Reducing and Electrifying your Energy Demand
A critical step in the process of moving away from polluting fossil fuels is using less energy across every aspect of the energy spectrum: electricity, heating, and transportation. Vermont has been a leader in our electric efficiency efforts, notably through the work of Efficiency Vermont, a first-in-the-nation efficiency utility that provides energy saving services, incentives, and information to thousands of Vermonters. Vermont has also been a leader in transitioning our electricity supply from fossil fuel power plants to renewable energy. But despite these efforts, a 2018 report showed that Vermont’s carbon emissions were up 16% from 1990 levels – this came as a clear signal that we have a lot more work to do when it comes to embracing renewable energy.
Right now, depending on your utility, anywhere from 55-100% of your electricity is from renewable sources. That percentage increases by 4% every 3 years, as is required by Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard We can simultaneously accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels for transportation and heating by switching to electric solutions like cold climate heat pumps and electric cars and buses. Even better, these technologies aren’t just capable of being powered by renewable electricity – they’re often so efficient that simply making the switch reduces your total energy use, which saves Vermonters money and increases efficiency overall.
Efficiency and electrification are win-wins for Vermont’s environment and Vermonters’ pocketbooks. Using less energy overall saves money and keeps fossil fuel pollution out of Vermont’s air.
Vermont has led the nation through statewide policy encouraging energy efficiency and electrification, but there’s plenty more to do. Here are some top policies and priorities for the future:
• Weatherization: Vermont has a goal of weatherizing 80,000 homes by 2020, including 20,000 low-income homes. Unfortunately, despite the good work of Capstone Community Action, Efficiency Vermont, and other organizations, we are falling far short of that goal – thousands of Vermont families that qualify for this service continue to live in aging and drafty homes with high gas bills and inefficient heating mechanisms. The issue is a lack of funding, and that’s why we, along with many of our allied organizations, are fighting to double the funding of the Weatherization Assistance Program, which will save Vermonters energy and money over time.
• Volkswagen Settlement & Electric Buses: Following Volkswagen’s deceptive emissions practices, the Department of Justice in 2017 reached a nearly $4 billion settlement with the company. Vermont will get almost $19 million through this settlement, which could go a long way to kick starting a transportation transformation to electric vehicles. Last year, VPIRG successfully advocated for a porting of the funds, approximately $4 million, to go toward an electric bus pilot program and EV charging infrastructure. But we’re not done yet. With 70% of the settlement dollars still available, we’re advocating for the state to focus that investment solely on electrification, particularly electrifying our public transportation system and expanding EV charging infrastructure. Learn more.
• Efficiency Utilities: In 2000, Vermont regulators created an unprecedented efficiency utility, Efficiency Vermont. Today, Efficiency Vermont, along with the other efficiency utilities, Burlington Electric Department, and Vermont Gas, helps educate and incentivize Vermonters and Vermont businesses to reduce their energy use. In order to transition away from fossil fuels and reduce our energy consumption overall, it’s critical that we continue to fund these efficiency programs that reduce electric bills for all Vermonters. Opponents have repeatedly attempted to cut their budget, and we expect more of the same in the future.
• Vermont Energy Innovation Program: As part of Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard (the law that requires utilities to get an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable sources), utilities are required to support their customers’ transition off of fossil fuels for heating and transportation by providing incentives for heat pumps, weatherization, and electric vehicles. Utilities have already begun this important work, and we need to ensure that it continues so that all Vermonters can benefit from moving quickly away from polluting energy sources.
• Appliance Efficiency Standards: In 2018, VPIRG successfully advocated for the Vermont Legislature to pass H.410, which goes beyond current federal standards by establishing efficiency standards for 16 appliance types not currently covered at the federal level, from air compressors and commercial dishwashers to computers and computer monitors. Taking these inefficient appliances out of the market is a significant move towards affordability and will cumulatively save Vermonters $210 million by 2035. From a carbon pollution standpoint, this will be equivalent to taking thousands of cars off the road.
Check out the latest on our efficiency and electrification campaigns below.
Recent Efficiency and Electrification News
The Transportation bill being debated in the VT legislature creates a program to help Vermonters who are low income repair cars’ emissions control systems, keeping pollution out of our air. Unfortunately, it also lets cars that fail emissions tests off the hook as long as they’re 15 years old or older, allowing them to pollute ...Read More
The electric vehicle incentive program made it into the budget and out of the House late last month, with Representatives allocating $1.5 million to the program. This is a far cry from the $4.5 million VPIRG and our allies have advocated for this session. As it moves on for consideration in the Senate, we will continue ...Read More
In a win for climate action, H.439, a bill to increase the funding of weatherization efforts in Vermont, passed the House and now moves onto the Senate. The bill increases the fuels tax by 2 cents a gallon, which will bring in $4.5 million more in revenue for weatherization projects for low income households. Weatherizing Vermont’s ...Read More
Last week on Town Meeting Day, Vermonters across the state voted on important local issues, weighing in on banning plastic bags, electing local leaders (Lincoln the Goat was just sworn in as Fair Haven’s new ‘pet mayor’), and addressing climate change, among other things. VPIRG played a role in supporting many of these issues, and ...Read More
Last week, VPIRG spoke to members of the Climate Solutions Caucus in the statehouse to outline the various pieces of the Volkswagen Settlements. Our Clean Energy Advocate, Kanika Gandhi, presented the group with a memo (see below) and described the state and federal level settlement outcomes. The caucus is pushing for all funding, both the ...Read More