Congrats to our Volunteer of the Year!

Plainfield Resident Named Vital Communities’ Volunteer of the Year

Nancy Mogielnicki was honored earlier this month as Vital Communities’ 2014 Volunteer of the Year.

“Nancy has been a phenomenal volunteer for Vital Communities not only this year but for many,” said Energy Program Manager Sarah Simonds. “As a key volunteer for the Solarize Cornish-Plainfield initiative last spring, Nancy helped more than 20 homeowners go solar in her community. She also represents Plainfield as an active member of our Upper Valley Transportation Management Association Steering Committee, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of many Vital Communities projects.”

Nancy received her award at the annual Vital Communities Open House. This is the organization’s third annual Volunteer of the Year Award, which last year honored Lyme, N.H., resident Carola Lea and in 2012 recognized Nancy and George Smith of Hartland, Vt.

“Vital Communities projects are appealing for several reasons, including the fact that they are regional in nature and that they address a wide range of ‘sustainability’ issues – the things that make communities vital,” said Nancy, who has lived in the Upper Valley since 1977 and also volunteers for the Plainfield Energy Committee. “There is something for everyone among Vital Communities’ offerings, and they make it really easy to be an effective volunteer.”


0% – 1.99% Energy Project Financing!

Efficiency Vermont just announced that it’s easier than ever for Vermonters to finance home energy projects through their PACE program – Property Assessed Clean Energy. And yes, they ARE offering interest rates as low as 0%.

PACE is a clever new way of financing home energy projects by placing a lien on your property. So if you ever move, the loan stays with your home. PACE financing is available to all residents of Vermont towns that have adopted it, including Bradford, Cavendish, Hartford, Hartland, Norwich, Randolph, Sharon, Strafford, Thetford, Vershire, Weathersfield, and Woodstock.

There are several PACE forums scheduled around the Valley this winter. All are free and open to the public, and co-sponsored by Vital Communities, the Sustainable Energy Resource Group, and the Upper Valley Sierra Club.

  • December 11, 2014, Montshire Museum of Science, Norwich, 6:30 pm             Date has changed from December 9th to December 11th due to weather!!
  • December 10, 2014, Hartland Library, Hartland, 6:30 pm
  • January 20, 2015, Thetford Center Community Center, Thetford, 6:30 pm
  • February 25, 2015, Bugbee Senior Center, White River Jct., 6:30 pm               Date has changed from February 11th to February 25th!!

Efficiency Vermont, the organization coordinating the PACE program in Vermont, recently announced new, lower interest rates for qualified homeowners.

Are you a family of four? If your annual income is less than $95,000 you could qualify for a loan at 1.99% interest. Less than $79,000 and it’s 0.99%. Less than $63,000 and the loan is 0% interest. Check the full chart on income qualification to see whether your household could qualify.

Improvements that can be financed through these low rates include energy audits, weatherization measures, cold climate heat pumps, high-efficiency oil, propane, and wood pellet central heating systems, heat pump water heaters, and solar hot water heaters. Renewable electric generation systems can also be financed through PACE at the usual program rate of 6.5%.

Financing these measures through PACE often results in homeowners saving more on energy costs than they are paying for the improvements, so they save energy and money from day one. Your energy efficiency utility, Efficiency Vermont, will conduct a free analysis of your project plan to let you know how cost effective your project is and assist you through the PACE process. Other PACE advantages include no credit score check, no closing costs, and no down payment required.

Want to talk with someone about PACE? Come to one of the upcoming forums or…

Vital Communities Launches Solarize Upper Valley

Vital Communities this month is publicly launching Solarize Upper Valley, a new two-year initiative to make residential solar energy more accessible to homeowners in the Upper Valley. Volunteers, town leaders, and homeowners from five towns on both sides of the Connecticut River – Cornish, Plainfield, Lyme, Thetford, and Strafford – are participating in the initial phase of Solarize Upper Valley this spring.

“We’re excited about the potential of Solarize Upper Valley to increase adoption of renewable energy in the region by simplifying the process of ‘going solar,’” said Sarah Simonds, Energy Program manager for Vital Communities. “This program will take us further toward our goal of meeting 90 percent of the Upper Valley’s energy needs through energy efficiency and renewable energy sources by 2050.”

With support from the John Merck Fund, Vital Communities is partnering with SmartPower and the Sustainable Energy Resource Group to refine a program that has already proven successful in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The partners would like to see Solarize Upper Valley serve as a pilot for adapting the Solarize model for communities in Northern New England.

Solarize Upper Valley is a program through which communities team up with competitively selected solar photovoltaic (PV) installers for fifteen weeks of outreach and education around residential solar energy with support from Vital Communities and dedicated local volunteers. Solarize delivers competitive prices, accessible resources, and a simplified process for residential solar PV installations by partnering installers and communities to energize and streamline the public outreach and education process.

The five towns involved in Solarize Upper Valley this spring have formed into three “communities” to take advantage of economies of scale. Those communities will host public launch events in the next several weeks. Interested residents are strongly encouraged to attend, learn more about the program, and meet their community’s installer. Solarize launch events this month:

Solarize Thetford-Strafford March 9, 6:30 PM Thetford Hill Congregational Church
Solarize Cornish-Plainfield March 18, 7:00 PM Plainfield Town Hall
Solarize Lyme March 19, 7:00 PM Lyme School Cafeteria

These launch events will be followed by open houses and workshops with installers to help local residents understand the costs and benefits of residential solar power. As more residents sign up to go solar, the price goes down for everyone. The deadline for residential sign-ups is June 30, 2014.

A similar campaign, Solarize Norwich, is running concurrently but is independent of Solarize Upper Valley.

Vital Communities plans to implement three additional rounds of Solarize Upper Valley in the next two years, with about four communities participating in each round. For more information, visit

Announcing Solarize Upper Valley!

SOLARIZE UPPER VALLEY is a new initiative from Vital Communities that will team up local communities with solar photovoltaic (PV) installers to make residential-scale solar energy more accessible and affordable for residents in your town.

Vital Communities will select up to four communities to partner with us on the first phase of Solarize Upper Valley, which will include a 15-week community outreach campaign between March and June 2014. Outreach efforts allow installers to pass on significant discounts to residents, avoiding their added costs of customer acquisition.  As more people sign up in your community, our tiered pricing structure means that solar PV installation prices continue to drop for everyone!

LEARN MORE! Visit our How Solarize Works page, and join us for an upcoming information session:

Solarize Information Session for Communities  November 12th, 2013, 5:00-6:30pm | Montshire Museum in Norwich | Refreshments provided | Please RSVP

Solarize Information Session for Installers – December 9th, 2013, 7:30-9:00am |
Kilton Library in West Lebanon | Light breakfast provided | Please RSVP

WE WANT YOU! Vital Communities seeks proposals from COMMUNITIES (proposals due Dec. 17th) and SOLAR PV INSTALLERS (proposals due Feb. 14th) to partner with us on Solarize Upper Valley this spring.

Contact Sarah Simonds, Energy Program Manager, with any questions or comments. | (802) 291 9100 x109