Solar Power Is the Holiday Gift that Keeps on Giving

Hard to believe there are only 45 shopping days before the holidays!  In a year when we’ve emerged from the darkness of Covid – and back into the light – it’s a great time to keep following the sun into 2022!

Now is the perfect time to reserve a spot for solar panels on Santa’s sleigh – in time for delivery early in the new year.  This is the gift that truly keeps on giving!  Here are five reasons why:

Five reasons to put solar on your holiday shopping list

1.  Your tax bill will go down:  If you install a solar Tracker or solar-connected home battery system in 2022, you can deduct 26% of the installed cost against what you owe in federal income taxes – straight off the top!  (In 2023, this tax credit will go down to 22%.)

Home Solar and/or Home Battery System CostFederal Income Tax Credit
(2021-2022)
$15,000$3,900
$25,000$6,500
$35,000$9,100
$50,000$13,000

2. Your utility bill will all but disappear:  Solar power costs have fallen 90% since 2010 and now rank among the least expensive forms of electricity. Once you install solar, you aren’t subject to your utility’s annual price increases of about 3% (compounded annually).  And should you further electrify your life, as so many are with electric vehicles, mini-split heat pumps, etc., all that increased electricity usage won’t keep increasing in price, year after year.

3. You can stay connected even when the power goes out:  Home battery costs have fallen just as fast as solar has over the last decade.  Now it’s easy to store solar power for use when the grid goes down.

4. Your home value will increase:  New studies confirm this old rule of thumb:  For every dollar you invest in a home solar system, you increase your home’s value by at least as much – and probably more.  A recent analysis by Zillow found that homes with solar power sell for 4.1% more than comparable homes without solar power; that works out to a premium of $9,274 for a median-valued home. An earlier study by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories puts this premium at $5,911 for every kilowatt of panels installed.  Here’s how that works out for residential systems of different sizes:

Home Solar System SizeAmount Solar Panels
Increase Home Value*
6 kW$35,466
8 kW$47,288
10 kW$59,110
13 kW$76,843

*Figures based on study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

5. Your family and friends will love you for saving the planet:  With climate change now posing an existential threat to our planet, we all need to do our part. By some estimates, collective community action across the United States can cut our nation’s total energy needs in half, eliminate carbon emissions in the power sector by 2035, and create 5 million permanent jobs over the long term.  That’s more jobs than our energy sector currently employs!  Most of all – at a personal level – you’ll be changing your relationship with energy in a way that inspires hope, confidence and security in our future, and sets a (sun) shining example for our children and grandchildren to live by.

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 us or call (802) 649-3700, or text (802) 308-3018.  Working together, the power is in our hands to make a difference.

Solar Will Provide Nearly Half of U.S. Power Needs by 2050, Energy Department Says

The future belongs to solar – and its massive growth begins now.  That’s the upbeat forecast from the U.S. Department of Energy, issued in a new report on decarbonizing the nation’s power supply by 2050.  Here’s the roadmap:

  • 2020, the U.S. added a record 15 gigawatts (GW) of solar, raising the nation’s total installed solar capacity to 76 GW, equal to 3% of U.S. electricity supply.
  • Between now and 2025, the rate of solar installations must double to 30 GW per year to stay on track with the nation’s decarbonization goals.
  • Between 2025 and 2030, the rate of solar installations needs to double again – to 60 GW per year – raising solar’s total contribution to 1,000 GW, or 40% of the nation’s power supply, by 2035.
  • By 2050, solar capacity is expected to reach 1,600 GW, equal to 45% of the nation’s future power supply, with wind, nuclear and hydro power rounding out America’s future carbon-free grid.  Overall power demand is slated to grow by 75% over the 2020 – 2050 period, driven by ongoing electrification of the transportation and building sectors.

A continuing drop in solar prices and other technological advances will support the rise of a renewable-dominant grid.  Battery storage will enable more flexibility and resilience at times of peak demand, while deployment of smart inverters, microgrids and artificial intelligence will enhance system reliability, demand forecasting and grid performance.  Best of all, from an economic standpoint, the DOE report says that the transition to a solar-driven grid will employ up to 1.5 million people — without raising electricity prices!

