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Fuel dealers, Efficiency Vermont combine to tighten homes

Vermont, December 5, 2013 Two seemingly strange bedfellows have teamed up to reduce home heating costs — fuel dealers and energy efficiency contractors.

The odd couple are Efficiency Vermont, the state’s efficiency utility, and the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, a trade association representing fuel dealers, who have partnered to offer home heating fuel and thermal efficiency rebates.

Trained fuel dealers participating in the Efficiency Excellence Network – as the partnership is called – will serve as liaisons between homeowners and energy efficiency contractors. As a result, participating fuel dealers will become “whole home energy providers,” said Matt Cota, executive director of the fuel dealers group.

All projects completed through home efficiency contractors under Efficiency Vermont’s programs will be eligible for incentives totaling up to $2,100.

Though most dealers primarily sell fuel, the partnership will give some of them a competitive advantage by offering a holistic heating service, Cota said Thursday at a news conference in Shelburne.

“The fact of the matter is, customers don’t call our offices asking how they can use more of our product, they want to use less,” Cota said. “And in a competitive environment, if we don’t provide those tools to our customers to make them safe, warm, more efficient – to save them money – then they’ll go to a different source.”

The association represents 120 fuel dealers, 10 of which have signed on to the partnership, Cota said.

“Will it be for everyone, no, but that’s OK,” he said. “That’s part of this interesting competitive landscape that we have.”

Vermont Gas Systems, a natural gas provider, recently announced a similar program offering rebates, financing and technical assistance through its thermal efficiency program.

“It’s not that we are doing something that is entirely new – I mean this type of work is happening in homes all across Vermont. It’s just that we are working together,” Cota said. “We are working more efficiently at delivering efficiency.”
Vermont Fuel Dealers Association Executive Director Matt Cota. VTD/Josh Larkin

Vermont Fuel Dealers Association Executive Director Matt Cota. VTD/Josh Larkin

The 10 dealers participating in the partnership are Energy Co-op of Vermont; Champlain Valley Plumbing & Heating; Jackman’s Inc.; MacIntyre Services LLC; Keyser Energy; Johnson Energy; Cota and Cota Inc.; Dead River Co.; Bourne’s Energy; and Patterson Fuels.

An Energy Co-op of Vermont fuel truck parked outside a Shelburne home for a news conference Thursday as a testament to the partnership’s swift launch.

John Quinney is general manager for Energy Co-op of Vermont. Recently, the co-op installed a $4,600 furnace for the Shelburne homeowners. The homeowners said they received a $500 rebate, but their installation occurred before the partnership’s launch.

Quinney said customers and co-op members reward dealers with loyalty when dealers provide efficiency services. He said the partnership aligns well with the co-op’s goal to keep homeowners “warm and comfortable.”

Jim Merriam, director of Efficiency Vermont, said the partnership allows fuel dealers to expand the services they offer. But the partnership is also a pathway for homeowners to access Efficiency Vermont rebates, he said.

“I would love to have the press conference with you sometime because we have run out of money because this has been so wildly successful,” Merriam said.

Efficiency Vermont will conduct energy audits of the homes before and after the thermal efficiency improvements before allocating rebates, he said.

Green Mountain Power’s seed fund provided $50,000 to launch the project. This money got the project off the ground and will help pay train fuel dealers, Cota said. GMP officials did not attend the news conference.

Darren Springer, deputy commissioner for the Department of Public Service, said the department supports the partnership because it moves the state toward having 80,000 energy-efficient homes by the year 2020.

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National Oilheat Research Alliance ECC is funded in part through the National Oilheat Research Alliance.