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Plymouth Better Buildings offers energy solutions

Energy efficiency pioneers Craig Cadieux and Madeleine McElaney are helping Plymouth residents and business owners blaze a trail to the future. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
April 13, 2011
PLYMOUTH—The Town of Plymouth is way out ahead of the curve when it comes to creating conditions for the new energy economy.

With oil prices rising and energy security an ever deepening concern for the future, a pioneering group of central New Hampshire activists are paving the way forward, making the energy efficiency upgrade process simple, affordable and accessible to local residents and business owners.

Plymouth is blessed with a rich history of grassroots activism in the energy conservation field. For years, the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative (PAREI) has been at the forefront of the movement to educate homeowners about the benefits of undertaking energy conservation upgrades on their homes. With an innovative community based "neighbor helping neighbor" model, PAREI has been empowering people with the skills, knowledge and support they need to make changes to their homes that will increase their energy security and pay off handsomely in the years to come.

Plymouth State University has taken a leadership role in this effort as well, implementing many model initiatives to save energy and reduce waste on campus and training a new generation of ecologically savvy students who are beginning to make an impact in the Plymouth community and beyond.

Prominent amongst the examples of the way that PAREI and Plymouth State have begun to change the climate is the emerging leadership within the local Better Buildings Program.

Plymouth State University graduates Madeline McElaney and Craig Cadieux, both active PAREI members, have been appointed to lead the local Better Buildings Program.

Through a special federal grant through the Department of Energy, Plymouth was chosen last year as one of three towns in New Hampshire, with Berlin and Nashua, to receive a share of $10 million in assistance so that each community can serve as a testing ground to demonstrate the effectiveness of strategies to reduce energy usage in homes, businesses and public buildings.

Consequently, there is a great deal of help available to enable Plymouth based businesses and homeowners to do energy efficiency upgrades on their properties so that the Plymouth community can become a model of how to save fuel and money.

As part of this effort, the Better Buildings program was launched earlier this year in Plymouth. The program has recently opened an office right in downtown Plymouth, at 85 Main St., above Cafe Monte Alto and Chase Street Market.

Plymouth State graduate McElaney was appointed Plymouth Community Manager to spearhead efforts designed to encourage community-wide energy conservation efforts.

Most recently, Cadieux was appointed Technical Advisor for the project. He comes to the program with many years of experience in property and facility management. For the past several years, he has served full-time as the Energy Solutions Manager for the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative, offering expertise and assistance to homeowners who are looking to reduce energy use by weatherization or energy efficiency upgrades on their homes, or to produce their own energy by, for example, installing solar hot water or solar photo-voltaic systems.

Now, with Better Buildings, that effort goes into overdrive with a community-wide public education campaign and free technical assistance to guide home and business owners through the energy upgrade process.

"My job is to educate people so they can make informed decisions, and to provide them with the very latest in building science technology, so they re-gear their thinking and get the biggest bang for their buck when making an energy investment," explains Cadieux.

"Craig is a tremendous resource for this community," says his Better Buildings colleague, McElaney. "He is an excellent source of information on energy efficiency and building science. He does a really good job at communicating in a way that is not overwhelming to the lay person. He is a great advocate for the building owner in the energy efficiency upgrade process."

No stranger to this process himself, Cadieux and his wife, Heather Huckins, have successfully implemented many sustainable energy initiatives at their own Bridgewater home, including a wood pellet boiler and solar hot water. They have a four-season greenhouse, a chicken coop operating solely on solar power, and a converted 1998 Chevy truck that runs entirely on electric power.

Aside from his considerable personal experience and technical expertise, Cadieux offers businesses and homeowners free, independent advice to guide them through the process. Since he is not selling any particular energy system, he can be relied upon as a good source of unbiased information.

"Craig is not pushing any particular solution," says McElaney. "His only goal is to help."

Cadieux started in this new position with Better Buildings on March 1, and is already off and running, connecting with homeowners and local contractors to educate and inform them about all the options that are out there in the market.

According to Cadieux, the first step in the process is to call or make an appointment with McElaney at the Better Building office in downtown Plymouth. Better Buildings serves as a clearing house and source for both the financial and technical information a building owner needs to get started. Better Buildings can supply home and businesses owners with a list of seasoned, professional, pre-qualified energy auditors and contactors to do the job. They have worked out arrangements so that low interest bank financing is readily available to local home and business owners who want to make energy efficiency investments.

The goal is to achieve at least 15 to 30 percent reduction in energy usage for as many as 300 Plymouth homeowners in the next two years. That is an ambitious objective, but Better Buildings is well on the way to offering a "user friendly" energy efficiency upgrade process to any Plymouth home or business owner that would like to take advantage of the program.

For information on the Better Buildings Plymouth Initiative or to make an appointment, call the office at 717-9138 or visit online at www.betterbuildingsnh.com.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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