From a resource management perspective, replacement of thermal power plants with solar and other renewables will reduce utility water use by 90%.  Meanwhile, ground-based solar arrays will require only 0.5% of contiguous U.S. land area (or about five times the acreage currently occupied by golf courses in the United States).  And in terms of recycling, ongoing technological advances in solar panels and batteries, and greater use of recyclable substrates, will propel growth of a “circular economy” that cuts down on waste and depletion of natural resources.

With federal solar tax credits extended through 2023, now is the time to get on board the solar bandwagon.

Solaflect Energy 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.  Together, the power is in our hands to make a difference!

Only a Few Weeks Left to Lock In the Best Solar Rates in Vermont

August 31st.

That’s the last day you can lock in the best financial incentives to go solar in Vermont.  With net metering rates set to drop by 1₵/kWh on Sept. 1, the lost savings will add up to anywhere from $750 to $2,250 over 10 years.

But your household doesn’t have to lose out.  All you need to do is put your name on a list by August 31, and you’ll lock in today’s better rates for a whole year, buying you time to make a careful decision about what solar works best for your family.

There’s no commitment.  You just need to submit a standard form to the VT Public Utility Commission (PUC), and we can fill it out for you.

Want some more good reasons to go solar with Solaflect Energy?

  • Our backyard Trackers keep solar panels off your roof and on the sunniest parts of your property.  They track the sun all day long and generate 40% more power than fixed-panel arrays.  More power from fewer panels adds up to real savings!

  • Our Trackers don’t collect snow that reduces power output from fixed-panel arrays, like rooftops.  By shedding snow automatically as they go about their daily rounds, our Trackers boost power by up to 15% on an annualized basis.  And because they are ground-mounted, they’re easy to maintain all year long – with no dangerous roofs to climb!

  • Our Trackers are scalable.  The power from one Tracker covers an average home’s electric bill.  Two or three trackers can charge an electric vehicle, heat your home with heat pumps, and do a whole lot more.  Add a battery system to go with your solar and avoid the need for a generator during grid outages – for extended periods when the sun recharges your battery.

So what are you waiting for?  With so many indicators pointing to the need for us all to replace our use of fossil fuels with renewable energy, now is a great time to lock in today’s savings before Vermont regulators reduce them on September 1st.  At least the feds have extended their 26% tax credit for solar and battery installations through 2023.  That means, by submitting your Vermont application now, you’ll be assured the best local utility rates and still have at least a year to take advantage of the federal tax credits before they come up for renewal… or reduction.

Solaflect Energy 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.  Together, the power is in our hands to make a difference!

NOAA Online Tools Help You Chart Global Warming in Your Area

Each decade, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updates its analysis of U.S. weather patterns by comparing temperature, precipitation and other meteorological trends over the past 30 years against longer-term records dating back more than a century.  In a newly released update — comparing temperature increases in 1990 – 2020 against 30-year time frames over the 20th century – the map’s visual imagery shows a pretty shocking temperature increase trend over the last 50 years, in particular.

NOAA has set this new update as the baseline for a “new normal” to track 21st century weather trends.  Be sure to pack lots of sunscreen!  Our nation has gone from cool blue to hot red in the blink of a climatological eye – a 2.5-degree F average temperature increase over the last century.

Summer Outlook – and for the rest of 2021

NOAA’s short-range weather outlook looks like a grim harbinger of what’s still to come.  This summer, only the Upper Midwest is expected to catch a break from temperatures that are trending above even the “new normal” range of the last 30 years.  And even that mid-continental “oasis” is expected to disappear by this fall, as above normal temperatures sweep all across the country and up into Alaska.  Here in New England, warmer-than “normal” weather is expected to persist at least through next February.

NOAA Online Climate Tool

Want to drill down even further on where you live?  NOAA has a great new tool that you can use to track climate trends right down to the state and county level.  You can plot changes in average temperatures and temperature extremes as well as total precipitation trends.  

Below we’ve plotted average annual temperatures for Vermont since 1895, and annual average precipitation changes for Grafton County, NH, over the same period.  

