Electric Vehicle Fast Charging and New England’s Highways – A Shot in the Arm from the Feds!

Last week, President Biden laid out a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that puts transportation upgrades at the top of a long national project list.  The $174 billion earmarked for electric vehicles and electric vehicle (EV) charging equipment actually exceeds the $115 billion budgeted for repairs to roads, bridges and highways. For those who own an electric vehicle, or are thinking of buying one, these seem like the right priorities:

  *   In poll after poll, consumers cite the lack of EV charging stations and extra time to charge EVs as the main reasons for not buying one.  The higher purchase price of EVs actually ranks behind these other factors.

Biden’s infrastructure plan is going all out to allay drivers’ concerns about a switchover to EVs.  To avoid any sticker shock, the plan calls for extending a $7,500 federal tax credit for new EV purchases, and provides rebates and other financial incentives for individuals and businesses.  And to put to rest drivers’ “range anxiety” over battery-powered vehicles. Biden’s plan would spread a half million new public charging stations across the United States by 2030.  It’s also part of a plan to focus on decarbonization of the U.S. transportation sector – and for good reason.  As electric utilities move toward a greener energy supply, it’s the transportation sector that’s now pumping out the most greenhouse gas emissions — about one-third of the nation’s total.  For that share to fall, EV adoption has to move into high gear.

  *   At present, EVs make up just 2% of the new car market and represent less than 1% of all cars, sport-utility vehicles, vans and pickup trucks on the road.

Charging up – More Options in the Near Future!

If you already own an electric vehicle – and, better still, use solar power to charge it – you’re already doing your part to eliminate carbon from your personal transportation footprint.  And if you power your EV from home solar, you’re moving from $2-$5 “at the pump” to more like $0.75 “per gallon” to power your vehicles!  But what happens when you want to venture out, especially on longer drives, and you need to charge your EV battery away from home?  Does “range anxiety” set in? Right now, the nation has about 45,000 public charging stations, with about 115,000 charging outlets overall.  By comparison, the U.S. has about 110,000 gas stations – with lots more pumps that make refueling quick and easy.

A bit of a challenge for EV drivers, most existing public charging stations use so-called “Level 2” chargers, which take about eight hours to deliver a full charge.  Campgrounds have charging capability for RV’s, using Level 2 chargers, so that’s an option for those who can take advantage, but EV drivers on the go can benefit from something that can deliver a quicker charge.

Direct current “fast chargers” (DCFCs) are fast becoming the answer — for public charging stations at least.  They typically can deliver more than 200 miles of range in only 30 minutes of charging time.  We’re still a bit short on that solution in Vermont and New Hampshire, but the solution is coming shortly.

So, as we await Congress’s vote on the Biden infrastructure plan, here’s a quick review of where EV adoption stands in Vermont, New Hampshire and neighboring Massachusetts.  There are even a few suggested EV routes at the end!

Vermont – A Small State Leader

It’s been 63 years since Vermont became one of the first states to complete a section of the nation’s interstate highway system.  What started as the first dozen miles of I-91, north of the Massachusetts border, now extends 177 miles, all the way to Canada.  I-89, which opened its first stretch in 1960, now runs 129 miles, from the Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire to the top of Lake Champlain in northwest Vermont.  The I-89/I-91 interchange in White River Junction was finished in 1967, putting the “Upper Valley” of Vermont and New Hampshire on the destination map for a new generation of road-tripping tourists.

Fast forward to today and Vermont is a trailblazer once again.  The Green Mountain state now leads the nation in the rate of EV charger installations, at 36 for every 10,000 residents.  However, statistics like this skew in favor of states with small populations.  On the ground, Vermont’s EV charger coverage is still quite spotty, especially when it comes to fast chargers!

  • Traveling along the I-91 corridor, only three fast-charging stations are found in Brattleboro, White River Junction and Bradford.  For the last 80-mile stretch to the Canadian border, only five level 2 public charging stations are within easy reach of I-91.
  • I-89 also has a 43-mile gap between fast-charging stations in Quechee and Barre.  Coverage then improves from Montpelier through St. Albans, along this most-traveled portion of Vermont’s interstate highway system.

Fortunately, more EV charging stations are on the way in Vermont.  In February, the Vermont Agency of Transportation announced that 11 new fast-charging stations will be installed near major highways or ski areas throughout the state.  Notably, five of these new charging stations will be located in the Northeast Kingdom and along Vermont’s northern flank with Canada.

