Connecting & Activating Vermont Communities

6th Annual VECAN Conference 2013

Strengthening Connections to Advance Solutions


Growing a Grassroots Climate Movement in Vermont and Worldwide — The Urgency and the Opportunity

May Boeve is the Executive Director of, an organization that is working to build a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. May works primarily on international
partnerships and political strategy as well as helping to cultivate and grow a diverse, deep and locally led climate movement. May has a strong connection to Vermont. As a Middlebury College student, May was an active member of The Sunday Night group. The effort produced many motivated student leaders who helped organize a five-day walk across Vermont for climate action, the Step It Up campaigns and, later, co-founded May will speak to the importance and urgency of building a diverse and growing climate movement — in Vermont and around the world — to tackle the climate challenge we face.

“May Boeve is the quintessential example of how hard work and perseverance can
make a big dent in the world. When she helped found she was but a Vermont
college student; now she runs the biggest global climate campaign on earth. She’s a
symbol of how our hard work can, together, amount to enough!”

— Bill McKibben, Author, Activist and Co-Founder


Will Allen is a farmer, teacher, lifelong activist, author and leading authority on climate change related to agriculture. Will’s expertise includes the role that industrial (non-organic) food and farming practices play in global warming and the steps for creating a green economy based on fixing industrialfood and farming practices. He is the founder of the Sustainable Cotton Project, a co-chair of Farms Not Arms,a policy advisory board member of the Organic ConsumersAssociation and a Rural Vermont board member.

*(Credit: Bob Farnham)

Chris Miller currently serves as the Social Mission Activism Manager at Ben & Jerry’s, where he develops consumer facing activism campaigns that support the company’s progressive mission and values. Before joining Ben & Jerry’s, Chris led the sustainability work at Seventh Generation. In addition to his for-profit experience, Chris directed Greenpeace USA’s national climate campaign and served on the staff of then Congressman Bernie Sanders. He currently serves as the Board Chair of Car Share Vermont and is on the board of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.

*(Credit: Bob Farnham)

Rev. Susanna Griefen is the pastor of the Dummerston Congregational Church, a Green Justice Congregation of the United Church of Christ, and helped form the Vermont United Church of Christ Environmental Ministries Committee. In her 32 years of engagement, she has helped organize many local and regional climate related events and has served on the Board of Vermont Interfaith Power and Light. She regularly collaborates with the Dummerston Energy Committee, Transition Town Group, and the Conservation Commission. Her church has led a Lenten Carbon Fast, super-insulated the sanctuary and organized tree planting in Kenya and Dummerston.

*(Credit: Bob Farnham)

Margaret Gish is a senior at The Sharon Academy. In 2010, Margaret was selected to join Inconvenient Youth, a project of Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. She is involved in the Whole School Energy Challenge, with the goal of reducing the school’s energy use and associated costs by 10%, and this year, her senior exhibition project will focus on the effects of climate change on Vermont’s biodiversity.

Sadly, due to a battery issue we were unable to film Margaret’s wonderful presentation. You can read her speech here.


Building Partnerships at the Local Level:Furthering Dialogue and Action

Youth — The next generation of Vermonters has a lot at stake in the climate equation. Find out what’s happening in schools across Vermont and explore how you or your energy committee might work more closely with younger Vermonters.

Faith-Based — Working more closely with congregations and spiritual leaders could be a potentially powerful partnership. Where might there be opportunities to collaborate better with faith-based organizations and leaders?

Business — Forward-looking businesses will be key to transforming the energy landscape and addressing climate change. Brainstorm how to strengthen business and grassroots energy action.

Farming and Agriculture — Farmers are experiencing first-hand the impacts of a warming world. Their important role in Vermont and their on-the-ground experience make their partnership in a clean energy transition essential. How can we work better together?

Income Limited — The cost of transitioning away from energy that is artificially cheap and carbon-intensive will be high. Working closely with organizations and people who care a lot about energy and climate challenges but have little or no money to spare is key. Explore how we can make this a just transition. Find conference notes here.

Climate Action/Climate Justice — Our shared societal appetite for polluting energy sources has put our climate in crisis. This roundtable will focus on action, exploring strategies from fossil fuel divestment to stopping tar sands, as well as other creative strategies and key considerations to tackle climate change.

Political — Bold policy-making in state government and at all levels is essential. Come chat with some Vermont policymakers and clean energy advocates about what is required to make the case for — and make it possible to — meet state energy goals.

Media — Energy issues are complicated, and the general public’s energy literacy is limited. Making energy understandable by telling powerful stories and framing the issues is essential. Explore strategies, practices and platforms for building a more informed public through traditional and social media.

Workshops A

A1 Community Solar Success Stories and Strategies:The Local-Led Perspective
Across Vermont, there’s increasing interest in solar energy. Every day, more and more Vermonters and Vermont communities, often motivated and assisted by town energy committees, are installing solar energy systems. At this workshop, learn about three different, locally led community solar success stories. Workshop leaders will describe the projects, outline keys to their success and suggest ways you can take similar steps to bring more solar online in Vermont.