Note that Vermont hasn’t had any years in the 21st century that rank below the mean annual average temperature of 49.3° F recorded in the 20th century.  This summer’s ominous forecast bears an eerie resemblance to 2012, when a series of vicious summer thunderstorms pounded our region, washing out roads and causing other serious property damage.  Vermont posted an all-time high temperature record that year, which blew away the old record by 0.6° F, a huge jump by meteorological standards.

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Note, as well, that Grafton County has had only four years of below-normal rainfall since 2000.  Compared to the gradual (but accelerating) global warming trend, however, our region’s precipitation pattern has been much more volatile and uneven.  In the 21st century, Grafton County has already notched both its driest year (2001) and wettest year (2009) in the 125-year historical record.  

But, overall, the precipitation trend is still on the way up in New England.  Relatively speaking, that’s probably a good thing, especially compared to the American Southwest, where the worst drought in more than a millennium rages on!

With more hot summer weather heading our way, now is the time to update your home energy plan.  It’s always a great time to harvest all that renewable energy with solar, and adding an electric heat pump can help you stay cool this summer (and, yes, keep you warm next winter!). Reach out for more ideas on how to make your home a force for good in the fight against global warming.  Together, the power is in our hands to make a difference! 

Colonial Pipeline Hack Is Latest Example of Fossil Fuel Frailties

The vulnerability of the nation’s fossil energy supply system was on full display again last week.  Hackers penetrated the computer systems of Colonial Pipeline, causing a shutdown of the 5,500-mile network that delivers nearly half of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel consumed on the East Coast.  While New England drivers were spared the worst – paying a few pennies more per gallon during the outage – drivers in some mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states queued up for hours at gas stations, only to see them run dry.  All of us have become unwilling hostages to an energy delivery system that’s completely out of step with the times.

With urban mass transit systems and airport fuel terminals also running dangerously low on fuel, a larger crisis was averted when the pipeline owners paid $5 million in ransom to a group of professional hackers called DarkSide.  This Russian-based extortion outfit stole gigabytes of customer information and operating data from Colonial Pipeline and threatened to make it forever inaccessible to the firm.

Coming on the heels of a massive power blackout in Texas in February, this latest energy supply crisis once again illustrates the dilemma facing the nation’s aging fossil energy supply network:  either more money has to be poured into this antiquated delivery system or we need to quickly transition to a more resilient national energy supply system that deploys electric vehicles and decentralized renewable resources.

Colonial Pipeline Piggy Bank Becomes a Sitting Duck

A brief history of Colonial Pipeline reveals both the soft underbelly and deeply entrenched attitudes of one of the nation’s largest energy traders.  The largest investor in this 60 year-old pipeline is Koch Industries, an operator of some of the nation’s dirtiest fossil energy facilities and a fierce opponent of regulations on greenhouse gases.

Construction of the Colonial Pipeline network began in 1961, when highway driving and jet air travel were still in their infancy.  As new environmental regulations took effect over the next two decades, half of the refinery capacity in the Northeast was shut down – increasing the importance of the Colonial Pipeline for petroleum-thirsty customers on the East Coast.  Today, the Colonial Pipeline delivers more than 3 million barrels every day.

With capacity running at nearly 100 percent, the Colonial Pipeline has virtually no room for error in managing its operations.  Yet its owners have treated this multi-billion dollar system more like an ATM machine than as a strategic national asset.  In 2015, for instance, the owners spent $163 million on capital investments.  Yet dividends paid out to investors were about $300 million a year in the four-year period from 2014 through 2017, and then rose to $670 million in 2018 and $458 million in 2019, following a generous round of federal tax cuts.

In February, Winter Storm Uri cut off power to much of Texas for nearly a week.  It now ranks as one the five costliest weather-related disasters in our nation’s history.

With the DarkSide ransomware attack, the Colonial Pipeline’s and other pipeline operators may have met their match. According to a recent report from IBM,  the global energy industry ranked as the third-most targeted sector for cyberattacks in 2020, behind only finance and manufacturing.  Many oil and gas pipelines rely on decades-old computer operating systems that are ill-equipped to defend against sophisticated cyberattacks, nor can they be easily upgraded. Electricity grid operators face a similar cyber threat.