To date, Vermont has spent $2.7 million from the 2016 “dieselgate” settlement with Volkswagen, leading to 86 level-2 charging installations and 16 fast-charging stations across the state.  Once these 11 new installations are added over the next two years – with another $1.7 million spent out of Vermont’s share of this $2.7 billion national settlement trust – all Vermonters should be within an easy 30-mile drive of a fast-charging station.

New Hampshire – A Small State Laggard

Across the Connecticut River, in New Hampshire, EV adoption is still in need of a real jump-start.  Not only does the Granite State have less than half of Vermont’s EV adoption rate; it has virtually no fast-charging stations available to the general public north of Bedford, right on the Massachusetts border.  The one lucky exception is for Tesla customers, who can access Tesla supercharging stations at the Hooksett tolls and at five shopping centers around the state.  While each station has 10 or more outlets available, they only work with Tesla vehicles.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire has been slow to spend the $31 million in funding it has received from Volkswagen’s “dieselgate” settlement.  Fully half of the proceeds have been earmarked to replace diesel-powered vehicles owned by state and local governments, with less than $5 million going toward EV charging infrastructure.  A year ago, New Hampshire turned down all bids to install fast chargers along six major transportation corridors in the state.  The goal is to put all New Hampshire residents within 50 miles of a fast charger eventually.

Separately, Electrify America, the Volkswagen EV-charging subsidiary that grew out of the “dieselgate” settlement, has plans to install fast-charging stations at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester and at the Wal-Mart shopping plaza in West Lebanon later this year.  These chargers are capable of providing an electric vehicle with up to 80 miles of range in just 20 minutes.  Altogether, Electrify America has proposed spending $20 million to build 28 additional charging stations in New Hampshire and Vermont, including two along I-89 between Concord, NH, and Burlington, VT.

EVGO, a competing EV charging firm that operates more than 800 fast-charging stations in 34 states, thinks New Hampshire should take an alternative approach to building out its EV charging infrastructure.  It recommends that the state concentrate more charging stations in its urban centers to accommodate those who rent apartments or townhouses and may not have access to garages or personal charging stations.

VermontNew Hampshire Massachusetts
National ranking3284
EV Adoption Rate 0.49% 0.22% 0.45%
Level 2 & Fast Chargers 2791261,589
# of Outlets/per 10K vehicles713/35.7276/5.73,477/15.9
# of EV program incentives15618
Source:  QuoteWizard and the U.S. Department of Energy, January 2021

Massachusetts – A National Leader

Finally, Massachusetts – our more populous neighbor to the south – is regarded as a national leader in EV adoption.  It boasts an EV adoption rate nearly as high as Vermont’s, despite having a 15 times greater population.  Massachusetts also has 18 state incentive programs to promote EVs and EV charging infrastructure, compared to only six in New Hampshire.

  • Massachusetts offers $2,500 rebates toward the purchase or lease of EVs under $50,000 by individuals, and $7,500 grants for EV purchases used in public fleets.
  • Another state program provides grants of up to 80% toward the purchase and installation of EV chargers (up to $50,000), as long as they are available for public use at least 12 hours a day
  • When all of these factors are put together, Massachusetts ranks just behind Vermont in a national ranking of state adoption of EV infrastructure.
  • Many utilities are also targeting this market, since electrification of the ground transportation fleet could lead to a 25% bump to their own customer demand.
  • You can find a complete listing of state government and utility incentives for EV purchases and charging infrastructure here.

Wanna Go for an E-venture?

Given the current state of play for EV charging infrastructure in northern New England, are you ready to go on an “e-venture”?  There are lots of tools included as links in this post that can help you plot your route from one fast-charging station to the next.

That said, to the extent “range anxiety” was ever a real problem for EV drivers in New England, it isn’t anymore.  You can always count on finding an EV charger somewhere in, say, a 50-mile range of your location.  You just can’t be sure whether it will be a fast charger when you get there – or whether other people will be waiting in line to use it!

That’s one reason why President Biden’s infrastructure plan wants to blanket the country with 500,000 new charging stations.  This would put the number of EV outlets roughly on par with the number of gasoline pumps available at 110,000 gasoline filling stations nationwide.

