January 12th 2017: Hurry Up and Wait

After two and a half years (a half year of preparation and two years of competing), the semi-final round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize is over. Your South Burlington Energy Committee is busy preparing the final report of our community’s efforts, and sometime this Spring we will know if we have been chosen to be one of ten Finalist communities for the five million dollar grand prize.

We on the committee know, however, that no matter how our standing in this competition of over 50 small to mid size communities turns out, we are very proud and grateful for the terrific work done by the whole South Burlington Community. From residents making energy smart decisions for their home to the City’s school system improving energy conservation and efficiency system wide, we offer our thanks. From the City Council and other boards and committees and Staff who worked so hard to make South Burlington a leader in municipal energy programs, the entire City offers its thanks. And to our partner organizations, utilities, and businesses who helped drive our effort with technical expertice and financial support, we offer our thanks.

So what comes next? Regarding the Prize competition, we wait until Spring and if we are a Finalist, we develop specific plans to submit on how we would use the prize money. A final decision would come by the end of the year. If we are not chosen to be a Finalist? I think we can still be extremely proud of the savings we have accomplished and the momentum we have started to make smart energy choices for all sectors in our community.

In anticipation of life after the Prize, our Committee has been thinking deeply about what we should be working on in both the near term and the long term time horizons. In brainstorming future projects, we have come up with dozens a ideas, including projects in the transportation and commercial sectors that weren’t a part of the Energy Prize Competition. But we are also looking at BIG IDEAS – how can we as a community think about becoming more and more sustainable. How can we make South Burlington more and more resilient to the challenges that will face us, and indeed every community, as the impacts of climate disruption create a changing world.

While questions of energy generation and energy use will be important components of a sustainable community, so will other issues: our food system, how we deal with waste and pollution, the ways we move ourselves and goods around, the protection and restoration of habitats and corridors, the education of an ecological literate population, and on and on. Making South Burlington a model for other towns and small cities will require an integrated effort of all the various stakeholders: residents, businesses, government, organizations …. EVERYONE.

So as we enter this time of transition for the Committee from focusing on the Georgetown Prize to imagining what comes next, we call on YOU, the people of South Burlington, to join with us in envisioning what a sustainable community looks like, what an ecologically responsible community feels like, what a resilient community would be like.

Keep an eye out for community discussions to help us create future directions. Step up with your ideas. Volunteer your time to work with us and many of the other committees and community organizations that are building a sustainable future. You will be surprised how good it feels to be part of the solution!