We Were Warned About ‘Brittle Power’

While the successful Colonial Pipeline hack will surely invite more copycat attacks against American energy companies, this precarious situation should take no one by surprise.  Forty years ago, the Pentagon sounded the alarm in a study of the frailties of the nation’s energy delivery system.  This landmark report, Brittle Power, turned military thinking about national energy security on its head. Instead of focusing on foreign supply disruptions, Brittle Power chronicled how U.S. energy infrastructure faces a host of domestic security threats – from weather and accidents, to negligence and acts of malice.

In recent years, the dire warnings of Brittle Power have really started to hit home.  In 2017, for example, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas with record rainfall, flooding many oil refineries in the state.  As a result, Colonial Pipeline had to suspend shipments to its East Coast customers for nearly two weeks, causing gasoline prices to spike by 25 percent.  The fierce winter storm that hit Texas this February had a similar impact, raising gasoline prices across the nation as refineries and pipelines struggled to get back on line.

The electric utility sector has also become a prime target.  In 2016, for example, professional hackers associated with the Russian government knocked out large sections of the power grid in Ukraine, the first intentional blackout triggered by cyberattack.  The Obama administration took notice and rang alarms about America’s vulnerability to grid-related cyberattacks.

A Better Way Forward

There is a safer and more sustainable path to the future.  Our energy policies must invest in more resilient community infrastructure that can withstand more severe weather events and malicious acts perpetrated by human foes, both foreign and domestic.  Such resilient energy systems would not only reduce the impact of supply disruptions but also cost less to operate, perform better under stress, and advance our nation’s long-term energy goals. Microgrids that harvest the energy of the sun, wind, water, and biofuels — rather than non-renewable fuels — dissipate the risks of power blackouts and accelerate recovery times after blackouts or other periods of stress.

Amory Lovins expanded on this premise in his 2011 book called Reinventing Fire. Here Lovins laid out a vision for “island-able” microgrids that operate even when a larger grid goes out.  In addition to promoting “islands” of sustainable power, such microgrids could dissipate the risks of power blackouts over large metropolitan areas and accelerate recovery times after blackouts or other periods of stress.  But for this to work over the long term, Lovins emphasized that the system would also have to deploy decentralized energy sources that are renewable – harnessing “the energy of the sun, wind, water, or farm and forestry wastes, rather than that of depletable fuels.”

At Solaflect Energy, we believe there are practical steps you can take to build a cleaner and more resilient energy future:

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

Five Reasons to Install Solar this Summer

Springtime feels extra special this year.  Not only are we shaking off a long winter, but we’re slowly, steadily escaping the clutches of a year+ of isolation and social distancing.  Now that we’re finally starting to reconnect and take on long overdue projects, here are five reasons to give solar energy serious thought:

  1. Tis the season… for installing solar!  Just as farmers make hay when the sun shines, the long days of summer are when you really maximize the output and energy savings from a backyard solar Tracker.  Solaflect is currently turning installations around in 4-6 weeks, meaning there’s time, if you reach out soon, to make the most of the sun’s longest daily visits of the year.

  2. Lock in better utility rates… before they go drop again.  The clock is ticking for Vermont homeowners to lock in better rates to “net meter” (sell solar power into the grid).  Vermont net-metering rates will drop by 1₵/kWh on Sept. 1, so homeowners still have time to lock in current, higher net-metering rates if they complete a simple application and submit it to VT by July 31.  (There’s no commitment necessary, we fill out the form for you, and you’ve then locked in 12 months to make a decision.)  Also, Congress just passed an extension of 26% federal solar tax credit for 2021 and 2022, a savings of about $7,000 per Tracker.  Home battery installations that are connected to solar also qualify for this credit.

