Energy Efficiency

DEED grant enables Burlington Electric to expand C&I energy efficiency program

The Burlington Electric Department (BED) in Vermont has used a Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments (DEED) grant from the American Public Power Association to upgrade and expand its engagement with local businesses in reducing their energy consumption.

Burlington Electric, working with Burlington 2030 District, is seeking to reduce building energy consumption in Burlington’s commercial sector through the development and implementation of Property Energy Plans (PEP).

The DEED grant funding supported Burlington Electric’s efforts to increase its outreach to commercial property owners in Burlington regarding the benefits of Property Energy Plans and to follow up with potential participants, as well as develop best practices for commercial property owners to maximize the benefits of receiving a customized PEP. The project allowed Burlington Electric to recruit new commercial property owners to participate in the PEP process and to carry out energy benchmarking trainings, as well as a local business breakfast educational event.

The DEED grant project ran from Jan. 1, 2019 and was completed Jan. 15, 2021. The original DEED grant proposal was budgeted at $64,250. Final funding for the project was $49,400.

In 2014, Burlington Electric played a key role in making the city of Burlington the first city in the country to source 100 percent of its energy from renewable generation. Since then, the utility has committed to making Burlington a net zero energy city by reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel usage across the electric, thermal and ground transportation sectors by electrifying, managing demand, realizing efficiency gains, and expanding local renewable generation.

Commercial and industrial customers are key to Burlington Electric’s emissions reduction strategy. Although C&I customers only account for 18 percent of the utility’s total customers, they are responsible for 75 percent of annual kilowatt hour sales. Burlington Electric provides electric service to 16,876 residential customers and 3,885 C&I customers.

Burlington Electric says engaging commercial property owners with complimentary Property Energy Plans and recruiting them to participate in and commit to the Burlington 2030 District goal of reducing building energy consumption 50 percent by 2030 is a key part of reaching its sustainability goals. Burlington Electric said the DEED grant enabled it to partner with the Burlington 2030 District initiative to help achieve those goals.

The “2030 District” designation is overseen by Architecture 2030. They are private-public partnerships in designated urban areas across North America committed to reducing energy use, water use, and transport emissions. The Burlington 2030 District is one of 23 such designations across the United States and Canada.

Burlington Electric says the Burlington 2030 District provides a platform to connect with the commercial sector. So far, over 9.5 million square feet of building space is participating in the Burlington 2030 District, representing about 20 percent of the city’s total gross square footage.

The DEED grant allowed Burlington Electric and the Burlington 2030 District team to develop, complete and distribute Property Energy Plans, including energy benchmarking reports, for 29 buildings, exceeding the utility’s original goal of developing 25 PEPs and exceeding the utility’s original goal of increasing the number of buildings receiving complimentary energy benchmarking by 300%.

Burlington Electric also reported it was able to hone and develop its PEP tool and template, resulting in a more robust and detailed roadmap for its customers and for Burlington 2030 District members. The utility said it learned via the updated energy benchmark that one of its commercial customers was able to reduce their energy consumption by 16 percent since first joining the 2030 District in 2017.

Burlington Electric has made its updated PEP template available for use by other utilities.

In addition, since the original DEED grant proposal was submitted, Burlington Electric said 21 new commercial property owners have committed to the Burlington 2030 District performance goals, increasing committed property owner membership to 35 from 14, a 150 percent gain.

The DEED grant also enabled Burlington Electric to hold two benchmark training sessions, attended by about 85 people, as well as an education event on the benefits of membership in the Burlington 2030 District program.

While Burlington Electric reported that the DEED grant project was “very successful” and “met or exceeded” its objectives, the utility said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging to recruit new commercial property owners to join the Burlington 2030 District. The pandemic has also made it more difficult to encourage commercial property owners to take action on energy reduction recommendations in their PEPs when they are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19, the utility said.

Overall, the DEED grant enabled the Burlington Electric, in partnership with the Burlington 2030 District initiative, to increase its impact across the city and work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the utility said in its final DEED report.

Looking forward, Burlington Electric said it plans to continue to encourage its C&I customers to engage in PEP follow-up meetings and to find ways to engage larger tenants and multi-unit rental buildings to embrace energy efficiency measures. The utility also said it aims to carry out energy benchmarking across the entire Burlington 2030 District property owner/manager building portfolio.