September 20, 2019

An online hub for Vermont’s changing energy landscape

By Luc Reid

Special to the Observer

Vermont ranks number two in the nation in renewable energy efforts, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, and efforts across the state are carrying us toward a goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050.

We also lead the nation in renewable energy jobs per capita. Despite all this, the efforts you, your neighbors, local businesses, and our town make can feel invisible. You might have a tremendous solar array, or have reduced your heat bills with weatherization and a heat pump, and yet no one might know. That’s where the Vermont Community Energy Dashboard comes in.

Online at http://www.vtenergydashboard.org/, the dashboard is a free tool and hub for information, pictures and stories of local renewable energy efforts. It’s designed for use by individuals, families, businesses and towns, and features useful examples you can consider for your own use. It also has news about renewable energy efforts and detailed information about town renewable energy potential.

The dashboard was developed by the Energy Action Network (EAN), a Vermont organization made up of dozens of businesses, state agencies and other stakeholders, from Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Co-op to Shelburne Farms, real estate agencies, the University of Vermont and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. The dashboard was designed to let Vermonters “set goals, track progress, map actions, share stories and hear from trusted neighbors.”

According to the EAN, “for the first time, communities will have free and open access to official data, maps and information that have never before been made available at the town level. The data will be updated regularly in partnership with utilities and the Department of Public Service.”

The dashboard website offers seven tools to accomplish those ends:

Using real data on Williston energy usage, the site offers a timeline to show how we’re doing on the road to 90 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Households, business, organizations, farms, schools and our town enter actions that are then available for the rest of the town to see everything from efficiency upgrades to solar farms.

Analysis tools on the site help identify better ways to get the job done and to share that information with, or get that information from, other towns.

You can read stories on the site of people nearby who have made progress reducing energy use and costs or switching to renewables, or post your own stories.

An energy atlas provides detailed information on solar and wind potential anywhere in town, including your roof or backyard.

The site offers statistics on renewable energy sites around the area and how projects around the state are doing. It also shows how Williston is doing compared to other Vermont towns.

If you are looking for resources to accomplish your own energy project, the dashboard site has everything from transportation information to financing options and an action checklist.

At a meeting earlier this month, Sustainable Williston members were given a training and tour of the dashboard site. In coming months, we’ll be collecting information and adding more of Williston’s story to complement the information coming in from towns around the state.

Other current Sustainable Williston projects include sustainability tours, which this summer will visit homes and other sites around Williston to see first-hand renewable energy and sustainability projects like organic gardens, heat pumps, solar installations, electric cars and more. We are also partnering with the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library for an upcoming display of photos from Ecovillages around the world.

Luc Reid is a member of Sustainable Williston (online at SustainableWilliston.org). The group works on issues like clean energy, water quality and planting trees. Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at 7:15 p.m. at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library. Everyone living or working in Williston is invited to attend.

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