  3. Plant your stake in solar… in the ground.  Solaflect’s solar Trackers keep solar off your roof, and instead, allow you to make solar energy from the sunniest spot on your property.  Trackers accurately follow the sun all day and generate 40% more power than solar on your roof, with 40% fewer solar panels, meaning a Tracker is usually less expensive than rooftop solar. And you don’t have to worry about losing solar production to snow cover — Trackers are really steep in the winter since the sun is so low in the sky, and they sleep vertical at night, so gravity does the snow clearing for you.  That’s an annual energy production savings of as much as 15% compared to rooftop solar.

  4. Begin your master plan… to go all electric.  Chances are, you’re not just looking at ‘going solar’ anymore.  You may be thinking about switching to electric vehicles to wean off gasoline, or replacing your old oil furnace or propane heater with highly efficient electric heat pumps, which work well even in sub-zero temperatures.  A master plan to go ‘all electric’ may also mean putting in a home battery system so you can run home appliances and electrical devices even when the grid goes down.  A solar Tracker (or two or three) is the ‘clean engine’ to power all that electrification.

  5. Do your part to fight climate change… starting now!   Better still, the benefits of going solar and electrifying your home don’t stop at your property line.  By some estimates, collective community action across the United States can cut our nation’s total energy needs in half, eliminate carbon emissions in the power sector by 2035, and create 5 million permanent jobs over the long term.  (That’s more jobs than our energy sector currently employs.)  And when your children and grandchildren ask what you’re doing to fight climate change and make the world a better place, you’ll have a “bright and sunny” answer that inspires hope, confidence and security in our future by fundamentally ‘changing your relationship with energy.’

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!

What Are the Benefits of Charging Your EV at Home vs. Public Charging Stations?

One of the biggest questions owners of electric vehicles face is how to keep their EV batteries charged.  As a (conservative) rule of thumb, each mile of EV driving consumes about 1/3rd of a kilowatt-hour of battery power.  That means you need about 3,333 kWh of EV battery charging for each 10,000 miles you drive.  While public charging stations are becoming a more convenient and viable option in our area, charging at home with a Solaflect Tracker is still your best bet.  Here’s why:

  • Our backyard Tracker locks in a 25-year supply of “homemade solar fuel” at a price equivalent of roughly 75 cents a gallon.
  • It takes only about a third of the annual output of one of our solar Trackers to supply 10,000 miles of EV driving.  That leaves plenty of power leftover to supply other household electrical needs.
  • Solar charging at home works with your daily schedule and doesn’t require long stops at public charging stations that can be many miles away.
  • And, finally, most public charging stations cost more to use and are only as clean as the grid they rely on.

Our backyard Trackers outlast most electric vehicles  with 20,000 miles of affordable EV driving every year for 25 years

In short, our Trackers are the perfect backyard replacement for the nearest gas pump and can be part of a home charging station that runs on 100% pure, unadulterated sunshine!  Read on if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of backyard solar and in-garage charging.

 Options for Charging at Home

When you’re at home, you have a choice of charging your EV with solar power, or you can draw on a mix of fuels from the New England grid, which includes lots of natural gas, nuclear power, large-scale hydro and even a bit of coal.  (There’s more on New England’s fuel mix at the end of this post.)  Assuming you have access to a garage with a basic 110-volt wall outlet, you can easily install a Level 1 charger that draws on the grid to fully recharge an EV battery in up to 24 hours.

A Level 2 charger typically cuts home charging times to eight hours or less.  You’ll need to spend $250-$400 to have an electrician install a dedicated 240-volt line, if you don’t have one already, and another $300-$600 to mount the charger inside your garage.  Don’t forget that heated garage spaces do a better job of recharging EV batteries when temperatures fall below freezing.  All in, installation of a Level 2 charger may approach $2,000.  Check for state and local incentives before buying and having a charger installed.

And most important, this electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) qualifies for a 26% federal tax credit if it’s tied to a home solar power installation.

Options for Charging on the Road

Public charging stations in parts of northern New England are few and far between.  But new ones are coming on fast – in lots of shapes, sizes, and pricing configurations.  While some charging stations are still free, these are often Level 1 chargers that have the slowest battery recharge times.  The public charging stations shown in the table below (for illustrative purposes) are faster Level 2 chargers, which are commonly found at business centers, shopping malls, municipal parking lots and near some highway rest areas.

