News

Introducing your town Energy Committee

By Matt Wood

Williston Energy Committee

The newly formed Williston Energy Committee is made up of seven volunteer members of the community with varied backgrounds. Among the members are engineers, technology developers, PhD’s in ecology and environmental science, Department of Energy, Agency of Agriculture employees and regional planners and retirees. We all have a deep commitment to support the Town of Williston in addressing the climate crisis while working to help our residents become more energy independent. 

Our planet is in crisis and the impacts of climate change, along with rising energy costs, will increasingly become a matter of public safety and economic security for our town. But if we work together, we can minimize and mitigate the negative impacts while fostering a vibrant community.

We are working closely with Williston’s newly hired Energy and Community Development Planner as we advise the Planning Commission on energy policy around land use, and we are taking an active lead in community engagement. Using the Town Energy Plan as a guide, we will inform Willistonians about energy efficiency and how residents and businesses can save money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from their cars, homes and businesses. 

It will take a multi-pronged approach for Vermont to meet the goals set forth by the Global Warming Solutions Act, which legally requires our state to reduce emissions by 2025. The Williston Energy Committee will engage local residents and businesses to become more energy efficient, with a goal to save money for residents and the town government. 

Here are a few examples among the many areas we will be focusing on.

Transportation

Transportation contributes over 40 percent of the emissions in our rural state because cars are such a crucial means for travel. We will work to help Williston residents find electric vehicle solutions that fit their needs — whether it be hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or full electric — so they can reduce their dependence on expensive gas and lower their carbon footprint. Additionally, we will work to decrease transportation energy demand by promoting the use of public transit, walking/biking infrastructure, car-sharing and ride-sharing. The most energy efficient trip is the one not taken, or at least shared with someone else. 

The Energy Committee will be working closely with the Planning Commission and local organizations to ensure that our residents have safe, convenient access to public transit and a bike- and pedestrian-friendly community.

Weatherization 

Weatherization of your home is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost of heating. While there is an upfront cost to any improvement, insulation in attics, walls and crawlspaces can improve any building’s thermal properties. 

Many older buildings are under-insulated by today’s standards, making weatherization even more cost-effective and worthwhile. The committee’s goal is to help provide information and education to residents on how they can weatherize their building to reduce heating costs and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

Electrification of the town vehicle fleet

One of the Williston Energy Plan’s goals is to fuel 96 percent of the town’s heavy-duty vehicles, such as snowplows and other town trucks, with renewable resources. Light-duty vehicles used by the town will need to be transitioned to all-electric cars, including the fleet of police vehicles and other cars used by town employees. Timing will be dependent on the estimated life of the current vehicles and will occur over several years. These changes will enable the town to have a more predictable cost for transportation by becoming independent from fluctuating fuel prices.

Cold-climate heat pumps (ductless heat pumps)

Many homes can be retrofitted to use cold-climate heat pumps with the added benefit of using wood burning pellet stoves as a back-up heat source. These units are quiet and efficient, providing heat in the cold months, and then — get this — they operate in reverse in the summer to provide dehumidification and/or air-conditioning. 

Check out the Efficiency Vermont website for information about instant discounts available to everyone — plus bonuses for income-eligible Vermonters — at https://www.efficiencyvermont.com/products-technologies/heating-cooling-ventilation/heat-pumps.

Electricity generation using renewables

Williston’s goal is to double the amount of renewable energy generation sited in the town. This will be done through the installation of solar arrays on residential and commercial roofs, over parking lots or as free-standing structures. 

Renewable solar and wind energy are among the cheapest sources of energy, and the cost of installation will be covered by the sale of electricity generated in the years to come. The town currently has a solar array that covers a portion of its yearly electricity use, making it a wise investment made back in 2013 that saves money for everyone in Williston. And it will continue to pay us all back long after the initial cost is paid off.

Contact the Williston Energy Committee by email at mscott@willistonvt.org for more information about these ideas, and if you have one yourself, let us know. We are a community-driven committee.