How Heat Squad Began
In 2007, our home rehab program began incorporating green technologies and started addressing the efficiency of homes. The next year, we were awarded a grant from Vermont Community Development Program, which allowed us to create the “V-Saver” project. V-Saver was a spin-off of our rehab program with a specific mission to improve home energy efficiency, in some cases incorporating the use of renewable technologies. In 2009, the program won Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and Pollution Prevention.
In 2009 we sought funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings grant program and in June our executive director, Ludy Biddle, received a call from Senator Bernie Sanders announcing that NWWVT would receive $4.5 million from The Department of Energy’s Better Buildings program. The goal was to complete 1,000 home energy improvement projects in Rutland County. The prior year, only 588 had been completed throughout the entire state! In an ambitious push to reach our goals, the Shrewsbury Conservation Commission held a phone-a-thon in our office, calling everyone in their town to sign them up for an Energy Audit. As calls came in, we built our program around the needs of our customers and called it the HEAT Squad.
HEAT Squad Goes National
Our success in Vermont has inspired other NeighborWorks Organizations in other regions to envision similar programs in their neck of the woods. NeighborWorks America has awarded HEAT Squad a grant to help us train fellow NeighborWorks Organizations to implement their own HEAT Squads. We are very excited to report that we have begun working with our friends at Fahe, a non-profit NeighborWorks Organization working to achieve affordable housing, community development, and job creation for communities in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Alabama, and Maryland, to bring a pilot HEAT Squad program to Hazard, Kentucky through the Housing Development Alliance. We hope to be up and running in Hazard by January of 2016. The underserved population of Appalachia offers enormous potential for growth in the program and for educating the public about the value of energy efficiency. There are similar projects on the horizon with the goal of developing ten such satellite programs by 2017!
Today and Beyond
As we develop our program, we continue to work with all the major players increasing their efforts to improve efficiency in our state. We sustain a strong relationship with Efficiency Vermont to meet their efficiency goals through their Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. We work closely with the state’s electric utilities that offer a variety of programs in their service areas. We forge relationships with local town energy committees, supporting these dedicated grassroots volunteers in helping their neighbors.
HEAT Squad In the Northeast Kingdom
In 2019, with support from Northern Borders Regional Commission, HEAT Squad launched into Caledonia, Essex and Orleans Counties, hiring a new auditor to cover this large rural territory of over 50 towns.