  *   Remember, a fast charger is only as good as the fast time you make use of it. The cost per minute of a direct current fast-charging (DCFC) system fast is typically about 20 times the rate for a level 2 charger (or about  33₵/min vs $1/hr).  And, once you get to an 80% state-of-charge (SOC) for your EV battery, a DCFC system slows down to the same charging rate as a level 2 system.  So, it ends up being way cheaper to “top off your EV tank” at a level 2 charger – including one you may have installed at your home!

If you’re ready to go on an e-venture, here are a few popular routes recommended for EV drivers in our neck of the woods.  With any luck, you might even spot some new EV charging stations along the way!

Solaflect is your home energy management partner.  We help you install clean and affordable solar electricity and home battery systems for a more resilient and climate-friendly future.  Click here to contact us, or email info@solaflect.com, or call (802)649-3700, or text (802)308-3018.  Working together, the power is in our hands to make a difference!

Spring Equinox at the 45th Parallel: Halfway to the Center of It All

At Solaflect Energy, today’s Equinox has us thinking warm thoughts about the long, sunny days ahead. For those who like living with a “sense of place,” northern New England has something really special to offer: a spot on the North American continent where the days start getting longer than the nights right as the vernal Equinox marks the official turn of winter into the spring.

This wonderful celestial symmetry comes with the territory. We inhabit a place that’s easy to spot on any classroom globe. It’s the 45th Parallel, marking the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole of the of the Northern Hemisphere. We colonists of this 45th Parallel are much too diverse a group to claim any common heritage. But if we were to take a trip around the globe, staying to our common ground, we could set out from Eastport, Maine, enter Europe at the northern tip of Spain, cross the Alps and then the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, before reaching the Pacific Ocean at snowy Hokkaido, Japan, with final stops in Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, along this 17,500-mile, circumpolar journey.

Goldilocks in Reverse

From a weather standpoint, you might say we 45th Parallelers live in a “reverse-Goldilocks” environment. While it can get “too hot” or “too cold” on occasion, our weather usually seems to balance out “just right” over four celestial seasons.

Or at least we used to think so. Now a lot of weather observers in our neck of the woods think the weather is falling out of kilter. The “too-cold” temperature rarely gets below zero anymore. The “ice-out” dates on frozen ponds are coming sooner and becoming more unpredictable. More people are planting spring flowers before Memorial Day and getting away with it. Indian Summer is just getting started on Columbus Day, when it used to be winding down; now it can last practically till Thanksgiving.  Compared to the climatic stresses that other latitudes are feeling because of global warming, these weather changes are relatively mild — and not entirely bad!   Here’s what some 45th Parallel weather observers told the Boston Globe about recent weather changes in our area:

Let the Sun Shine – on northern New England!

From a solar standpoint, northern New England ain’t so bad, either!  When the sun makes its Spring debut this Saturday, it will be halfway through its northerly pass of the Northern Hemisphere, with the longest days of the year starting in the weeks ahead. By the time we max out on daylight hours on the Summer Solstice, June 20, solar power in our neck of the woods will be turning photons into electrons for 15 hours and 15 minutes straight – leaving less than eight hours of darkness before the morning sun starts the process all over again.

So, for those who watch the sun arc over our 45th Parallel from afar, we may look like distant castaways at some remote northerly outpost. Yet, we who are the ones truly in the middle of it all, hunkered down in just what might be the right place at the right time to weather the coming storm of climate change – and whatever else the whole wide world might throw at us!

45th Parallelers Unite!

And we’re not alone! Here’s how our fellow 45th Parallelers at the Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi in the small town of Cadett, Wisconsin, see our shared place in the world. For these “Middlesotans,” camped out some 1,500 miles inland of here, weather extremes cancel each other out to create one of the most temperate places on earth, and extreme weather is just about as extreme as anything there ever seems to get:

“In an intemperate world, here is the most temperate place in the temperate zone (emphasis added). It is an idealized midpoint between extremes of cold and heat, the center between the Apollonian rationality of the frigid north and the Dionysian turbulence of the torrid zone to the south. This pride in “middleness” may be strongest in the mid-continent regions the 45th traverses, in North America as well as in Europe, where residents seek a cultural midpoint distinct from the dominance of the coastal fringes, and the swings of continental weather are a seasonal reminder of the possibilities of extremes. As with anywhere, homeland pride can inspire both parochial isolation as well as a sympathetic global point of view.”

So, on this Spring Equinox, let us rejoice in living in the best place at the best latitude on the planet, and enjoy the long, sunny days ahead!

