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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services (BGS) announced the opening of applications for the new $45 million Municipal Energy Resilience Program (MERP).

To kick off this initiative, covered municipalities will be eligible to apply for Community Capacity Building Mini-Grants of up to $4,000. The mini-grants are one of many opportunities, including up to $500,000 for energy efficiency and resilience improvements to municipal buildings to increase comfort and reduce operational costs while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and expanding reliable access to critical services for Vermonters. The program is based on the highly successful State Energy Management Program (SEMP) that has been accelerating the efficiency of state-owned buildings for nearly a decade, reducing over 21,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and $4.6M in avoided energy costs.

“Increasing energy resilience and efficiency is an important part of our work to combat climate change, and state and municipal government has a role to play,” said Governor Scott. “I encourage municipalities to consider taking advantage of this significant funding opportunity, which can help reduce both costs and emissions.”

“We are excited to be able to bring the benefits of the SEMP program to municipalities,” said BGS Commissioner Jennifer M.V. Fitch, P.E. “Our partnerships with the Regional Planning Commissions, Efficiency Vermont, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns will help ensure this program is accessible to smaller communities that don’t readily have access to planning and administrative staff to execute projects of this scale. Through our collective efforts, we’ll be able to make municipal buildings more efficient and reliable for the communities they serve.”

The program will prioritize municipalities most in need of energy-resilient infrastructure investments, including energy-burdened communities, and communities with less administrative capacity to apply for grants. Energy burden is the percentage of income spent on heating, electricity, and transportation as determined by Efficiency Vermont’s 2019 Energy Burden report.

The Program’s first offering is grants to build community capacity aimed at developing strategies to support Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act and resilient communities. Funds may be used to hire a consultant to identify candidate municipally owned buildings in need of energy efficiency improvements and provide grant application assistance for free energy resilience assessments to be announced soon.

Cities, towns, fire districts, and incorporated villages may apply for up to $4,000 from these Community Capacity Building Mini-Grants. The application process is non-competitive, and grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

As part this program, Vermont' Regional Planning Commissions (RPCs) received funding to provide application and technical assistance along with program outreach and education. BGS is also partnering with Efficiency Vermont, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns*, and the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network on program design and outreach. For additional assistance, municipalities can contact their local RPC.

Governor Scott's press release.

* VLCT members are invited to attend the free training Intro to MERP – Grants for Efficient Municipal Buildings on Tuesday, April 18. Register soon!