Big Waves From a Small Capital

With a population of just under 8,000 people, Montpelier, Vermont is the smallest state capital in the United States. It's a small town with big-city amenities - a lively arts and music scene, great restaurants, excellent schools, and an active community life. The city’s approach to energy and sustainability is no different.

The community in Montpelier recently came together during Town Meeting Day to weigh in on local matters, one of which included a measure aimed at improving energy efficiency in the city. This is the Energy Efficiency Charter Change. The city council approved this measure and, on Town Meeting Day, the community also voted in favor of it. Then, the charter change went to the Vermont legislature for approval by both legislative chambers. Yes, this is a lengthy process with various stepping stones. On May 30, Governor Scott signed this charter change into law, helping this small town make some big waves.

What does the energy efficiency charter change mean for Montpelier?

Montpelier plans to be a zero carbon city by 2050, while producing or offsetting all of its energy needs from renewable energy sources by 2030. To reach this ambitious goal, the city must decarbonize its buildings. One of the strategies outlined to achieve this goal is achieving deep energy efficiency retrofits to public and private buildings. The charter change will help Montpelier do this.

The purpose of this law is to “promote and safeguard the public health, safety, comfort, or general welfare [through] [r]egulation and enforcement of energy efficiency disclosure requirements for existing and new commercial and residential properties at the time a property is listed for sale.” Working to support home buyers and sellers to address energy efficiency in existing buildings, the charter change allows Montpelier to enact a time-of-listing energy disclosure ordinance. This would require property owners to disclose energy efficiency of their building or home when they’re up for sale.

This charter change will help Montpelier reduce its dependence on fossil fuels by driving investment in energy improvements, while simultaneously protecting consumers by providing vital home energy information to potential home buyers that will impact the cost of living. This provides a significant opportunity to improve the health, comfort, and resiliency of Montpelier as a whole.

With this charter change and ensuing ordinance, Montpelier will pave the way for other communities in Vermont to take similar steps in making energy visible in the market place. Next steps include a robust and inclusive stakeholder vetting process this summer and fall to inform the ordinance language, with the intention to enact the ordinance in the summer and fall of next year. HELIX will serve as the database structure for implementing the time-of-listing energy disclosure ordinance in Montpelier. As a flexible policy management tool, HELIX can help cities reach their residential energy efficiency and climate goals.

Benefits of home energy labeling
Cost savings Transparency for homeowners on ways to reduce cost through EE home improvements, as well as information on cost for home buyers about estimated cost of energy in a home to make better informed decisions.
Market transformation Reliable and transparent energy information from energy labels may allow real estate markets to better account for the value of EE in a home. This, in turn, is expected to encourage investments in efficiency improvements and drive long-term market transformation.
Reduced greenhouse gas emissions Home energy labeling drives demand for EE and RE projects. This will result in reduced reliance on fossil fuel resources, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particulate matter emissions, and other air pollutants.
Workforce development Increased demand for local home energy assessments and local contractors for home energy retrofits.
Source: EMPRESS  


As other cities follow suit, NEEP has several resources, such as CAPEE, to help communities set and achieve their energy and carbon reduction goals. And, through funding from foundations and the U.S.  Department of Energy, we are able to provide direct technical assistance to states and communities on areas such as benchmarking and residential labeling programs, school constructions (new or retrofit) operations and maintenance, zero energy, and energy codes.

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