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Burlington Electric Launches New Program To Make It Easier For Customers To Install Solar

Burlington, Vermont’s electric utility has announced a new program it hopes will make it easier for customers to install solar systems.
The electric utility unveiled its Solar Shopper program on Tuesday. It’s designed to help customers navigate what  General Manager Neale Lunderville calls a daunting maze of information when considering a solar installation.  “People were coming to us with the question of where do I start.  Buying solar for your home is not like going out and buying a refrigerator. It’s not something you’re necessarily familiar with. You know a lot of people said I just don’t know where to start. We want to make it really easy for our customers by giving them the information on one page comparing all the variables in apples to apples way so they can look at that and say ‘I think this vendor is right for me.’ It’s all about lowering the barriers to entry.”

Burlington sources 100 percent of its electricity from renewables and is now pursuing a net zero goal.    Mayor Miro Weinberger says between 1999 and 2012 there were a total of 25 solar installations in the city.  He says there are now about 150, and hopes the Solar Shopper  program can result in at least 100 more.   “I think Burlingtonians want to be part of the solar revolution and I’ve too often heard complaints that it’s too hard or unclear how to get this done.  This program should help on that front. Secondly, this is about sustaining affordability for Burlington Electric Department customers and it is also going to help us deal with the very expensive peak loads.  And then finally this is an important step forward towards our ambitious net zero goal across electricity, thermal and ground transportation sectors.”

The Solar Shopper is an online form that a customer submits and the utility refers to six solar partners who then provide quotes.  That information is collated for the customer; Burlington Electric then works with a ratepayer to complete the decision and financing process.   

Vermont Solar Owner and President Kirk Herander finds Burlington lagging behind other communities in the state.   “We have almost 9,000 net metered systems in the state of Vermont but only 125 or maybe 150 in the city of Burlington.  We need to change that.  We need to give towns like Rutland a run for their money and other communities.”

SunCommon Organizing Director Clary Franko said Burlington has a huge potential for solar.   “Burlington is a leader in living sustainably.  But we have a lot of work to do to make Burlington a leader in solar energy. We looked at some statistics and some other towns are really leading the way for solar. South Burlington has twice the solar that Burlington does and in Jericho and Underhill this year we actually hit one in ten households with solar.  So I know that these are things that Burlington can do too.”

Burlington Electric is the first utility in Vermont to offer the Solar Shopper program.  

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