Proposed Montpelier ordinance on home energy costs meets with opposition

Local News

Montpelier has a goal of reaching 100% net-zero energy — generating all of the energy it needs from its own sustainable sources — by 2050.

A home energy ordinance under consideration by the City Council may help Vermont’s capital city reach its goal. The proposed ordinance would require homeowners selling their property to disclose, to real estate agents and prospective buyers, their home’s annual energy costs. They’d learn those costs through a free-of-charge home energy profile.

But the proposal was met with push back from some residents.

“I don’t want these global kinds of statements about how wonderful it is,” Susan Labarthe said. “I want to hear some studies with data and p-values and demonstration of validity, reproducibility and so forth.”

Labarthe is among the Montpelier residents concerned about what they believe is vague language surrounding the ordinance and a lack of vetting of the algorithm the home energy profile would use, among other issues.

“I spent 15 years as a software publisher and developer,” Peter Kelman said. “I would have been ridden out of my industry if I would have put out something which has had as little real testing as this.”

As currently written, Kelman said the ordinance would hurt people in the capital city who can’t afford energy improvements like solar panels, new windows and extra insulation. He was also concerned about a potential rush to vote on it.

Councilor Jack McCullough noted that the city has been working on the proposed ordinance for more than a year. “I would not anticipate the members of this council rushing to vote while people seriously think that more time is needed to debate it,” he said.

McCullough proposed holding a third public hearing on the ordinance at the council’s next meeting on May 12, and the entire council approved of that idea. It may vote on the proposed ordinance a that time — but it also might not.

“I think it’s more appropriate for the council to decide, at each hearing, whether we need more, and not to try to sub-guess us ahead of time,” Councilor Dona Bate said.

The City Council is also planning to return to holding its meetings in person at City Hall beginning on Wednesday, July 6.

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