Duncan McDougall, Waterbury Local Energy Action Partnership (LEAP)
Linda Gray, Norwich Energy Committee
Nick Ziter, SunFarm Community Solar

A2 Community Efforts to Promote Thermal Efficiency: Lessons Learned from the Field
Efficiency Vermont, in partnership with VECAN, has sponsored the yearlong Vermont Home Energy Challenge – a community-based effort designed to promote thermal efficiency improvements in Vermont residences. With the Challenge nearing completion, this workshop will focus on results to date, what worked and what didn’t and will highlight a few Vermont communities that really stepped up to the plate. We will also leave time to brainstorm and discuss how Efficiency Vermont and VECAN can continue to support community-based efforts in this area.

Bob Walker, Sustainable Energy Resource Group
Fran Putnam, Weybridge Energy Committee, Weybridge Timeline Handout, Weybridge Keys to Success
Paul Markowitz, Efficiency Vermont

A3 Charging Ahead: Bringing Electric Cars and Charging Stations to Your Community
A new generation of electric and plug-in hybrid cars is moving us away from fossil-fueled transportation. When combined with solar-powered charging stations, these vehicles can operate on 100% renewable energy and can help Vermont achieve its energy and climate goals. This workshop will explain the basics of electric cars and charging stations, and how you can encourage this technology in your community.

Rebecca Towne, Green Mountain Power
David Roberts, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation

A4 The Legislative Landscape for 2014
This workshop will provide an overview of likely legislative initiatives in the 2014 session, including potential fixes to Vermont’s successful renewable netmetering program and what — if any — investments on heating efficiency are possible. The workshop will also examine how Vermont might fill the Clean Energy Development Fund, among other hot topics.

Representative Tony Klein
Representative Rebecca Ellis

A5 Planning for and Building Resilient Communities
How can communities withstand, respond and adapt to energy and climate challenges? Learn ways to assess your community’s resilience to the growing threat of disruption using a new Resilient Communities Scorecard. Hear how a Selectboard/Transition Town leader helped move a town hazard mitigation plan forward and how he helped his municipality set an energy reduction goal. Presenters will discuss how to build collaboration with community partners and access and increase skill-building for resiliency.

Kate McCarthy, Vermont Natural Resources Council
Simon Dennis, Hartford Selectboard and Transition Town Trainer

A6 Communicating Effectively: How to Successfully Harness Traditional and Social Media
There are over 100 town energy committees implementing inspiring clean energy solutions across the state. Telling the story of this work is essential if we are to motivate more Vermonters and Vermont leaders to take necessary action. This workshop will help you hone your ability to tell your stories by harnessing traditional and social media in order to reach more people and inspire them to take action. Learn tips and guidance on how to effectively get your story into newspapers, on TV and radio, and into on-line news outlets. The workshop will also cover how to leverage social media to engage,strengthen and broaden the network.

Bob Farnham, Bob the Green Guy
Joel Baird, Burlington Free Press

A7 Getting to 20 Percent Renewable by 2020: The Stories of Diverse Project Experiences
Vermont’s broad 2050 renewable energy goal has decision-makers at all levels considering just how to get there. While achieving this goal will require a whole lot more conservation and efficiency, it will also require renewable energy development. This session will highlight three renewable energy project experiences — hydro, biomass and wind — outline how they evolved and how Vermonters might help their communities advance shared statewide goals.

Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Montpelier Planning and Community Development
Martha Staskus, Renewable Energy Vermont/Cornerstone Renewables
Debra Sachs, EcoStrategies

Workshops B

B1 Innovative Models, Tools, Templates and Support for Advancing Community Solar Projects
Solar is a forward-looking, clean energy solution that more people want to tap. Unfortunately, nearly 75 percent of Vermonters can’t go solar because they don’t own their home or have suitable roof or yard space. Luckily, creative,community-owned solutions offer tremendous promise. But it’s not simple. This workshop will highlight some potentially replicable ownership models and useful tools and resources to help move community projects forward. It will also provide an overview of some innovative solar developments underway
in Vermont, as well as gather input on your community’s solar activities or needs.

Amanda Beraldi, Green Mountain Power
Anne Margolis, Vermont Public Service Department
Johanna Miller, Vermont Natural Resources Council

B2 Strategic Heating and Cooling with Air Source Heat Pumps
Air source heat pumps show great promise for sustainable building heating and cooling, when coupled with a renewable energy source. Come learn how they work, how the technology has evolved and why they are the rage. Hear about their potential for meeting building thermal needs, the applications for which they are most appropriate, what their implication is for the broader electric system and how energy committees can advance their use.

