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.
In 2020, VPIRG and our allies are working to expand our efficiency utilities’ mission to focus on reducing climate pollution. This is a huge opportunity – if we get it right and seize it. Vermont should:
- Continue to invest in electric efficiency to save all Vermonters money while expanding the scope of Efficiency Vermont and our other efficiency utilities to help Vermonters reduce energy use and switch to efficiency, electric heating and transportation; and
- Make cutting climate pollution a new top priority for the efficiency utilities, and pair it with traditional metrics such as reduced energy and peak as secondary goals.
• 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. Click here to get the ‘inside scoop’ on energy transformation and the rebates available to you from your utility.
• 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
In November 2017, VPIRG signed onto the Transportation Electrification Accord along with a broad array of organizations and businesses committed to an equitable, prosperous and electrified transportation future. Among other principles, the Accord recognizes that electric vehicles (both light duty and heavy duty) can “advance economic development, create jobs, provide grid services, integrate more renewable energy, and ...Read More
What if we could improve our children’s health and our communities’ bottom lines while increasing access to transportation options that are affordable and better for our environment? We believe it is possible, and that is why we’ve joined Transportation for Vermonters, a broad new transportation coalition. As part of the T4VT coalition, VPIRG will be ...Read More
On Monday August 7th, the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) passed with broad bipartisan support a resolution (starts pg. 42) urging Congress to fully fund the Department of Energy’s (DOE) appliance efficiency standards program. The resolution, which passed with broad bipartisan support, was sponsored by Vermont Representative Curt McCormack (Chittenden-6-3), who co-chairs the NCSL ...Read More
On Friday, July 7th, the Public Utility Commission (PUC), formerly known as the Public Service Board, rejected the Scott Administration’s recommendation of an 8% cut to Efficiency Vermont’s budget. Instead, they chose to adopt the recommendation put forth by the organization that runs Efficiency Vermont, the Vermont Electric Investment Company (VEIC). This is essentially a ...Read More
Last week, we reported that the Vermont Senate was considering a proposal by the Administration to raid funds for critical heating efficiency programs to help close the budget gap. VPIRG supporters launched into action, calling their senators and asking them to oppose this idea. We’re happy to report that it looks like this plan has been ...Read More