Monday August 23, 2010

WESTMINSTER -- Southeastern Vermont Community Action received $900,000 to provide solar thermal and solar hot water technologies for low-income Vermont families.

And the state as a whole will receive another $700,000 after being recognized for achieving weatherization benchmarks from the U.S. Department of Energy.

SEVCA was one of five agencies in Vermont that shared almost $5 million in Federal money to increase the number of solar installations across the state.

Development Director Lisa Jane Clarke stated in a press release announcing the receipt of the funds that people should not have to be well-off to be able to live a simple, sustainable life in their own home.

"This will have a huge impact upon our organization and the lives of the individuals and families that we serve," she stated. "Not only will this offer opportunities for job creation and training in an emerging green technology, but also options to reduce our clients’ dependency on oil and utility costs overall. Now the people who need the savings the most will have access to this technology."

By making low-income homes more energy efficient, families save an average of $437 on their energy bills, according the U.S. Department of Energy.

The agency’s Weatherization Department provides no-cost weatherization and energy conservation improvements to eligible households.

"When we first got the call, I thought that the figure was for the whole state," stated SEVCA Weatherization Director Harald Schmidtke. "Imagine my shock when I found out that the $900,000 was allocated for our program alone."

Across Vermont, the funds may also be used to promote bulk buying strategies and cooperative partnerships in buying solar technologies in order to lower the costs of materials and to fund marketing approaches to help families save energy and money.

Southwestern Community Services in Keene, N.H., will receive $500,000 for solar photovoltaics, high performance hot water systems, Energy Star qualified clothes washers and qualified insulation upgrades.

The grant to Southwestern Community Services was part of about $2.5 million that was awarded to five organizations in New Hampshire.

Across the country the Department of Energy awarded $90 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the use of a wide range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Vermont received an additional $700,000 after being recognized by the energy department for the number of homes and businesses that have been weatherized with the stimulus money.

In April, May and June an additional 214 homes were weatherized, and since the ARRA weatherization program was started, 3,587 received the energy upgrades, according to Department of Energy data.

In the latest round of funding, Vermont was one of only 16 states that shared in nearly $30 million in Recovery Act funds.

The Vermont Energy Investment Corporation in Burlington was awarded more than $700,000 to work with low income homeowners to see if in-home energy monitoring devices can help slash fuel costs.

VEIC is expected to work with 750 households to install electricity and other energy use monitors.

The group will collect data from the homes to see if the monitors are helping to reduce energy bills.

The project will work with the smart grid technology project that is being employed across the state.

The Vermont project was included as part of a grant that will fund new technologies and techniques.

SEVCA is the non-profit community action program that serves the low-income population of Windham and Windsor counties.

It is the designated Community Action Agency that has been addressing the needs of low-income residents of the two counties since 1965.

Its mission is to enable people to cope with and reduce the hardships of poverty, create sustainable self-sufficiency, and reduce the causes and move toward the elimination of poverty.

SEVCA services help families and individuals to stabilize their lives, make their homes safe and energy-efficient, take steps to become self-reliant, and enable their children to escape the generational cycle of poverty.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.