Eyes On The Prize, Baby!

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Friday January 03, 2014

Five million bucks! Sounds like a lottery prize, doesn’t it? And you know how long the odds are on those. You need incredible luck, one-in-a-million luck (or better) to win that kind of money. But what if I told you that you could win that kind of prize by cutting your energy use, saving lots of money, and protecting the environment to boot. Intrigued? Then read on.

The South Burlington Energy Committee, with the enthusiastic unanimous approval of City Council, is entering the City of South Burlington into a competition called the Georgetown University Energy Prize, or GUEP (not the sexiest of acronyms, but hey, they’re in charge). Towns and cities between 5,000 and 250,000 in population are eligible, and the winner of this 2 year long competition is decided by two factors. First, how much has the community reduced its use of electricity and natural gas in the residential, municipal, and school sectors? And second, how replicable are the programs and projects used to achieve these reductions, so that they can be used in other communities too?

It’s a winner take all competition, with a grand prize of five million dollars! But it is really a win–win competition for every community that competes. Saving money in our schools through energy conservation, energy efficiency, and adopting renewable and climate friendly new technologies will lower our school budgets. Saving money in our municipal buildings and operations through energy conservation, energy efficiency, and adopting renewable and climate friendly technologies will keep your taxes lower. And saving money in your homes through (yes, here we go again) energy conservation, energy efficiency, and adopting renewable and climate friendly technologies will put the savings right into your pocket.

The way this GUEP competition works is as follows: South Burlington sends in its letter of intent (already accomplished) and sends in an application with our intended programs, projects, and strategies in April of 2014. The communities judged to have the best applications submit more detailed plans by June 2014, and are eligible for seed grants of $50,000 to $100,000 (it’s not $5 million, but still a hefty chunk of change). The competition then takes place over a two year period and eventually a winner is announced.

Keith Epstein, one of the leaders of this effort and a member of the Energy Committee, explains that this competition is truly a total community effort. We are already building partnerships with local schools, with utilities such as Green Mountain Power and Vermont Gas, and with energy experts such as Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC). Over the next few months, the Energy Committee wants to engage ALL  members of the South Burlington community in suggesting ideas that will help South Burlington in this competition.

Do you have any ideas for reducing electricity and natural gas use in our homes, schools, and municipal buildings? Have you got some great ways to spend the money from the grants and the grand prize? Would you like to volunteer in some way to help South Burlington compete and win? 

The City has set up a web site for all of your comments: tinyurl.com/sbguep. It is clear and easy to use, and a great way for you to get involved in the fun!Remember, the more of us that get involved, the more money we save, the more we protect the planet, and the better our chances of making the final competition and winning the grand prize.

Think of it – five million dollars (and that’s on top of the thousands and thousands of dollars saved by our schools, our city, and our residents)! Sweet dreams. Eyes on the prize, baby!

SOURCE: Fred Kosnitsky, SB Energy Committee