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.

Previous post
Harrison, Lyme, NH
Next post
Renewables Are Coming to Utilities’ Rescue, But the Grid Needs a Serious Upgrade