energy expenses than their higher income neighbors. This “energy burden” (a household’s energy expenses divided by its income) lays at the heart of energy inequity, and presents a barrier for Vermont meeting its climate goals. The Energy Action Network’s 2021 “Progress Report for Vermont,” says the average town energy burden ranges between 6% and 20%, with a stark difference between low- and high-income Vermonters. Vermonters making less than $27,800 a year have an average heating and electricity energy burden of 18% compared with the 2.7% for those making over $118,000 per year. 

Vermont’s older housing stock creates additional challenges. Weatherization is a first step in helping Vermonters reduce carbon emissions and energy bills. Transportation presents even more energy use challenges in rural Vermont, from long-distance commuting to the soaring cost of gas, and maintaining aging vehicles. Coaches connect Vermonters with critical programs, such as MileageSmart, helping Vermonters upgrade from older gas vehicles to electric vehicles, and help in utilizing rebates, tax credits, and utility company incentives that provide relief to personal budgets. 

This initiative, spearheaded by Capstone, will be delivered through the Vermont Community Action Partnership, including BROC in southwestern Vermont, Capstone in central Vermont, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity in northwestern Vermont, Northeast Kingdom Community Action, and Southeastern Vermont Community Action. This network constitutes the largest anti-poverty organization in Vermont. 

The majority of funding for the GreenSavingSmart program is provided by Vermont’s Senate Committee on Natural Resources, managed by the Office of Economic Opportunity of the Vermont Department for Children and Families. Additional funds for outreach and client support have been donated by VSECU. 

To find out if you qualify, fill out an intake form or visit Capstone’s GreenSavingSmart site for more information: www.greensavingsmart.org