Solaflect Energy is your home energy management partner. We help you install clean and affordable solar electricity and battery systems for a more durable and climate-resilient future. Click here to contact us, or email info@solaflect.com, or call (802)649-3700, or text (802)308-3018.

Super Bowl Ads, Climate Change, and Vermont’s Lagging Regulators

The following commentary by Solaflect President Bill Bender was published by VT Digger, the Brattleboro Reformer and the Mountain Times in February, 2021 following the Superbowl.

It is time for the Scott administration and Vermont electric utility regulators (the Public Service Department, the Public Utility Commission and the Agency of Natural Resources) to watch the Super Bowl, or more specifically, the ads. The world is changing, but Vermont’s regulators and Gov. Scott are stuck in the 20th century.

If you missed it, GM came out with three Will Ferrell teaser ads and a Super Bowl ad preview before the big game, in which they claimed that GM and the U.S. are coming after Norway and its electric vehicle dominance. They do not want Norway to win with the highest EV penetration in the world. 

In 2020, only one-fourth of the cars sold in Norway were traditional gasoline- or diesel-powered cars. Fully 54.3% of light vehicles bought were 100% electric (EVs), and the remainder were hybrids. GM has committed that the vast majority of vehicles that it sells in 2035 will be fully electric, and is using the Super Bowl to stake its claim to the EV world.

In an impressive display of quick marketing response, Audi almost immediately produced tongue-in-cheek response ads with “Game of Thrones” star Kristofer Hivju, with the theme “Don’t Hate. Imitate.” Audi concludes with “Audi e-tron: Norway’s Best Selling Car in 2020.” 

Not to be outdone, Ford jumps into the fray with Twitter videos, pointing out that it sells EVs in Norway while GM doesn’t.

In the meantime, Vermont regulators’ projections of the future show climate failure. Their spreadsheet model has EVs reaching full adoption in Vermont only by 2079. 

At the same time, the PUC is strangling the solar industry (or, more correctly, forcing thousands of good jobs to leave the state) with a 34% tax on self-consumed solar electricity. This is in the same range as the tax on cigarettes.

The Agency of Natural Resources is presenting data to the Vermont Climate Council and the Legislature showing that carbon emissions from Vermont’s electric sector were reduced 620,000 metric tons between 2016 and 2018. This would require the equivalent to removing one-third of all vehicles from Vermont roads (is there a secret graveyard in Lake Champlain?) or building 1.26 gigawatts of solar (many times what has ever been built in Vermont), which is clearly nonsense. 

This crazy data is a direct result of greenwashing by the utilities, which amazingly is encouraged by the Scott administration. Nearly 95% of Vermont’s electricity is produced on 20th-century facilities, while the utilities and regulators are falsely convincing Vermonters that our grid is green. 

Producing electricity on 20- to 120-year-old facilities, even if technically “carbon-free” (nuclear) or “renewable” (dams), does nothing to mitigate climate change. Over 43% of New England’s electricity is produced from fossil fuels, and Vermont needs a massive construction of solar and/or wind facilities to make our contribution to preventing climate change.

Why isn’t Vermont the Norway of the U.S.? Let’s put the “Green” back into the Green Mountain State.

Now Is the Time to Sign Your Own Solar Executive Order

On Day One in the White House, President Joe Biden signed an executive order recommitting our nation to fight global warming under the Paris climate accord.  Now it’s your turn to step up to the plate with your own pledge to combat climate change by installing clean, solar power, the sooner the better!

If you live in Vermont, however, it’s really wise to act NOW to lock in the best net-metering rates.  Think of this as your own executive order to “go solar!”   In yet another perverse policy change showing how out of step the Vermont Public Utility Commission (VPUC) is with the Vermont’s stated renewable energy goals, net-metering rates for solar will decline, for the 5th year in a row, on February 1st.

Taking this solar pledge is really simple.  You just need to submit a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) to the VPUC before January 31st to lock in today’s more favorable rates — an average savings of $1,500.  Submitting this form doesn’t commit you to anything, but it does lock in savings and buy you 12 months to assess and think carefully about how solar energy can work at your home to make an informed decision.

Solaflect Energy can help you complete and submit this CPG form before the Jan. 31 net-metering deadline.  That way, you’re guaranteed to lock in today’s favorable rates, before they are reduced, yet again, starting February 1.  And by submitting the form, you’ll also be sending a loud-and-clear message that you intend on solar being part of your energy future, regardless of the backward steps being taken by the VPUC right now.