Fast charge direct current (FCDC) charging stations are also springing up that cut charging times to 30 minutes or less.  FCDCs are designed for commercial use and use a 480-volt direct current line.  This is highly efficient up to an 80% EV battery charge, but after that they’re no faster than Level 2 chargers.  And time really matters when charging with an FCDC.  It takes only three minutes to rack up a dollar’s worth of charges, whereas as a Level 2 takes at least 30 minutes to an hour.  It’s always better to switch to Level 2 charging when its time to “top off” your EV tank.

EV charging station location and providerKwH Rate (₵/kWh)MaxFlow (kW)Local Utility ProviderSolarHydroGasCoalNukeOther
Your Backyard Tracker11₵6.8Net metering only100%
Berlin, VT (EVgo)42₵50Washington Electric COOP18%71%11%
Brattleboro, VT(EVgo)42₵50Green Mt Power2%62%31%5%
Hanover, NH (Chargepoint)30₵6.6Liberty Utilities2%8%23%5%18%44%
Keene, NH (Semaconnect)21₵7.2Eversource1%2%35%2%20%40%
Waterville Valley, NH (Blink Charging)49₵19.2NH Electric COOP2%34%23%1%13%27%
Greenfield, MA (Chargepoint)25₵6.6MA Municipal Wholesale EC4%26%5%50%15%
New England System MixNEPOOL3%7%32%2%22%33%

Costs and charging times are not the only things you need to think about when you’re charging on the road.  If you care about the environment, you’ll also want to know which fuels powering our grid end up as part of your public EV battery charge.  While the utility fuel mix varies by day, season and location, this table shows the annual average fuel mix for six utilities serving our area.  While the solar contribution from each of these utilities ranges from just 1% to 4%, their top sources include large-scale hydro, natural gas, nuclear and fast-disappearing coal.  “Other” includes wind power and power purchased from the NEPOOL grid, whose composite fuel mix is shown in the table’s bottom row.

No matter where else you go to plug in your EV battery, your best option is still our backyard Tracker at home!  It keeps money in your pocket – not in the hands of your local utility or in the meter of an EV charging station.  And, with the right set-up, you can even run your EV on 100% pure solar power!  And forget about all of that other stuff that’s spinning through our grid!

Here’s what you get when you roam for grid-generated power in our region:

  • New Hampshire  The Granite State is a power-exporting state in our region.  It sends about half of its generation to neighboring states in the New England Power Pool (NEPOOL).  Seabrook, the largest nuclear reactor in our region, is New Hampshire’s biggest in-state electricity producer.  This is followed by two natural gas-fired plants that account for one-fifth of the state’s total generation.  While coal has dwindled from 25% to less than 2% of in-state generation over the last two decades, New Hampshire is home to the only large coal plant still operating in New England.  There’s an in-state 25% target for renewable electricity sales by 2025.  The top two renewable resources are wood-burning biomass and hydroelectric power.  At present, solar production barely tops 1%.
  • Vermont More than half of Vermont’s owned and contracted electricity comes from massive hydroelectric dams in Quebec, that, despite claims to the contrary, aren’t carbon-free, and at an average age of over 40 years, are doing nothing to improve the region’s carbon footprint from natural gas that powers 43% of New England’s grid. Vermont utilities buy offsets from Hydro-Quebec very cheap because almost no one else will buy them.  The rest comes mainly from nuclear, biomass, plus wind and solar that combine for only 2.2% of their power supply.
  • Massachusetts Like many states throughout the country, Massachusetts has seen its natural gas generation more than double over the last two decades, while oil and coal generation have virtually disappeared.  The Bay State’s only nuclear plant also closed last year, unable to compete with falling natural gas prices.  Meanwhile, solar generation is rising fast, with state legislation raising the in-state goal for renewables to 35% of total sales by 2030 and increasing by 1% every year thereafter. New state legislation also promotes offshore wind development.  The nation’s first utility-scale offshore windfarm is scheduled to come online by 2023, 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.  At present, Massachusetts is a net electricity importer.

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!

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.