As Vermont works to tackle the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions, more and more residents will need access to affordable, reliable, and accessible clean electricity. Fortunately, this legislative session brought $35 million for electrification – primarily for low- and moderate-income Vermonters – that will broadly support our state’s continued transition away from fossil fuels towards electrification of our heating and transportation.
In Vermont’s older homes (and some newer ones), existing electrical systems often need to be upgraded before technologies like cold climate heat pumps and EV chargers, can be installed. That’s why Vermont’s legislature just allocated $20 million to support low- and moderate-income Vermonters doing just that – making the needed upgrades to their home electrical systems to allow for installation of energy saving, carbon pollution reducing technologies.
The legislature also allocated $5 million to create a Switch & Save Program, which will allow low- and moderate-income Vermonters to install heat pump water heaters at low- or no-cost to them. Approximately 25,000 water heaters are replaced in Vermont each year, according to the Vermont Climate Action Plan, and 70% of new water heaters installed are fossil fuel-fired. This amount of funding will support 1200-2000 homes in installing heat pump water heaters. Find more information about Switch & Save here.
Importantly, as more Vermonters move towards electrification, we must also ensure that our electricity grid has the ability to manage the additional load placed on it, as well as the storage capacity necessary to support providing electricity to everyone that needs it. This legislative session ensured the Department of Public Service will receive $2 million to support load management and energy storage – specifically for low- and moderate-income Vermonters, smaller electric utilities, and municipalities.
Finally, as we continue to ensure the reliability of the grid through these needed investments, our state is also looking to upgrade and modernize the ways in which our utilities deliver electricity to customers. Many of the major utilities in the state have already gone a long way in installing Advanced Metering Infrastructure and “Smart Grid” technologies like wireless meters which enable customers to have a better understanding and management of their energy. Through the Public Service Department, an additional $8 million will be available, with a 70% match, for rural and municipal electric utilities to access funds for installing Advanced Metering Infrastructure so that all Vermonters can benefit from them.
All of these are necessary investments and an important start on the work to improve our electricity sector and support more Vermonters in moving away from fossil fuels, and they simply wouldn’t have been possible without the consistent, strident demands for climate action from VPIRG members and Vermonters across the state. It’s also just the beginning of the work we need to do to electrify Vermont, and we’re grateful to all the Vermonters who will continue to push for bold, necessary climate action with us!
Stay tuned for more later this week!