Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Paytyn Borkowski, center, shows Gov. Peter Shumlin how to operate some of the efficiency items installed in the family’s home on Baxter Street in Rutland. Shumlin was in Rutland on Wednesday to sign a bill providing incentives to make homes more energy efficient.
A new bill will encourage Vermonters to wean themselves off fossils fuels in favor of energy-efficient heat sources.
Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday morning signed a bill into law that provides incentives for homeowners to install electric and geothermal heat pumps. The bill signing took place at the Baxter Street home of Mark and Sara Borkowski, who this spring worked with Efficiency Vermont to insulate their home and install an energy-efficient electric heat pump.
“I’m honored to be here to sign a bill that’s going help us to accomplish our goal of assuring that there are more stories like Sara’s and Mark’s across Vermont,” Shumlin said. “We can’t move fast enough to use energy efficiently.”
Jim Merriam, director of Efficiency Vermont, discussed what the new law will mean for his organization and the homeowners it serves.
“Consistent with the governor’s comprehensive energy plan, we are moving towards an approach that doesn’t just call for reducing the use of certain types of energy,” he said.
“Instead, it calls for Efficiency Vermont to help Vermont families and businesses understand what their best choices are from a cost and carbon perspective, and then act on that information,” Merriam said.
“That might mean that in some cases, we actually encourage the use of more electricity, but less oil or propane,” he said.
Efficiency Vermont is seeing an increased demand for cold-climate, electric-powered heat pumps. In 2013, Vermonters purchased approximately 2,400 electric heat pumps, and Merriam said demand for the technology is up by 70 percent in 2014.
“This is nothing like the electric heat from 10 or 15 years ago. It’s three to four times more efficient,” Merriam said.
The heat pump works like what Merriam called “a refrigerator in reverse,” but it can also be used to cool a home or business.
“Last week, I came home and it was 80 degrees upstairs. I turned on the pump, and within an hour the temperature dropped 10 degrees,” said Mark Borkowski.
He said he hopes the improvements he’s made in his home might motivate others to do the same in his neighborhood, which has been identified by law enforcement as having a high crime rate compared with the rest of the city.
“We’re hoping the neighborhood will fix itself and we’re glad to be the ones to start it,” he said.
Shumlin said in the next 12 to 14 months, as many as 100 homes and businesses will receive heat pumps in Rutland, which he described as “the epicenter of the energy revolution.”
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