By Geoff Martin
Woodstock sees considerable long-term savings on electricity by purchasing solar credits from power generated by an array built by Norwich Solar Technologies on the RSD Transportation warehouse facility rooftop in White River Junction, Vermont. The 25-year solar agreement also increases the Town’s sourcing of renewable energy and lowers its carbon footprint.
In July, Woodstock joined the Towns of Barnard, Fairlee, Sharon, Strafford, and Thetford to form the first Intermunicipal Regional Energy Coordinator (IREC) position in the state. The position was approved as a special article by Woodstock voters in March, 2020. It is hosted by the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission (TRORC), and a Steering Committee, comprised of members appointed by each participating town, to guide the IREC’s work. The purpose of the position is to work with the six towns to lessen overall energy use, lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and move to renewable generation of electricity in order to further state, regional, and local energy goals.
These broader, programmatic goals apply to Woodstock specifically in several ways. First, Woodstock has achieved a determination of energy compliance under Act 174, meaning it has met energy planning standards established by the state. Woodstock’s enhanced energy plan provides a framework for meeting state and town-specific energy goals, including numerous action items for the town to pursue. Implementing this plan is a critical responsibility of the IREC. Additionally, the Town signed on to the Ready for 100 campaign in 2017, committing Woodstock to using 100% renewable energy by 2035. And most recently, Woodstock passed a Climate Emergency and Action Resolution. Almost 150 residents petitioned the Selectboard and Village Trustees to adopt this resolution, which both bodies passed in February, 2020. In addition to declaring a climate emergency, the resolution commits Woodstock to, among other things, achieving net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, ensuring a transition process that is fair and just, and creating a ten-year Energy and Climate Plan that encompasses the commitments of the resolution. Working with Woodstock’s staff, elected officials, organizations like Sustainable Woodstock, and others to achieve these bold commitments is a key objective of the IREC program.
Since the IREC position began in mid-August, TRORC has gathered data to establish a baseline of Woodstock’s energy consumption. After factoring in the roughly $14,000 in savings from the Town’s solar net-metering agreement, in FY 20 the Town spent close to $170,000 on electricity and heating fuel, and close to $54,000 on fuel for the vehicle fleet—for a combined total energy bill of nearly $250,000. This baseline information allows us to better understanding where Woodstock is using the most energy and how best to target energy efficiency improvements and achieve related cost savings.
In addition to establishing a baseline of energy use and costs for the Town, TRORC is conducting GHG emissions inventories: first for Town operations, and then for the community at-large. These inventories will guide decisions related to meeting the net-zero by 2030 target established in the Climate Emergency and Action Resolution.
In November, Woodstock joined three other towns in the IREC program in issuing a Request for Qualifications for an Energy Services Company (ESCO). The ESCO will complete no-cost energy audits on town buildings and make recommendations for improvements, which the Selectboard will then decide whether or not to pursue. The ESCO guarantees the cost savings that result from the improvements that they proceed with. The multi-town Selection Committee chose EEI, an ESCO based in Merrimack, NH, for the job. EEI has committed to proposing solutions that not only lower energy use and costs, but also make a significant impact on reducing GHG emissions from Woodstock’s municipal buildings.
Woodstock’s vehicle fleet contributes substantially to its GHG emissions, and much more work is needed to clean up this sector. Getting new systems and policies in place to guide the transition to a cleaner, more efficient vehicle fleet is a top priority. I am working with Town staff to implement a no-cost program to better track fuel consumption and costs for the vehicle fleet. Data from this program will help drive decisions related to fleet optimization and electrification.
Additionally, ensuring the Town is using as much local, renewable, and carbon-free electricity as possible will advance Woodstock towards its climate and energy goals. Working with Sustainable Woodstock, we determined that Woodstock has opportunity to use more solar net-metering credits to offset its electricity use, and will be discussing that opportunity at the Selectboard meeting on April 20, 2021.
Woodstock has been working for years to lower its energy use and emissions. The IREC program seeks to be collaborative, providing staff support to ongoing municipal initiatives while also developing and implementing new ones. And while it is critical that the municipality leads by example, municipal operations make up a small fraction of Woodstock’s total energy use and GHG emissions. The entire Woodstock community needs to take significant action in order to meet the Town’s aggressive, science-based target. The ten-year Energy and Climate Plan called for in the Climate Emergency and Action Resolution will need to determine the appropriate policies, programs, and incentives to make this action possible.
I look forward to continuing to work with the Town, Village, Sustainable Woodstock, and residents and businesses to make informed decisions that further Woodstock’s climate and energy objectives. In many cases, these decisions not only lower energy use and emissions, but also save money. Through collaboration and leadership, Woodstock can achieve meaningful progress towards these ends. Geoff Martin, Intermunicipal Regional Energy Coordinator, TRORC