By Ciara McEneany, Community News Group

 

Photo by Deirdre Holmes, Charlotte Energy Committee member.

With 2020 nearing its end, we look back in remembrance of one of the most challenging years to date. Though, with all these struggles, the Charlotte Energy Committee (CEC) is confident they remained strong in serving the public and making positive strides in terms of weatherization, transportation, education and renewable energy.

“The year opened on a high note having secured overwhelming support from the town for energy upgrades to the Charlotte Town Plan with 82% of the votes cast in November 2019. The Charlotte Energy Committee had worked with the Planning Commission and the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission for a few years to bring the Town Plan into compliance with Act 174,” Rebecca Foster, chair of the Energy Committee, wrote in an email to The Charlotte News.

In terms of weatherization, the CEC took on revisiting what Foster called a successful Food Shelf program from 2015. “[The] CEC purchased weatherization materials for use in Charlotte houses that need buttoning up. CEC is doing outreach to find the houses most in need of assistance and is helping connect them to Efficiency Vermont’s free home energy audits and will work to match the materials where they are needed,” wrote Foster.

She made a point to emphasize how big an impact this will have on the Charlotte community. The committee is still reaching out to find the households that require the most assistance and took on a college intern, University of Vermont senior Teddy Turnau, to help with this project.

“Although due to COVID we had to cancel the Climate Action Film Festival, which was to happen in partnership with SunCommon and the Charlotte Congregational Church, as well as a carbon sequestration home building talk by New Frameworks, we were able to slip in a forest carbon storage talk outside by Chittenden County Forester Ethan Tapper just under the wire on March 14,” Foster wrote.

Considering many events having to be postponed or even cancelled altogether, the CEC was still able to hold seven “Think Resilience” sessions created by the Post Carbon Institute.

“The timely initiative was co-sponsored by the library and Transition Town Charlotte. We also worked with the library to create a Conservation Corner, selecting a variety of resources to purchase, and including an infrared thermal camera and Kill A Watt, which can be checked out for use at home,” Foster stated.

Due to the success of this project, the Charlotte Library was able to gain access to Vermont’s free distribution of firewood moisture meters. Before, the library was not on the list to receive one.

“I called the Vermont Department of Conservation and requested they add Charlotte—and they did! That’s the beauty of a small state, things happen fairly easily,” Foster wrote.

When it comes to transportation, the Charlotte Energy Committee was able to secure its first electric car charging station. “Charlotte received the funds and installed the approximately $18,000 charger in the Town Hall parking lot in early July.” This achievement, Foster said, “is an example of how we seek to leverage opportunities from state programs on behalf of the town—in this case extremely high value.”

One of the biggest tasks for the Charlotte Energy Committee as set forth in the Town Plan is to increase the amount of renewable energy generation in town.

“Charlotte is getting left behind by dozens of towns around the state that have taken advantage of solar technology—reducing both costs and pollution. Time and again, Charlotters have made it clear that they want to see more solar in town, so that’s an area we really have to come together on,” Foster wrote.

Despite all this year has thrown at the CEC, they did not miss a single meeting since having to start meeting remotely in April. Current members include Chair Rebecca Foster, Matt Burke, Jacqui DeMent, Suzy Hodgson, Deirdre Holmes, Doug Paton and two student members Carolina Sicotte and Chloe Silverman.

“As a volunteer group it’s important to me that the people on the committee are pursuing their interests and strengths and are happy and excited to come to meetings. The topic of energy contains multitudes, so there’s something for everyone, and more left over! I would love to develop more capacity in the committee to work in carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, for example. We do have one vacancy on the committee if anyone is interested!” Foster wrote.

Community News Group is made up of journalism students at the University of Vermont. They partner with local newspapers to provide quality local content and give students journalism experience.