The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sanders, Weinberger Highlight First Use of Innovative Energy Efficiency Program


U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today recognized the first business to participate in an innovative financing program that helps pay for energy efficiency improvements.

Authorized by a Sanders provision in a 2011 appropriations bill, a $1 million grant to the Burlington Electric Department helped launch the on-bill financing program, which helps businesses pay for energy efficient technologies with the savings from reduced utility bills. Burlington Electric matched the $1 million federal grant with another $1 million - providing further incentives to lower the cost of efficiency projects.

"This program may well become a national model for how we overcome hurdles to energy efficiency investments," Sanders said. "It will help us reduce energy costs to make our businesses more competitive, support jobs as we retrofit our buildings, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Sanders was joined at Waggy's Store and Deli in Burlington's Old North End this morning by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Chris Burns, Burlington Electric Department's director of energy services, and Melissa Short, who owns the market with her brother Scott Wagner. The deli is the first business to participate in the pilot program that lets customers take advantage of savings on their monthly utility bills to pay for energy-saving improvements.

The loan fund is expected to serve up to 150 businesses within its first three years. "What this means is if you are a small business owner, at no upfront cost, you'll be able to work with Burlington Electric to make energy upgrades that will save up to 35 percent on your energy consumption," Sanders said.

The improvements at Waggy's will include efficiency upgrades to the refrigeration and LED lighting. With the projected energy savings, the project will be paid for in 38 months and will produce monthly positive cash-flow for the owner. After the loan is paid in full, the owner will continue to see about $2,500 annually in electric savings.

"Each loan under the program will be structured so that the customer sees monthly energy savings greater than the monthly loan repayment," Sanders said.

Weinberger said, "We work hard to keep power cost low, improve energy efficiency, and make Burlington an even greener city. BED's energy efficiency programs, started in 1990, have enhanced both our environment and our economy. It is important to continue looking for better ways to deliver these programs. We would like to thank Senator Sanders for his leadership that helped bring this program to Burlington."

Currently, just 40 percent of Burlington businesses that undertake an energy audit move forward with energy efficiency investments. "The simplicity of this innovative financing program will help more businesses actually follow through," Sanders said.

As businesses pay back their loans, more businesses will be able to participate. "Over time, we hope to expand this opportunity and make this program available for homeowners and schools as well," Sanders said.

United States Senator for Vermont

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