Don’t forget that you’ll also be able to take advantage of an extension of the solar tax credits just passed by Congress.  The 26% federal Investment Tax Credit for new residential and small commercial solar installations now will stay in effect for the next two years, before falling to 22% in 2023, and then expiring in 2024.

But, if you live in Vermont, you must act right away to avoid the $1,500 cut in solar net-metering rates.  The clock is ticking!

Click here to Contact Solaflect, or email us at info@solaflect.com, call us at (802)649-3700, or text us at (802)308-3018 and we’ll help you get the CPG form filled out and submitted to the VPUC before the end of this month.  Then we can schedule an appointment to scope out your solar project for installation later this winter, spring, summer or fall.  Working together, the power is in our hands to make a difference!

Vermont Cutting Solar Net-Metering Again January 31st, 2021

For Homeowners Considering Solar, Congress Giveth and Vermont Taketh Away

Homeowners looking to install solar power received welcome news from Congress over the Christmas holidays.  As part of an omnibus spending bill, Congress extended the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar energy by two years.  The 26% credit for residential installations now will remain in effect through 2022, before the credit falls to 22% in 2023 and then expires in 2024.  The two-year extension gives the solar industry and those who care about climate change extra time to negotiate longer-term tax credits and cement ties with the climate goals of the incoming Biden administration.

But for homeowners in Vermont wanting to go solar, there is still an urgency to act right away.  Solar incentives (also called “adders”) are about to be cut back, again, by the Vermont Public Utilities Commission.  The net-metering rate will be slashed by 2 cents per kilowatt-hour on Feb. 1, followed by an additional 1₵/kWh on Sept. 1.   To secure the current, higher net-metering rates, Vermont homeowners only need to submit a simple form, called a Certificate for Public Good (CPG), before the end of this month.  There’s no commitment with submission of this form — but it locks in today’s more favorable rates should one choose to move forward in the coming year.  (Contact Us and we’ll fill you in on how it works and help you submit.)

Vermont Regulators Need to ‘See the Light’

The clampdown on solar net-metering payments puts Vermont out of step with the larger solar energy boom in America.  Solar installations in Vermont mushroomed under the federal tax credits and net-metering adders; solar now generates about 7% of Vermont’s total electricity needs – enough to power 58,000 homes.  But the one-two punch of net-metering cutbacks and increased permitting costs has set back Vermont’s solar industry: it’s lost hundreds of jobs since 2016, when the state ranked first in U.S. solar jobs per capita.

The benefits of solar energy go far beyond local job creation, however.  A recent study by Synapse Energy Economics, an environmental research and consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that solar power in New England cut carbon dioxide pollution by 4.6 million tons from 2014-2019, roughly the equivalent of 1 million fewer cars on the road.  (In 2019, carbon dioxide reductions from solar power production in Vermont were the equivalent of taking 42,000 cars off the road.)  Across New England, solar has contributed $87 million in public health benefits between 2014 and 2019, in addition to the $1.1 billion in benefits from switching away from fossil fuel-fired power plants in wholesale power production.

The Vermont PUC, however, is still looking in the rear-view mirror in forging the state’s energy policy. It’s time for the VPUC to “see the light” in solar’s promise to promote clean energy, local jobs and sustainable economic growth.  And the time for you to act is right now, before the net-metering curbs take effect on Feb. 1!  Contact Us and we can help you figure out how solar can work for you, or call (802) 649-3700 or text us at (802) 308-3108.

VTDigger: Vermont Regulators Cut Incentives to Switch to Solar Energy

A new report says solar energy has saved Vermonters $79 million and New Englanders $1.1 billion in just six years. 

That narrative runs counter to the long-running contention from utilities that solar development is driving up retail electricity prices for ratepayers. The study by Synapse Energy Economics, an environmental research and consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was commissioned by three solar industry groups: Renewable Energy Vermont, Vote Solar, and Clean Energy NH. 

The state’s largest utility, Green Mountain Power, and the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority say the Synapse study is based on inaccurate assumptions. 

Read Amanda Gokee’s full December 20, 2020 story at VTDigger.

