Proposed Energy Efficiency Charter Change
On March 5th, 2019 Montpelier voters will be asked to vote on a proposed charter change:
ARTICLE 14. Shall the city amend Section 301 of the City Charter to include:
“(D) Enact ordinances enforcing minimum energy efficiency standards and disclosure requirements for existing and new commercial and residential properties that are generally consistent with State, Federal, and other energy efficiency standards and reporting systems”?
The purpose of this proposed change is to give the City the ability to enact ordinances related to energy efficiency in buildings. As with all charter changes, if Montpelier voters approve Article 14, the changes then go to the legislature for approval. At that point, City Council can take up proposed ordinances for consideration.
Why is it important to allow the City the ability to regulate energy efficiency? Montpelier has adopted a city-wide goal of Net Zero by 2050 (basically all energy for heating, electricity and transportation would be from renewable sources). To achieve this bold goal, we need to work towards transitioning off fossil fuel. Currently almost all Montpelier buildings are heated with fossil fuel (propane or #2 oil). The first step in getting off fossil fuel is to weatherize existing buildings to reduce the amount of heating required, then look at alternative renewable heating options (electricity, pellets, cordwood and biofuels are the most common options).
There are a variety of ways that other cities are approaching regulation of energy efficiency in buildings that Montpelier might consider. One is a home energy score, similar to what is currently used in Portland, OR (more info at: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/71421). At time of sale, sellers are required to have a professional assign an energy score to their building through a basic low cost assessment. This informs potential buyers about the energy use of a building to inform their decision, and is basically a form of consumer protection. Data shows that access to an energy profile substantially increases the likelihood that a person will invest in energy improvements to their home.
Another approach in use in Burlington requires the sellers of multifamily buildings to ensure the building meets current energy code at time of sale (more info at: https://www.burlingtonelectric.com/index.php/time-sale-energy-efficiency-ordinance). This is a strategy to help improve energy efficiency of rental units over time. Montpelier’s housing is currently 40% rentals, and includes many older buildings that have not been weatherized. Renters typically don't have the option to make substantial energy efficiency choices in their own homes, and end up paying the most for energy. There are many Montpelier landlords who want to “do the right thing” and have already worked to improve efficiency in their rental units. But as a city we cannot legitimately have a goal to reach energy independence if we leave renters out of the equation.
All of these potential strategies will require more discussion and planning for implementation, but the Article 14 charter change is the first step in starting the conversation.