A recent commentary, “Vermont’s Greenhouse Gas Mandate: Costly, Symbolic Environmentalism,” on reducing Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions by Jonathan Lesser has been broadly disseminated by various Vermont media outlets.
Dr. Lesser is president of Continental Economics, and he makes the case that the numbers in the 2016 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan don’t add up. Couple Lesser’s analyses with the fact that Gov. Phil Scott’s newly appointed Climate Action Commission is conducting a “listening tour” around the state during the next month, and Vermonters have a rare opportunity to meaningfully influence future energy goals and actions in Vermont.
We need to propose actions that will stimulate and improve our economic competitiveness while preserving the social fabric and environmental resiliency of our state. Vermont’s Green Mountains provide a uniquely beautiful place to live and grow our families. We need to ensure it stays that way. The commissioners are looking for good ideas for reducing Vermont’s total per-capita energy use by more than one-third and for obtaining 90 percent of our total energy from renewable sources by 2050. These may be good goals, but Vermont “environmental organizations” are pressing to have them (and the Comprehensive Energy Plan) codified in law to mandate expensive actions designed to leave us feeling great about saving our planet, despite the facts (evidenced by Dr. Lesser) that demonstrate such actions taken by Vermont will yield no perceptible benefit and will damage our economy.
Residents of the Northeast Kingdom need to turn out in force to propose sound strategies for reducing our energy use (already among the lowest per capita in the nation) and for switching to renewables where we can do so cost effectively.
It makes sense to increase the thermal efficiency of our older housing stock (many of our homes were built prior to 1940), to improve transportation efficiency and vehicle mileage and, yes, to equitably share the cost with other users to build a reliable and costeffective distributed electricity grid in the Kingdom and throughout New England.
We in the Northeast Kingdom are already net exporters of renewable electric energy, even without considering the huge output of local Connecticut River hydro dams. This is great news – we are way ahead of the rest of Vermont and (thanks, in part, to Efficiency Vermont) our electricity usage is decreasing. The draft Northeastern Vermont Development Association energy plan details the Northeast Kingdom energy situation and proposes goals and strategies to address the Comprehensive Energy Plan goals (proposed as chapter two of the regional plan). Further, it proposes ways Kingdom towns can improve their municipal plans to include actionable energy sections that will benefit each one of us. Let’s plan and create our own energy future. Still, the Climate Action Commission wants specific, actionable ideas presented at their listening sessions. I will attend their Sept. 13, Northeast Kingdom listening session and propose two:
— Utilities serving the Northeast Kingdom NEK need to work with our newly renamed Public Utility Commission to access more renewable base-load Canadian wind and hydropower energy using the Sheffield/ Highgate export interface or the planned high-voltage lines transiting the Northeast Kingdom, like the Granite State Power Link.
— Our neighbors in Chittenden County need to lobby for the Lake Champlain Wind Park. It provides great benefits for them – it is near their electricity usage load center (Burlington), the transmission grid is not constrained in that area, it visibly meets the environmental aspirations of Chittenden County residents, it has a great wind resource blowing across the lake, and it avoids private-property concerns because it is in state waters. I feel sure we can muster Northeast Kingdom support for their project.
Paul Brouha is a resident of Sutton.
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