Vermont Enacts Groundbreaking Law to Help Highest-Need Drivers Switch to EVs, Save on Fuel Costs

Today, Vermont’s Governor signed into law S.137, a bill that gives municipal utility Burlington Electric Department the power to create new incentives to help high-volume gasoline users switch to electric vehicles. This is the first law in the country designed specifically to help low- and moderate-income drivers using extreme amounts of gasoline – more than 1,000 gallons a year – shift to electric vehicles.

“Prioritizing superusers for the switch to electric vehicles is critical to cut gasoline use at the speed and scale required by the climate crisis. This strategy helps meet our emission reduction targets faster. It also better supports lower-income households that are most burdened by gasoline costs,” said Janelle London, co-executive director of Coltura, a non-profit conducting first-of-its-kind analysis on incentive programs that will reduce gasoline use and help the lowest-income drivers save on fuel costs. “We look forward to continuing work with state partners to make this program succeed.”  

“Burlington’s Net Zero Energy 2030 Roadmap focuses in part on reducing emissions in the ground transportation sector, and Burlington Electric is looking forward to utilizing the new authority in S. 137 to bolster our incentive programs and provide more help to our customers who have a larger energy burden or who currently use a large amount of gasoline for commuting,” said Darren Springer, General Manager, Burlington Electric Department. We are appreciative of the opportunity this legislation will provide for continued energy innovation in Burlington as we strive to reduce fossil fuel use, and we look forward to helping more Burlingtonians make the switch to electric vehicles.” 

“We know who is hurting when it comes to paying their bills”, said Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins, Burlington, Chittenden-13, co-chair of the Vermont General Assembly’s Climate Solutions Caucus and previous chair of the Burlington Electric Commission. “It’s those who have the least to spend. Yet these are the people who can most benefit from shifting to more efficient, cleaner technologies. But usually they can’t afford the upfront cost. I am ecstatic that we will soon be able to point to all the ‘wins’ in this type of policy: increased equity and affordability and decreased emissions.”

“Over and over again we’ve seen states lead the way on smart climate policy,” said Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Energy Program Director for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “We’re proud to have helped advance this policy, both because of the very real benefits it will enable for the residents of Burlington, and because utilities and states helping Americans who have to drive the most get into electric vehicles is something that should be happening across the nation and it’s got to start somewhere. We’re excited to see progress being made on this around the country, and will be urging legislators here to make this kind of program available statewide in the future.”

“As a member of the Vermont House Committee on Environment and Energy, I’m proud to support this effort to do even more through Burlington’s existing energy efficiency programs to equitably reduce emissions and in the transportation sector,” said Rep. Kate Logan, Chittenden-16, Burlington (Central Old North End and Downtown). “As a Burlington representative and resident, I look forward to promoting this program, in particular to help my low- to moderate-income constituents who bear the highest energy burden today. It’s simply unacceptable that some Vermonters pay a third or more of their income just for gasoline, and this program represents an important step away from that reality.”

“As a state senator representing rural communities all the way up to the spine of the Green Mountains, I know too well how hard it is for many of my constituents to afford to fill up their gas tanks again and again,” said Sen. Becca White (Windsor County Senate District). “I’m proud to support this pilot moving forward, and hope something like it will be available for all Vermonters soon.”  

More background:

In 2020, Vermont’s state legislature created a pilot program to allow Efficiency Vermont and Burlington Electric Department to bolster transportation and heating electrification. S.137 extends that pilot program for an additional three years and will allow Burlington Electric Department to create new incentives to help Burlingtonians who use the most gasoline transition to electric vehicles. That additional flexibility could result in the first incentives specifically for gasoline “superusers” in the country.

According to research from non-profit Coltura, US drivers in the top 10% for gasoline consumption (gasoline superusers) consume about a third of the country’s gasoline. Many low- and moderate-income drivers must use large amounts of gasoline because their workplaces, conveniences, and schools are far from where they can afford to live. Coltura’s research shows many lower-income drivers are paying 25% of their income on gasoline and that they could save $500 a month on fuel costs and $300 on monthly maintenance and repair costs by switching to an EV.
And while the federal government passed consumer tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act to incentivize more Americans to switch to EVs, Coltura analysis shows the communities switching to EVs are mostly wealthier, lower-mileage drivers. Incentive programs designed for gasoline superusers– like this one in Vermont– will help ensure that lower-income families are able to access the cost-saving benefits of EVs, while also lowering vehicle pollution and accelerating the state’s progress toward its emissions reduction requirements.

About Coltura: Coltura is a 501c3 nonprofit with a mission to improve climate, health and equity by accelerating the switch from gasoline and diesel to cleaner alternatives.

About VPIRG: The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) is Vermont’s largest environmental and consumer protection advocacy organization. Its mission is to promote and protect the health of Vermont’s people, environment and locally-based economy by informing and mobilizing individuals and communities across Vermont, and it has been leading climate and energy campaigns in Vermont for several decades. 

About Burlington Electric Department: Burlington Electric Department (BED) is the municipal electric company of the City of Burlington, Vermont, and was established in 1905. In 2014, Burlington became the first city in the nation to source 100% of its power from renewable generation, and is pursuing the bold goal – adopted in 2019 by Mayor Miro Weinberger and the Burlington City Council – of becoming a Net Zero Energy city by 2030.

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