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05/06/2015 08:00 AM

Paul Gebauer: Energizing Clinton to Leave a Better World

Paul Gebauer, chairman of the Clinton Energy Committee, has helped bring a number of initiatives to town over the past year.

After Paul Gebauer’s daughter was born six years ago, his outlook on the world changed. He became more conscious of the environment and energy consumption.

“I was really concerned about what kind of planet we would hand off to her,” says Paul. “It’s about my daughter—that’s what’s inspired me. If we can’t hand over a halfway decent planet to our kids, we’re doing something wrong here. I’m just trying to do my part.”

Paul has traveled to Washington, D.C., on a number of occasions to protest the climate situation. He carries a sign with a big picture of his daughter that reads, “You made a promise to her.”

Paul, however, wanted to see an impact closer to home and spoke with the chairman of the Energy Committee in Madison, who encouraged Paul to start an energy committee in Clinton in July 2014.

“After speaking with him, I went right to the first selectman’s office with the idea, and he said, ‘Go for it,’” says Paul, who grew up in Madison and now lives in Clinton with his wife and daughter. “Other towns are doing great stuff, so why not us? The town leadership has been behind us the whole way, and we’re really grateful to them.”

With First Selectman Willie Fritz’s blessing, the Clinton Energy Committee (CEC) was formed and immediately got to work.

“He stepped up to the plate with a lot of initiatives,” said Fritz. “In just about a year, we’ve gotten solar panels on Joel and Eliot [schools], some grant money for light bulb take-back day, and now we’re looking to get solar [electric panels set] up on the dump. He’s been great and really taken the bull by the horns.”

The CEC originally projected that the town would save about $15,000 a year thanks to the solar panels on the schools, but Paul notes that, due to rate increases, the savings could amount to even more.

In addition to cost savings, another added benefit of the systems on the schools is the educational value. There will be monitors that run in the lobby and that are tied into each classroom that will display the amount of energy used and created.

“He was very passionate in creating something that can be both educational and cost-saving, and we will be able to look at the amount of energy we’re producing and tie it into our science curriculum,” says Clinton Superintendent of Schools Jack Cross. “Paul was the spearhead for energizing the group and community. He is low key, steady, and a persistent advocate for moving this forward. We’re hoping to do work with the new high school as well—it is set up in such a way that it could be an added component in the future.”

With the setup at the new high school, the CEC’s ulimate goal is to install a 250-kilowatt system on the new high school. The CEC is also working with a group of graduate students from Yale University in its quest to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. A grant application to install more than 4,000 panels at the landfill site has also been submitted.

“We didn’t make the cut last year [for the grant for the solar panels on the dump], but I’m confident we’ll get it this year,” says Paul, who works at the Post Office in Guilford. “With these projects combined, we could save the town $200,000 a year.”

While Paul is excited about being able to save the town money and reduce Clinton’s carbon footprint, he is even happier to be able to pass the savings directly along to Clinton residents, as well. About 25 families have already signed up for solar on their homes, and the CEC plans to make another push to add to those numbers this summer.

The CEC also worked with Home Energy Solutions to perform energy audits on residents’ homes. Paul says more than 200 residents took part in the program and are now saving $250 to $400 per year. For every family who booked an energy audit, $25 was donated to Families Helping Familes, which was a “great by-product,” according to Paul.

The CEC then received a $5,000 grant for a light bulb exchange program. Paul was pleasantly surprised by the great turnout: 470 Clinton residents came to exchange five regular incandescent light high-efficiency LED bulbs for five bulbs at no cost.

“They not only saved $60 on the bulbs, but each homeowner will save $50 a year—that’s more than a $50,000 savings for residents on a $5,000 grant,” says Paul.

Paul has gotten more out of his involvement than making an impact on the environment and on the wallet. The CEC is a small committee of three with Paul working with Aidan Moran and Bill Castelli, who are “great friends and great guys,” though they are always looking for more volunteers.

In addition to the other members of the CEC, Paul has gotten to know the “best of the best of the people in town” and developed relationships with Fritz and Cross, as well as other people in the town.

“You get to see how hard people work, how much they love the town, and how they want the best for the town,” says Paul. “It’s really great to see these people working—all of these people on the boards and committees don’t get paid. They’re so committed and do such a great job.

“I encourage people to find out what your passion is—a board, committee, or commission—and you’ll meet so many great people.”

Paul’s new connections reach beyond Clinton as the CEC recently hosted a meeting among local Energy Committees, with representatives from Branford, Essex, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook joining in a discussion about initiatives and ideas.

“Everyone has such a passion, and it really gives you the sense we’re all in this together,” says Paul. “We would like the residents and businesses in the municipality to be more efficient with energy consumption in every way possible. I’m just trying to get some good things done, and people are really supportive. It’s really encouraging.”

To join the Clinton Energy Committee, email Paul Gebauer at