Amy Patenaude, Efficiency Vermont
Paul Cameron, Brattleboro Climate Protection
Bill Kallock, Energy Efficiency; Renewable Energy Consultant

B3 A Whole Home Approach to Energy Efficiency
How do we help people affordably invest in comprehensive energy-saving solutions for their home? Learn about passive houses that use little if any energy in our cold climate and about best green building practices. Hear about a new Sustain-A-Raisers program that engages community members in home and yard makeovers including the installation of raised garden beds, solar hot water systems, clotheslines (really solar clothes dryers!), rain barrels, compost bins and more. Take away new ideas, real solutions and practical applications to help you — or your friends and neighbors — move whole-home clean energy strategies forward.

Chris West, Passive House Alliance of Vermont
Emily Richey, Global Awareness Local Action
Chuck Reiss, Reiss Building and Renovation

B4 Collaborative Models to Improve Access to Rural Transportation
Ridesharing, vanpooling, transit, shared paths, safe routes — all are needed for healthy, vibrant communities. Meanwhile, Vermonters are struggling for more affordable, accessible transportation. Learn about successful models from three health and human service experts who are maximizing their innovative programs through key partnerships, volunteers and shared resources.

Rebecca Jones (MD), Physician and Writer
Sue Graff, United Way of Windham County
Robin Way, Champlain Islanders Developing Essential Resources, Inc. (C.I.D.E.R.)

B5 Total Energy Study and Pathways for Total Energy Solutions
Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan sets a goal of meeting 90 percent of the state’s energy needs in 2050 with renewable supplies. How are we going to meet this goal? The Public Service Department is looking at potential policy and technology pathways and has launched a “Total Energy Study” process to explore options. Learn about this and other efforts to set shorter-term goals, examine various energy scenarios and explore how Vermont can build public support for meeting this important goal.

Asa Hopkins, Public Service Department
Paul Costello, Vermont Council on Rural Development
Leigh Seddon, Energy Action Network

B6 Energy Committee Success Stories and Strategies for Strengthening the Grassroots Network
Vermont’s town energy committees are implementing critical clean energy solutions at the local level. Find out about some of the most powerful work of Vermont’s energy committees, learn how to advance successful energy projects, hear tips for starting and running an effective committee, and gain strategies for engaging and strengthening the grassroots network.

Keith Epstein, South Burlington Energy Committee
Dori Wolfe, Strafford Energy Committee
Dan Jones, Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee

B7 Getting to Yes in Siting Renewable Energy Generation
Renewable energy development, environmental protection and community interests are not mutually exclusive. The Governor’s recent Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission offered recommendations to help balance varied interests and improve the siting process for all. Find out about the recommendations of the siting commission, how regions might play a more active role in siting and learn about useful tools like the Agency of Natural Resources’ “BioFinder.”

Linda McGinnis, Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission Director
Jim Sullivan, Bennington Regional Commission
Billy Coster, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

Community Energy Awards

Best Project Award – Thetford HEAT Project
The Thetford Energy Committee launched Thetford HEAT in 2011 to motivate more residents to tighten up their leaky homes. This effort helped achieve significant energy savings for many local homeowners and has become a model for other communities on harnessing people power to achieve results. At its core, Thetford HEAT was a public engagement, door-to-door campaign. Some keys to success? Securing grant funding, telling local success stories, hosting home energy tours and recruiting and training 50 volunteers for door-to-door efforts. Thetford HEAT reached 650 residents and inspired over 30 families to make efficiency improvements, cutting projected fuel use by an average of 25 percent and equaling annual savings of more than $900 per family. The project also served as a model outreach strategy for communities participating in the 2013 Vermont Home Energy Challenge.

Individual Energy Leadership Award – Fran Putnam
The Weybridge Energy Committee formed in 2011 through the vision and leadership of Fran Putnam. Fran quickly galvanized a committee of dedicated and accomplished members and the support of the community. As a result, Weybridge has become a PACE community, voted to weatherize the town garage and fire station and became the first community to meet its Vermont Home Energy Challenge goals. Fran’s tireless efforts continue, including working to explore renewable energy options for the local elementary school and helping Middlebury Union
High School students start a Climate Action Club, among other things. Her countless hours of work and effective leadership have manifested meaningful results and have been an inspiration to those around her.

Best Overall Energy Committee Award – Brattleboro
The Brattleboro Energy Committee, previously Brattleboro Climate Protection, has helped the town of Brattleboro advance and implement many clean energy efforts. BEC helped Brattleboro write a strong energy chapter of the town plan, paving the way for the town to move
toward total energy solutions. They advanced energy efficiency goals by helping the town convert streetlights to LED fixtures, implement PACE, weatherize town buildings and participate in the Vermont Home Energy Challenge. They have helped bring new, local renewable power online by advising the town in purchasing renewable electricity through a solar netmetered project and organizing public workshops on renewable energy for homeowners, businesses and landlords. They have also been incredibly active on tackling transportation, initiating a Business Transportation Roundtable, Way to Go Challenge, a Transportation Management Association with strategic community partners and a project converting a former rail corridor into a multi-use community trail.

Senator Bernie Sanders

*(Credit: Bob Farnham)

Congressman Peter Welch

*(Credit: Bob Farnham)