Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

ZERO ENERGY NOW Comes to Vermont

By Allan Bullis

We at BPPA-VT (Building Performance Professional Association of VT) along with our sponsor GMP (Green Mountain Power) are very pleased to share with you the establishment of a pilot project called ZEN! (Zero Energy Now). In 2011, the State set a goal of reducing fossil fuel use by 90% by 2050, but the current trajectory does not come close to meeting that goal. ZEN! has the potential to help achieve that goal by providing a comprehensive approach to addressing energy use in buildings. We would all love to make all buildings operate carbon-free now, but it will be a transition to get there. ZEN! does not achieve carbon neutrality but is an aggressive move towards this goal.

Currently energy upgrades tend to take a piecemeal approach and are falling short of meeting the States goals. As a way to address the shortcomings, BPPA came up with ZEN!. We chose a holistic approach that is financially attractive. ZEN! will make it attractive for the building owners by providing financing options and an energy savings guarantee. It provides flexible means to help buildings cut their energy use and carbon footprint by meeting the ZEN! requirements. Minimum ZEN! requirements are:

  1. Reduce the heat loss of the building by 10% through weatherization;
  2. Provide 50% reduction of combined electrical and fossil fuel use;
  3. Ensure that 50% of energy is from renewable sources. (Currently 45% of VTs electricity is renewable). The beauty of ZEN! is that there are multiple options that can be tailored to best suit the needs and desires of the homeowner.

There are a number of ways to achieve the goal of 50% energy reduction and 50% from renewables. Typical measures include but are not limited to:

  1. Solar panels (community solar counts)
  2. Solar hot water
  3. Heat pumps
  4. Geothermal
  5. Biomass (wood/pellet) heating
  6. Heat pump water heaters
  7. Heating system replacement, and
  8. More aggressive weatherization.

Another aspect of the program is to provide “concierge service” to pull together all the different aspects of the energy upgrades to make it easy for building owners to complete a comprehensive energy upgrade. Part of the ZEN! funding has paid to develop energy modeling software for the energy auditor to use to input different upgrade options in order to offer the owner various options. We will also offer a DOE energy score card that Efficiency Vermont is piloting which will highlight the low energy usage and add value to the building making it more attractive to potential buyers.

One critical component to successful energy projects is obtaining financing. To address that, we have done a few things. First is to make the projects ‘cash-flow-positive– meaning that energy savings will more than offset the loan payments. Given the current low fuel prices, this will not always be possible but easily achievable at 2014 price levels. Second is to help present various options for low interest financing. Third is that ZEN! participants will receive up to $5000 in additional rebates on top of existing rebates and tax incentives. It is important to acknowledge that anyone may participate but only former CVPS customers are eligible for the additional rebate. Finally ZEN! provides an energy savings guarantee so if projected savings are not met, ZEN! will pay the difference. Go to or call 802-477-5249 to learn more about this wonderful program.

HISTORY of ZEN!: When GMP proposed acquiring CVPS, the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) agreed with the stipulation that $21,000,000 be spent on clean energy measures. To comply, GMP established CEED (Community Energy & Efficiency Development) which is the program to vet projects and disseminate those funds. See more at: ( Projects are being awarded on an annual basis starting in 2013 with 2017 being the final year. Each year organizations have been invited to present ideas for saving energy and those with a high net societal benefit were approved by GMP and then forwarded to the PSB for final approval. Multiple projects have been funded each year. In 2016 ZEN! received $700,000 in funds for their initiative. The CEED projects are only available for former CVPS customers, but the goal is to replicate CEED projects statewide and we hope that ZEN! will set the course for Vermonts energy future!

Allan Bullis CEM, LEED AP is an electrical engineer turned energy auditor. He has a passion for saving energy and has been an energy auditor since 1990 and founder of Energy Alternatives and Common Sense Energy.

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