Vermont Is Still In

Something I often consider; how I can take intentional steps to reduce my contributions to climate change. As I was turning the heat up in my apartment I realized that I was increasing my demand for natural gas. Most apartments in Burlington do not have the option of anything else aside, natural gas or electric heat. The choice of heat is up to the landlords, not the tenants. This thought concerned me. How can we change the way the apartments, the city, the state to have it be convenient and affordable to utilize a heat source that has less contribution to the green house gases. What is my state doing to mitigate climate change? This is Vermont the land of the tree hugging, dirt worshiping, groovin’ hippies, right? Don’t worry, there are plans in action!

While “he who shall not be named” in the white house decided to remove The United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, Vermont says that we are still in. In 2017 Governor Phil Scott signed the Vermont Climate Action Commission (VCAC.) The major issues for concern here are: more efficient buildings, clean energy, low-carbon travel options, composting and recycling and finally observing what the future may look like. With these goals Vermont can also offer its residence more jobs. Overall the VCAC states that Vermont hopes to reach a 40% reduction in green house gas emissions by 2030, and 80%-90% by 2050, compared to emissions in 1990.

In efforts to make the stride towards clean energy the renewable energy standard in the VCAC requires “Vermont electric distribution utilities to meet a defined percentage of their retail electric sales from any source of renewable energy. Under tire 1 this defined percentage is 55% in 2017, and it to increase by 4% each year after, eventually reaching 75% in 2032.” This is sounds like a huge jump but, many of Vermont’s DUs had already made efforts to provide more clean energy.

In 2014 Burlington Electric made Burlington the first city to make the switch to provide 100 % renewable energy. This energy comes from hydro dams, wood, solar and various other mixed renewable systems. 2015energypurchasesbysource

Chart one: A physical representation of the renewable energy sources that Burlington Electric utilizes in 2015. The top three sources McNeil provides fuel from wood, Next Era provides energy from a small hydro dam, Sheffield contributes energy from wind.

In 2015 Green Mountain power made Rutland Vermont the city with the most solar per captia in New England. In 2016 this solar field (along with its battery storage) saved a total of $200,000 for customers in just one hour during peak demands.Stafford-Solar

Picture one: Stafford Hill Solar Farm on top of Rutland’s old landfill.

To address the problem I brought up above to replace fossil fuel heat Vermont is working to replace old broilers and furnaces in old buildings & make the switch to wood or electric heat. Research has led engineers to promote cold-climate heat pumps, which gather heat from ambient air to warm your home or move warm air outside to keep it cool. With these changes to reduce the amount of heat a Vermont residence requires for the winter season state officials hope to make living in Vermont more affordable.


Picture two: How the heat pump is able to warm the air from outside into your home.

Vermont had many ways of encouraging its residence to become involved in the goals of the VCAC. Green mountain power and Suncommon provide energy audits and plans for home owners to solarize their homes. Suncommon provides a payment plan that is similar to paying an electric bill, just with an end date. Efficiency Vermont provides many handy how to videos that any home owner can watch and understand to make their home lose less heat. The state also provides a weatherization program for those who are financially eligible. Programs like these and many others have allowed Vermont, as a whole, to keep moving forward to reduce green house gas emissions, while providing jobs and lower the cost of living. Look forward to the state’s compost hauling services coming soon!




2 thoughts on “Vermont Is Still In

  1. One thing that I have thought a lot about in regard to Burlington’s 100% renewable energy status is the discrepancy between renewable energy and sustainable energy. Looking at the pie chart you posted, I noticed that 41% of Burlington’s power currently comes from the McNeil Plant, which operates by burning biomass (mostly scrap wood). I’ve read a lot of conflicting opinions about this topic (including a really good article here: and have yet to make up my mind about this issue. Although biomass is a renewable resource, the timescale on which it is consumed may not match the timescale on which it regenerates– which would imply that its use is unsustainable. On the other hand, if this scrap wood was left to decompose it would release GHGs anyway so we might as well burn it for energy. Obviously this is a complex problem that is unlikely to have a simple solution but I would be interested in seeing a side by side comparison of wood burning, natural gas, coal, etc in terms of GHGs released per unit energy produced. While I am uncertain about the ultimate sustainability of biomass power, I am sure that it has a smaller carbon footprint than fossil fuels after extraction costs, etc. are considered.


  2. I agree that there is a lot of room for innovation and technological advances to make our energy use more efficient, and its uplifting to read about how ambitious Vermont is in transitioning toward renewable energy. Nice work Sarah.

    I think the weatherization idea at the end is a really good one, that often overlooked. If would could build out homes with better insulative power, we could conserve a lot of energy, especially in Vermont.

    I am also always a bit of a skeptic about what entire life cycle footprint is for new energy technologies. What are the GHG emissions and environmental costs of the mining, manufacturing, and transportation inputs? Do these costs outweigh the benefits? I have seen research about this on solar technologies, but not for heat pumps yet.

    For anyone else who is curious about this, here is a simple summary of comparative LCA (life cycle analyses):
    It indicates that solar technologies are more efficient than wind, which has only a slightly smaller footprint than coal power.


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