BENNINGTON - The community and its residents and businesses spend a combined $96 million on energy each year, according to a municipal energy plan created by the Bennington Country Regional Commission for the town.
BCRC Executive Director James Sullivan presented the draft plan to the Select Board Monday. The plan outlines energy usage in the town, including residential units and industrial and commercial buildings.
Sullivan said Bennington's Town Plan includes a section on energy. But BCRC expanded on that and included suggestions to improve efficiency, conservation and cut costs in the plan. "It's a real comprehensive look at energy use and ideas for the town," he said.
Sullivan said the town's residential units spend about $23 million annually on energy. Heating accounts for the majority of that cost, he said. Oil, at 81 percent, is the most utilized fuel for space heating. Wood heating accounts for just 3 percent of residential heating, according to the report.
Across the state, transportation, including all types of gas that power vehicles, accounts for most energy consumption. Tr a n s p o r t ation is 33 percent of energy use, followed by residential consumption at 29 percent, commercial consumption at 18 percent and industrial consumption at 18 percent. Bennington spends about $29 million per year on transportation energy. The town government spends about $616,000 a year on oil, propane and electricity to heat and powers municipal buildings, according to the BCRC report.
Another $200,000 is spent on fuel for the town's fleet of vehicles in the police, fire, recreation, highway and water departments.
Sullivan said if expenditures on food production and transportation are factored in, the town is spending about $146 million annually. Food production and transportation to supply Bennington with food requires about 3 million gallons of petroleum, Sullivan said.
"Big amount of money and the question is, what can we do to conserve energy to save folks a little money?" he said. "Every dollar that people don't spend on imported energy is a dollar they'll have to spend in the local economy."
Sullivan said government, residents and businesses can do more to conserve. Among the possibilities, the town could replace vehicles with more fuel-efficient ones. Homes and businesses should be weatherized, and local renewable energy sources should be sought, including wind, solar and hydro, he said.