Official Vermont Policy: Change Nothing and Hope Climate Change goes Away

This graph is the electric mix from the 2020 Annual Energy Report, prepared by the Vermont Department of Public Service (January 15, 2020). This is 95% from 20th century facilities. These do absolutely nothing to solve climate change; if we don’t do anything different, nothing will change. 

Partly by historical accident and partly by conniving, Vermont and its major utilities got their elbows out to grab way more than their share of 20th century renewables and announce to the world how “green” we are. This is 100% shirking responsibility for the climate crisis (link): nothing will change without building NEW renewables. 

Part of the nuclear power is from Seabrook in NH. Construction was started in 1976, and it reached full power in 1990. The remainder is from Millstone in CT. This has two units, the first received a construction permit in 1966 while the second received a permit in 1970. The first reached full power in 1971, while the second reached 100% power in 1976. Some of concerns about increased flood risks to these plants from climate change. The last new nuclear plant in the US started producing power in 1996.

The graph below shows the historical capacity and production of Hydro-Quebec hydropower. 

85% of the capacity is 20th century. There have flooded huge swaths of Quebec, so there are very limited options for big increases in this capacity in the future. 

The remaining hydro in the above pie chart is from dams in Vermont or elsewhere in the Northeast. Many of these dams are 50 to 100 years old or older, and there has been almost no new hydropower in the 21st century.

These resources are great to use, but NEW RENEWABLES are absolutely REQUIRED to solve climate change. Efficiency and lifestyle changes are helpful, but these come nowhere close to eliminating the need for NEW renewables. In addition, only 18% of Vermont’s total energy use is currently electric. The transportation and thermal sectors must be electrified, which will dramatically increase the need for additional renewable electricity.

How Have the Koch Brothers Infiltrated the Scott Administration

Have the Koch Brothers really infiltrated Vermont? Yes, the main argument used by the Vermont Public Service Department, the Public Utilities Commission and the Vermont utilities to kill solar is “cost shifting”. This argument was pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Koch Brothers funded think tank, at least as far back as 2014. It argues for cost-benefit analysis (a widely used technique for evaluating public and private investments) but leaving off the benefits. The Koch Brothers clear yet failing agenda is to protect coal-fired power plants. In the Vermont case, the monopoly utilities fear competition from Vermont residents and businesses going solar to save the planet.

NEVADAVERMONT
Solar Jobs 2015: Approximately 6,000Solar Jobs 2019: Approximately 6,000
State Institution: Nevada PUCState Institution: Vermont PUC
Argument:
There was a total cost-shift of about $36 million per year from the 30,000 DG customers to non-DG customers (from Koch Brothers funded ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Council (https://www.alec.org/publication/net-metering-reform/ and https://www.alec.org/article/new-study-reveals-the-extent-of-rooftop-solar-cost-shift-in-nevada/). DG = distributed generation).
Argument:
net-metering… has resulted in a significant cost-shift to non-participating customers (from VT Department of Public Service filing to PUC on November 1, 2019)

December 2015: The Nevada PUC reduced the value of net metering
Jobs Lost: 2,000Jobs at risk of immediate loss: 2,000+
Payroll lost: $60,000,000+Payroll at risk of immediate loss: $60,000,000+
OUTCOME
After public outcry, reinstated net metering in bipartisan bill in June 2017, signed by Republican Governor
Statutorily guaranteed the right to self-generate electricityGuarantees the right for customers to interconnect rooftop solar or a solar-plus-storage system in a “timely manner,”No statutory right to self-generate electricityNo statutory right to interconnect in a “timely manner”

2020 US Climate Crises

• Colorado’s two biggest wildfires on record have occurred in the last three months. 

• September 2020 was the warmest September (world-wide) in 140 years of records, and seven of the warmest Septembers ever have occurred in the past seven years. 

• California’s largest wildfire ever exceeds one million acres, larger than Rhode Island. This is nearly four times larger than the previous record fire, and five of the 10 largest California wildfires on record are in 2020. More than 4 million acres have burned thus far in California this year, more than all recorded wildfires between 1932 and 1999. 

• More named storms have made landfall in the US in 2020 than in any previous year. 

• One of the worst weather events of 2020 was a 700-mile derecho in the Midwest that left 800,000 people without power and destroyed crops for hundreds of miles. 

• Arctic sea ice reached its second lowest extent in recorded history. 

• It hit 100 degrees in Siberia, the hottest on record that far north. 

• The hottest temperatures ever recorded on earth are in Death Valley and were recorded in 2013 and 2020. 

