Connecticut kicks off 'Energy Challenge'

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Wed., Mar. 23, 2011
Gov. Dannel Malloy arrives at the event in Hartford.
Gov. Dannel Malloy arrives at the event in Hartford.

Representatives from the 14 towns involved in the Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge gathered at the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection offices in Hartford on March 22 for the official kick-off of the program. The towns involved are: Bethany, Cheshire, East Haddam, East Hampton, Glastonbury, Lebanon, Mansfield, Portland, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, Wethersfield, Wilton, and Windham. The Connecticut Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge is made possible by a $4.17 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Over three years, the goal of the program is to assist at least 10 percent of households in participating towns in reducing their energy consumption by at least 20 percent.

“We wanted a real mix of towns in terms of size and economics,” said Madeline Priest from the Clean Water Fund. Priest is the liaison for the Challenge for the towns of Mansfield, Windham, Lebanon and Glastonbury. “I think Lebanon might be the smallest town, and Glastonbury is the largest,” she said. Towns will earn points for energy savings, with prizes to be given out at the end of the challenge. “It might be an LED lighting remodel of the middle school, or solar panels for the town hall,” said Priest. “It will be up to local representatives to determine how the points will be used. That will be part of the fun of the challenge.”

At the Hartford kickoff, Gov. Dannel Malloy appeared briefly to lend his support and offer some encouragement. Daniel C. Esty, acting commissioner of the Connecticut Deptartment of Environmental Protection, said that he would sign up for an energy assessment in his hometown of Cheshire. Esty said the program represented innovation. “We need to do the kind of things we already do differently and better,” he said. Esty vowed to rise to the challenge put to him by the governor, to “Make this state the most energy-efficient state in the country.”

Representatives from participating towns shared ways they have already begun to improve their energy efficiency, as well as ways they intend to approach the challenge going forward. Mayor Ernie Eldridge said the town of Windham has already undergone an energy audit under the direction of the Energy Commission. “It can be something as silly as making sure the garage doors are closed at the fire department after the trucks go out on a call,” he said. There have been numerous energy initiatives undertaken already at Eastern Connecticut State University. And Eldridge noted that Willimantic’s numerous historic Victorian homes represent a potential opportunity for upgrades and energy savings.

Jim Macauley, chair of the Lebanon Energy Task Force, said that students at Lyman Memorial High School had already participated in a small-scale energy challenge of their own. With the goal of a small amount of scholarship money as their incentive, students engaged in recycling and other energy-saving maneuvers, such as turning off lights and reminding teachers to turn off computers. Lyman plans to repeat the challenge. “This year, they’ll probably focus more on energy-efficiency in the home,” said Macauley.

East Haddam selectman Peter Govert said that his town, too, was focusing on engaging kids in energy-saving endeavors. The town already has a number of locations utilizing solar energy. And, with at least 13 organizations in town “with an environmental charter,” said Govert, the plan was to get them all together in the near future for a meeting to discuss ways to implement the Neighbor to Neighbor challenge locally.

Glastonbury assistant town engineer Steve Braun said his town planned a community outreach event at an Earth Day celebration at the Glastonbury Audubon Society.  

Residents who live in one of the 14 participating towns are eligible for the free Neighbor to Neighbor Lighting program. Representatives from the Clean Energy Corps will come into your home and replace existing bulbs with free Compact Florescent bulbs. Challenge representatives say that the change will save the average household about $100 per year in electricity costs.

If you don’t live in a Neighbor to Neighbor town, there are still ways to become more energy-efficient. Home Energy Solutions assessments are available to any homeowner for a $75 co-pay. The cost includes replacement of inefficient light bulbs, air leak testing, and air sealing. You will also be provided with information on other energy-efficient upgrades, as well as programs for low-interest financing and rebates.

Visit for more information and to sign up for a monthly newsletter. Residents of Lebanon, Mansfield, Windham or Glastonbury can contact Madeline Priest at 860-232-6232 or for more information regarding the Neighbor to Neighbor Challenge. Or in Glastonbury, contact assistant town engineer Steve Braun at 860-652-7743.

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