Vermont Aims for 90% Renewable Energy by 2050

The Vermont Department of Public Service released a draft  Comprehensive Energy Plan, calling for 90% of the state’s energy to come from renewables by 2050.

It replaces a 2008 plan that called for 25% renewable energy by 2050. The new plan addresses Vermont’s electricity, thermal energy,  transportation, and land use.

Vermont is the first state in the Northeast to implement a feed-in tariff to promote renewable energy development, and last year, its legislature voted to retire the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in 2012.

Noting that "Vermont already consistently leads the nation in energy efficiency investments," the Plan calls for a strategy "to virtually eliminate Vermont’s reliance upon oil by mid-century by moving toward enhanced efficiency measures, greater use of  renewable sources for electricity, heating, and transportation, and adopting electric vehicles, while increasing use of natural gas and biofuel blends where non-renewable fuels remain necessary."

Vermont has already taken many steps in this direction. This year, it launched a model program that cuts the red tape for solar – instead of having to get a permit, people simply register to install solar systems 5kW and smaller.

A 2.2 megawatt (MW) solar farm went online in July and a controversial wind farm has been approved. 

The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund supports small green businesses in the state with access to the flexible risk capital they need to grow – without having to give up their ownership stake in the company.

Vermont already leads the US in energy efficiency investments, which has been driving down electricity use by over 2% a year, but that could be enhanced substantially by ramping up home energy retrofits.

"We are well behind on the goals we have set to make our homes more energy efficient. Although we have managed to improve about 6,700 homes since 2008 with current programs, funding, and efforts, we need to increase our pace to 8,200 homes per year to meet the legislative challenge to improve the energy performance of 80,000 homes by 2020."

Since 2004, Vermont has been reducing greenhouse gas emissions 3% a year, but that’s still well behind its target of 25% below 1990 levels by 2012 and 50% below 1990 levels by 2028.

Transitioning the state to renewables will provide significant benefits:

  • It will foster economic security and independence by creating jobs, enhancing local economic activity, and reducing total costs for Vermonters;
  • Safeguard the environment by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions;
  • Drive in-state innovation and jobs creation by positioning the state as an innovation hub for energy through partnerships of local energy businesses and academic resources; and
  • Increase community involvement and investment by connecting Vermont communities to local energy sources.

"I believe there is no greater challenge and opportunity to Vermont and our world than the challenge to change the way we use and produce energy," Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin writes in his foreword to the report.

The Vermont Renewable Energy Conference & Expo is October 11 & 12, in Burlington.

The public comment period is open until November 4 and there will be a public hearing later this month.

Here’s the plan:

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