Chair of Senate Energy endorses governor’s weatherizing spending, but wants more

The chair of the Senate Energy Committee who put forth a weatherization proposal estimated at $1.3 billion says the governor’s plan to invest $25 million is a good start — but not good enough.

“The two years with an extra 20 percent is a good start in the right direction, but it’s still going to leave us with a very long waiting list — so we know we need to do more than that,” Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, told True North this week in an interview.

For Bray, the move towards weatherization means saving Vermonters money on their home heating. It also means a move towards green policies. These include renewable energy and the electrification of activities that would otherwise be powered by fuel or gas.

state of Vermont

State Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison

“We’re electrifying the load, and the attraction there is that you can generate renewable electricity,” he said. “It makes it a genuine story when you say, OK, we’re going to look for opportunities for beneficial electrification — things we were burning fossil fuels for to meet our needs, particularly heating and driving around. Now, if we can use clean renewable energy to do that work for ourselves, how do we get there?”

Public assistance for home heating comes through the state’s Low-Income Weatherization Program, which works with Capstone to help seal up Vermont homes. Capstone, which is led by Executive Director Sue Minter, is focused on “advancing justice in social, economic and environmental policy,” according to its website.

Gov. Phil Scott’s plan is aimed at boosting weatherization for homes of low-income Vermonters, especially households that deal with heating bills as a large percentage of their overall budget. About $16 million of the $25 million allotted in the governor’s plan will go to the the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) for supporting home owners and renters with high energy burdens. Scott also claims the investment can be leveraged into an additional $68 million through other projects.

The existing weatherization program operates in the range of about $11 million per year. Bray said middle-income earners can’t get state assistance and lack the income necessary to do it themselves. The senator’s plan aims to weatherize 120,000 homes in the next 10 years at a cost of $1.3 billion in taxpayer funds.

Bray told True North the money would come from multiple sources. He also notes the anticipated savings in energy costs should be accounted for — namely, he argues, lower heating bills for homeowners will help the program pay for itself in time. Capstone calculated that Vermonters who use their program save more than 30 percent in heating costs.

According to Bray, Vermonters who invest their own time and money in weatherization account for several million dollars each years. When combined with state-based weatherization programs, annual weatherization spending is currently more than $18 million.

“The goal is to drive that in the neighborhood of $100 million a year,” Bray said, adding that he thinks his program will also lead to job creation.

“Some carpenters are doing it, but it’s mostly people who are like specialists or builders and have to have training for it. It’s things like careful weather stripping and feeling for and removing drafts,” he said. “Insulating also is another low-hanging fruit of the program,” he said.

Rep. Richard Westman, R-Cambridge, vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, told True North that when it comes to any weatherization efforts, the type of work that is performed should be guided by the homeowner.

“I don’t think it’s an issue of us telling those people that are in those situations what’s best for them,” he said. “I think it’s way better to work with them and figure out what best fits a family’s needs, and help them become more efficient and put them in a better place economically.

“I think that will serve us all better and them better for the long term to help get them to where they are economically in a better place.”

Westman said he could not comment specifically on the cost of Bray’s proposals because it is only an estimate at this early stage.

He added that when it comes to helping families, lawmakers need to keep a broad view of solutions.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Public domain and State of Vermont

5 thoughts on “Chair of Senate Energy endorses governor’s weatherizing spending, but wants more

  1. Sen Bray tells us that a larger and more costly weatherization program will be paid for from ” lower heating bills for homeowners will help the program pay for itself in time.”

    Does Sen Bray know that the cost of a barrel of oil has gone up about 8% since President Biden took office three weeks ago when he began implementing his energy policies?

    Does Sen. Bray have any idea of what this does to the cost of heating oil in Vermont? Does Sen Bray have any idea of the impact Biden’s energy policies on low income Vermonters…..Or all Vermonters who have to heat their homes or drive to work? Has he given this matter any thought? Does he even care?

    The situation in the oil markets markets is only going to get worse as Biden’s energy polices take hold across the country……..The price of oil and gas to heat homes is going up and the burden of Biden’s polices will fall on those in society least able to cope……..Meanwhile, Biden’s Climate Czar John Kerry tells us, if the United States totally eliminates greenhouse gases, it will have no impact on climate change.

    So Sen Bray, where are the savings for homeowners going to come from when the price of oil is skyrocketing under Biden’s energy polices? How are Vermonters going to pay for reckless energy policies that do nothing to mitigate climate change according to Climate Czar John Kerry?

    Finally….. How are all of those hundreds of acres of Vermont solar panels doing while covered with snow these days? Are the developers still selling whatever industrial solar power is generated to Green Mountain Power and in turn to Vermonters at two to five times the price of hydro-power?…..How’s that working out for the Vermont homeowners and business?

  2. We have had an active weatherization program, weatherizing low income people homes and older homes for nearly 40 years now. Just how many more old homes do we have left to weatherize in this state?. After 40 years you think we would have made sizable dent. Maybe our state auditor should audit this program since it’s inception to see if the money is being properly spent on actual weatherization.

  3. How about we just have a 100% tax credit for weatherization. That way people could afford to pull walls apart to install insulation.

    • Great idea Ed. The Weatherization program is good but they don’t insulate the walls, which needs to be done. They use blown-in insulation only…

      • If there is a 50 year old insulation in the walls. you cannot blow in more. You need to take the wallboard off and add new insulation or replace it all together. — the cost and disruptions to homes people live in is too steep for more, and of course Efficiency Vt wants you to use their over priced contractors, and they don’t cover the cost of replacing the interior to do it right.

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