In 2019, it should go without saying that of all the issues our modern world faces, it is climate change that poses the greatest threat to our way of life, and frankly our existence, here in Vermont and in every corner of our planet. The source of this problem is the excessive burning of fossil fuels, and it is time to admit that we are not doing nearly enough to curb our dependence on these dirty energy sources. That’s why, if our local and federal legislators continue to stall climate action, it is up to small, forward-thinking, and ambitious communities like ours here in Montpelier to take the lead.
That’s why, as the Mayor of this city, I have put forward a proposal to change our city’s charter, giving the City Council the power to address energy efficiency citywide. I see this as a crucial step toward reaching our energy goal of 100 percent renewable by 2030, and a necessary measure to reduce Montpelier’s carbon emissions.
But it’s not just an environmental issue – this is about consumer protection, too. If passed, the City Council would likely move to require home energy disclosure at the time of sale of a home or building. In an extremely tight rental market, like Montpelier's, some renters may be hesitant to add ask questions that will lengthen the process or require more work for the landlord, but home buyers and renters have a right to know about the energy profile of whatever places they may rent or own.
You wouldn't buy a car without knowing the gas mileage, why would you buy a home without knowing its energy profile?
As for renters, who make up 40 percent of Montpelier’s housing market, they often don’t have the agency to make substantial energy efficiency choices in their own homes. As a result, the most vulnerable in our community end up paying the most for energy. That’s why, if the charter change is passed, the City Council would likely increase energy efficiency standards for multifamily homes.
Montpelier has a lot of landlords who are good actors, trying to do the right thing, but for some landlords, there are no amount of incentives that will ever be enough to get them to make energy efficiency improvements. It's just not on their radars.
We're anticipating that we'll need to build-in some mechanisms to keep landlords from increasing rents. That could either be through policy or through incentive programs.
When it comes down to it, I proposed the energy efficiency charter change because I think it will make our city more equipped to face the threat of climate change going forward, and because it can actually make a difference. Montpelier has the chance to be a leader on energy – it’s not the time to sit back and lament the changing times, but to embrace them and know that our resilient community has the tools to be move boldly into an energy efficient future.
Once the charter change is passed, the details of the policies that could come out of it will be more thoroughly discussed, but for now it’s up to voters to choose to have those crucial conversations. I hope you’ll join me in voting yes on the energy efficiency charter change, Article 14.
Anne Watson is the mayor of the City of Montpelier.