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Energy costs put heavier burden on certain Vermont towns, new report shows

A new report shows towns and census blocks that have the highest energy costs relative to household income.

The average Vermonter spends 11% of their household income on energy costs, including heating, driving and just keeping the lights on.

Some of the towns with the highest energy costs relative to income are in rural parts of the state, especially the Northeast Kingdom, according to a new report from Efficiency Vermont. Part of the reason is that people in those areas have to drive farther, and transportation accounts for 45% of Vermonters' energy costs. Other towns with high burdens include Montgomery, Castleton and Dover.

But those households aren't necessarily signing up for solutions such as weatherization, more efficient appliances, heat pumps or electric vehicles, Efficiency Vermont leaders said Monday on Vermont Edition.

"We're not seeing the uptake in communities where we know there are more high-energy-burdened households that we would like to see," said Kelly Lucci, the organization's director of strategy and partnerships.

That means publicizing incentives isn't enough, said Managing Director Peter Walke.

"As we seek to address those climate goals, it's not going to simply about, you know, promoting different technologies or incentives," Walke said. "We really need to do targeted work to help people to understand the value to understand how it would work for them and to help them along with that process."

Homeowners can be overwhelmed knowing where to start to make their homes more efficient. Walke suggested that people sign up for a virtual home energy visit through Efficiency Vermont, which involves connecting with an expert on a video call, then walking around the home and talking about options.

The group is also focused on helping make upgrades in the homes of Vermonters hit by the recent flooding. There is money available now for appliances; Walke said Efficiency Vermont hopes to soon roll out funding tied to weatherization efforts to help pay for electric panel upgrades and heat pump hot water heaters.

Disclosure: Efficiency Vermont is a business sponsor of Vermont Public.

Broadcast at noon Monday, Aug. 28, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Tedra worked on Vermont Edition as a producer and editor from 2022 to 2024.