By Jenevra Wetmore
Geoff Martin, our Intermunicipal Regional Energy Coordinator (IREC) since the summer of 2020, has recently left this role for a new job with Norwich Solar. Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC) has already begun the challenging task of hiring to fill Geoff’s shoes. As the IREC position transitions, we would like to thank Geoff for his work in Woodstock, and to highlight some of his many accomplishments.
The IREC position is run through TRORC and serves seven towns. In 2022 those towns were Barnard, Sharon, Strafford, Thetford, Woodstock, Norwich and Bradford. Each town has a member on the steering committee, which guides the IREC’s focus. The work of the IREC is to lessen overall energy use, lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and move to renewable generation of electricity, all while seeking long term cost savings. Woodstock joined the IREC program in 2020, the program’s first year, and thanks to the ongoing support of Woodstock residents and the Selectboard, continued its participation in 2021 and 2022. We hope that the town will continue this support in 2023.
In 2020 Woodstock passed a Climate Emergency and Action Resolution, with a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. This declaration meant that we as a town were taking this issue seriously and willing to put time, money and energy into solving it; that is the heart of much of the IREC work. As IREC, Geoff completed a municipal GHG emission inventory to understand where the town’s emissions were coming from and track progress towards the town’s net-zero by 2030 goal. Geoff and TRORC also began work to lower GHG emissions in our municipal buildings, developing a proposal to reduce emissions by 12.5% annually by installing new technologies such as heat pumps in municipal buildings and weatherizing. The voters approved the financing for these projects at Town Meeting this past March, and the Select Board will be reviewing the final work scope and pricing proposal at the December 20 meeting. If the proposal is successful, the majority of town buildings would no longer use fossil fuel as a primary heat source.
Geoff also collaborated with Fire Chief David Green, Efficiency Vermont, and Sustainable Woodstock on the renovations occurring at the Public Safety Facility. The recent work done there is minimizing fossil fuel use at the building through the use of innovative heat pump and thermal storage technology. Efficiency Vermont and Green Mountain Power provided an incentive of over $50,000 to help cover the costs of the energy-efficient, fossil fuel-free equipment. As a result, the town is avoiding over 80% of the emissions that the propane system in the original renovation design would have produced.
In addition to lowering buildings emissions, The IREC position has also taken action to reduce transportation emissions, which is a high priority in Vermont and the biggest generator of carbon emissions. Geoff facilitated a successful $1.6 million application to the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program with Butler Bus Service and the Windsor Central Supervisory Union. As a result, two all-electric school buses, paid for entirely by the grant, will soon be transporting Woodstock High School students to and from school. The grant will also cover almost all of the cost for new charging infrastructure at the high school to support both the new buses as well as to provide charging for the public.
Lastly, the IREC position has advocated for solar. In collaboration with Sustainable Woodstock, the IREC position worked with Norwich Technologies to secure additional solar net-metering credits to supply the Town of Woodstock, which has an annual savings of around $4,800. This agreement lowers the town’s utility costs, which could support future investments to lower emissions, and supports solar generation in Vermont. Before leaving his role, Geoff and Sustainable Woodstock also began working on siting new community solar arrays in town. This work will continue with the new IREC, provided Woodstock approves funding for the position in 2023.
Woodstock voters have shown again and again that climate action is a priority to our town. The 2020 Woodstock Climate Emergency and Action Resolution is proof of this, as is the recent vote this past March to reduce GHG emissions in our municipal buildings by 12.5% annually through weatherizing and installing new technologies such as heat pumps. With your support, we hope to continue this important climate work with the invaluable help of the IREC position.
Bluebird Vision 2020 Electric Bus. This untouched photo is used under the Creative Commons License 4.0. UniversityRailroad, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0