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Peter Walke: Efficiency Vermont Managing Director

Peter Walke. Photo courtesy of Efficiency Vermont.
Although Vermont’s population apparently increased by approximately 6,500 people since the beginning of the pandemic, concern remains that many young people leave the state after graduating high school. 

Peter Walke, who grew up in Montpelier and graduated from Montpelier High School in the late 1990s, has brought his acquired experience and environmental expertise home. 

After serving in the Navy and a series of increasingly responsible positions concerning environmental policy within New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Walke returned to Montpelier in 2017 to work as a deputy secretary in the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources before spending two years as the commissioner of environmental conservation.

In May of this year, Walke left the governmental policy world where he has spent a decade and took on a new role of implementing the changes in energy use those policies envisioned as managing director of Efficiency Vermont.

Efficiency Vermont is a public utility that was created by the nonprofit Vermont Energy Investment Corporation more than 20 years ago. In short, its objective is to reduce the amount of energy used by Vermonters in their homes, businesses, and services. Its operations are supported, not by taxpayers, but by a small percentage added to the electric bills of ratepayers. Perhaps best known for implementing weatherization programs, Efficiency Vermont also manages partnerships with electrical utilities and a broad range of trade and retail groups that provide energy-related services and goods. 

Acknowledging the considerable challenge posed by the increasingly rapid impact of climate change and humanity’s belated response, Walke’s immediate concern is updating a three-year planning cycle. “We’re trying to make things less bad,” he said. 

“You can see Vermont as an incubator space because of its small scale, a role model,” Walke explained. But he noted that when developing action items for Vermont, the state’s borders can be illusory. “It’s important to remember that the systems that currently sustain us — supply chains for most of our food, automobiles, and equipment, extend far beyond our borders. And so does our contribution to the production of greenhouse gasses.”

From another perspective, Vermont has an international reputation for its success in developing locally sustainable agriculture, at least as a model. The growing network of small farms, support services, and farmers markets still contribute only a relatively small percentage of the state’s food supply. 

Efficiency Vermont’s success to date centers on “avoided costs” Walke said. “Incentives, like those for LED lights, weatherization, and home-heating efficiency, have reduced electrical demand in Vermont by 16 percent.” 

In its two decades of working to reduce energy consumption, Efficiency Vermont reports that Vermont has eliminated over 13 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. “The cumulative, lifetime result of Vermonters’ energy efficiency investments made from 2000 through 2021. That’s the equivalent of removing all Vermont cars for nearly 5 years,” the website reports.

For details about Energy Vermont’s services and rebate programs go to efficiencyvermont.com