Vermont Expands Efficiency Program to Include Geothermal Heat Pumps

Governor Peter Shumlin

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin is flanked by NEGPA President Martin Orio (left) and NEGPA Vermont representative and Board Member Jim Ashley (right) after he signed the state’s pro-geo energy efficiency incentive bill, S.202.

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed S.202, a bill which enables Vermont to encourage the installation of high efficiency geothermal heat pumps. The governor said, “While we’ve accomplished a lot, we still have a long way to go on helping Vermonters reduce their heating costs, which is why we are here today.” The bill signing took place at a Rutland, VT home which serves as a is a model in energy efficiency with its solar panels; weatherization and energy tracking technology; and two air-source heat pumps to supplement the house’s heating system.

State Public Service Commissioner Christopher Recchia said that with advances in technology, Vermonters now have new clean heating options, including geothermal/ ground source heat pumps. He said the new law will allow the state to offer monetary incentives for heat pumps the way it now does for efficient light bulbs or appliances. Efficiency Vermont Director Jim Merriam said, “Efficiency Vermont is always looking for new ways to help Vermont families and businesses reduce their energy costs.”

Efficiency Vermont had requested the legislation. The organization implements energy efficiency policy for the state, using money collected through the energy efficiency charge—a fee added to utility customer bills—to provide support for projects. The organization ended 2013 with a $4 million budget surplus (~12% of its budget) and is seeking approval to carry over that amount. The new law allows Efficiency Vermont to use those funds to subsidize installations of efficient heat pump technologies (including both geothermal and air source).

New England Geothermal Professionals (NEGPA) President Martin Orio (Water Energy Distributors) and Vermont NEGPA Representative Jim Ashley (Green Mountain Geothermal, LLC) attended the bill signing. They were instrumental in encouraging the legislature to include geothermal heat pumps in the bill. Gov. Shumlin said he was happy that Orio and Ashley could attend the event.

Ashley explains that based on current scheduling, Efficiency Vermont will probably not actively work on the nature and size of the geothermal incentives until early fall. He expects that a stakeholder group will be formed to work with Efficiency Vermont on these incentives. The legislation mandates that the incentives be tied to a number of goals, including heating load reductions in existing buildings through weatherization.

NEGPA has also been active in Vermont through participation in the annual Better Building by Design conference last February and through utility geothermal brown bag training sessions with Efficiency Vermont, Burlington Electric, and Vermont Electric Cooperative. NEGPA expects to participate in the Renewable Energy of Vermont annual conference this fall.