Vermont Greenwashing

What, isn’t Vermont “Green”? Of course it is, right? 

Wrong.

Green Mountain Power, which is owned by a Canadian natural gas distributor and supplies 70% of Vermont with electricity, claims that their energy supply is 94% carbon free and more than 63% renewable. This sounds great, except that 95% of this electricity is produced in 20th century facilities, many of which (particularly hydroelectric dams) are 50 to 100 years old or more.

Do we really think we can solve the climate change crisis without building NEW renewables? It is magical thinking, or really worse, as both the state and the major utilities are complicit in misleading Vermonters. Solar produces only 2% of Vermont’s electricity, and wind is negligible (the wind energy generated in Vermont is shipped out of state). 

Even worse, Vermont is going backwards. Permits to build solar, issued by Vermont’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC), declined by two-thirds in the past two years due to the State using Koch Brothers inspired “cost shifting” arguments to cut net metering. The diabolical PUC just dramatically cut the value of solar in Vermont: their action combined with expiring federal tax credits will reduce the value of new solar for Vermont consumers by 40% in just 14 months. The state has already killed over 400 good paying solar jobs in the past two years, and thousands more are now on the chopping block. That’s hardly how to grow good-paying jobs in Vermont.

Using the analytical framework and regulatory decisions of the VT Department of Public Service (DPS) and the Public Utilities Commission, we would all be using landline phones and not be using cell phones. Who reading this does not use a cell phone? Landline phones and cell phones are qualitatively different, even though both make phone calls. Likewise, residential and community solar are qualitatively different than centralized monopoly controlled utility power.

The thousands upon thousands of Vermonters who have already “gone solar” understand this. There is a different ownership structure, a different environmental stewardship feeling, different resiliency characteristics, different control structures, different sharing options with microgrids, different integration options with home automation, and different options for the future as battery prices plummet and transportation and thermal needs are electrified. Any serious projections of carbon free futures see decentralized generation, ownership, communication, sharing and control as essential. The current analytical framework of the DPS and PUC are based entirely upon a 20th century electricity grid model, and treat all electricity identically. The regulators are living in the 20th century; Vermont solar consumers are instinctively in the 21st century. The early adopters of solar are driving this energy transformation.

This does not minimize the challenges in a transition from a 20th century grid to a 21st century grid. However, the vision HAS to be of the 21st century, and the job of regulators should be to minimize the economic disruptions during the transition and facilitate it, not to stop the transition.

We can correct such misguided polices by maintaining net metering and building more in-state renewables. This would allow the 20th century nuclear and hydropower to replace coal plants in other nearby states and provinces of Canada. That is the fastest way Vermont can contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions.

Just one storm, tropical storm Irene, caused $733 million of damage in Vermont. It’s the canary in the coal mine. 

There have been decades of largely unheeded warnings about climate change, but the reality is here today in a major way, and is only going to get worse. Does anyone with children or grandchildren truly think 20th century “renewable” facilities solve our problems for their 21st century? The state has a legal and moral obligation to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, which it has been these past two to four years.

Climate change disasters are already here, and the headlines of 2020 are sobering. If the pandemic and politics have distracted you from environmental news in 2020, here is a small sampling of headlines: 

• Colorado’s two biggest wildfires on record have occurred in the last three months. 

• September 2020 was the warmest September (world-wide) in 140 years of records, and seven of the warmest Septembers ever have occurred in the past seven years. 

• California’s largest wildfire ever exceeds one million acres, larger than Rhode Island. This is nearly four times larger than the previous record fire, and five of the 10 largest California wildfires on record are in 2020. More than 4 million acres have burned thus far in California this year, more than all recorded wildfires between 1932 and 1999. 

• More named storms have made landfall in the US in 2020 than in any previous year. 

• One of the worst weather events of 2020 was a 700-mile derecho in the Midwest that left 800,000 people without power and destroyed crops for hundreds of miles. 

• Arctic sea ice reached its second lowest extent in recorded history. 

• It hit 100 degrees in Siberia, the hottest on record that far north. 

• The hottest temperatures ever recorded on earth are in Death Valley and were recorded in 2013 and 2020. 

Climate change cannot be mitigated without building NEW renewable facilities NOW!  Vermont must do its part and legitimize its green reputation. Contact your legislator today and insist that Vermont stop greenwashing. We must maintain net metering and community solar rather than killing solar jobs.