Energy efficiency is the key to unlock climate solutions

by Rebecca Foster, Director, Efficiency Vermont

Vermont is a small state with big goals. The Comprehensive Energy Plan calls for Vermont to achieve 90 percent renewable energy by 2050, and the state has committed to greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025—just six years away! Energy Action Network’s (EAN) recently released a report that highlights the progress made toward these goals, and the work that remains to achieve them.

The EAN report comes at an important time for Efficiency Vermont. Soon we will begin work with the state’s Public Utility Commission, Department of Public Service, utilities, and other energy stakeholders to establish goals for the statewide energy efficiency utility to pursue in the coming three-year performance period, which begins in 2021.

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Vermont faces a steep climb in achieving its clean energy goals. Collaborating, building on past successes, and aligning Efficiency Vermont’s performance targets in support of those goals could provide the boost needed to get up that mountain.

Clean energy is a team effort

As the EAN report illustrates, it will take lots of partners working together to reach Vermont’s climate goals. No one organization or entity will be able to single-handedly lead Vermont to attaining 90 percent renewable energy by 2050, nor the 2025 greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reductions commitment it has made.

At Efficiency Vermont, we believe our proven record of success can bolster the efforts of the many partners already working toward these goals. Since Efficiency Vermont was established in 2000, Vermonters have reduced electricity and, more recently, heating fuel consumption. This has already prevented the release of 11 million metric tons of C02, the equivalent of the pollution released by 242,00 cars for 10 years. What does this tell us? Energy efficiency is a powerful key to helping Vermont unlock and accelerate climate solutions.

Proven practices bring goals within reach

EAN’s report models the scale of energy transformation that would be required to meet 2025 targets, which include:

  • Adding 90,000 heat pump systems
  • Adding 25,000 advanced wood heat systems
  • Weatherizing 90,000 more homes
  • Adding 90,000 heat pump water heaters

In pursuit of its current energy savings goals, Efficiency Vermont has already begun to transform each of these markets through supply chain coordination, technical support, workforce training, and incentives. We have a long way to go, but we are ready to accelerate. In doing so, we could generate significant energy and cost savings as well as meaningful GHG reductions for the state. The mindset and skill set of transforming markets is one that we will need to reach the ambitious targets ahead of us.

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The right goals lead to the right outcomes

In light of the EAN report, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with customers, partners, and policymakers about how Vermont will be able to meet its goals. The questions I’m hearing, and that I’d like to explore with our stakeholders as we begin planning for Efficiency Vermont’s next performance period, boil down to these:

  • How would our work change if our main goals were energy cost savings and GHG reduction instead of reducing kilowatt-hours of electricity?
    • What products or services would we target?
    • Could we address opportunities like transportation?
  • What outcomes would energy cost and GHG reduction goals generate?
    • Would those outcomes be more, or less beneficial for Vermont?
  • Should we have shared goals with our distribution utility partners and other clean energy stakeholders in the state?
    • If we were to work under a system of shared goals, what more could we accomplish with our resources? How would we measure success?

At Efficiency Vermont, we are excited by the prospect of working with our partners across the state to tackle the state’s energy and climate challenges. The EAN report demonstrates that the need to rethink and modernize programs like Efficiency Vermont is real. To meet the 2025 milestones and get on track toward our 2050 Comprehensive Energy Plan goal, we will need all of Vermont’s energy programs, resources, and initiatives aligned to reduce energy cost and GHG and focused on the steep climb ahead.

Read the Energy Action Network 2018 Progress report.

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