Energy & Environment

Curbing emissions could save Vermonters $800 million, report says

Electric vehicles plug into a charging station
Electric vehicles plug into a charging station near the Statehouse in Montpelier on Friday, March 1, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Taking action to curb carbon emissions could save Vermonters almost $800 million over the next 15 years, according to a new report from the Energy Action Network. 

But doing so would require significant changes in consumer behavior, like halting the purchase of new gas or diesel vehicles. 

The analysis came in an annual report released Wednesday tracking Vermont’s progress in meeting emissions reductions and renewable energy goals. Neale Lunderville, former Burlington Electric Department general manager, referred to the report put out by the network of nonprofits, businesses and state agencies as the “Dow Jones of our fight against climate change.”

“This transition is not a sacrifice, it is an opportunity with great economic benefit for both individual Vermonters and the state economy,” said Jared Duval, director of the Energy Action Network. 

The state needs “comprehensive” policies and regulations to reduce emissions in transportation and heating, which account for around 70% of emissions, says the report. Multiple speakers stressed that the transition off fossil fuels needs to be “equitable” for all Vermonters, which the report says will require incentives and low-interest financing for low and moderate income Vermonters. 

While Vermont’s greenhouse gas pollution went down slightly in 2016 — the latest year for which state data are available — the Green Mountain State is lagging behind the rest of the Northeast and Quebec, according to the report. 

Gov. Phil Scott was one of 24 governors to recommit to the Paris Agreement after Trump pulled out, meaning Vermont is supposed to reduce emissions by 25% below 2005 levels. 

But Vermont now has the highest per capita emissions of New England and New York, and has made the least progress toward the Paris Agreement goals. Many of the reductions other states have seen in their heating sectors is due to the expansion of natural gas infrastructure, which is not favored by climate activists because of methane leaks during the fracking process.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development analyzed the economic impacts of a series of proposed measures for meeting the Paris Agreement for the report, like adding more 86,000 more electric vehicles on the road and over 78,000 heat pump water heaters. The agency found that those steps would decrease out-of-state spending by more than $1 billion and invest $323 million in Vermont’s economy over the next 15 years. 

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Duval said that the conversation around energy has been “backwards for too long,” with people asking how much it would cost to switch off fossil fuels rather than asking what the economic benefits and overall savings could be in doing that. 

“The majority of Vermonters will save money by weatherizing their homes, by buying an EV (electric vehicle) instead of a gas powered vehicle,” said Lunderville. “And by making smart choices on how to heat the water and heat their homes …Vermonters don’t have to choose between getting real economic benefits and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.”

While Duval stressed that EAN does not endorse specific policies, all the case studies highlighted in the report included an emissions cap or a renewable technology standard beyond what is currently in place in Vermont. For example, Norway put in place a requirement that all new vehicles sold must be “zero emissions” starting in 2025. The Scandinavian country put in place measures like electric vehicle incentives for lower income people and a combined sales tax exemption for EVs with progressively higher taxes for more polluting vehicles — called a “feebate.” As of 2017, Norweigans purchased more electric vehicles than gas and diesel cars. 

When asked whether the Legislature has the appetite for such measures, Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said that there was an “ongoing discussion” in Senate Transportation about a feebate program following a report on the matter from the state Agency of Transportation

“I would say that the conversations are in their infancy, but it’s an area that I think we all have to grapple with that can help drive us to more efficient vehicles,” he said. 

Climate policy has been center stage this session, with the House passing the Global Warming Solutions Act, which would turn the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals into legally enforceable mandates. The House has also passed a series of updates to Act 250 that include requirements for climate change adaptability in new developments. 

The Vermont Senate has been working on proposals this session to increase renewable energy requirements for electrical utilities and to put more efficiency dollars toward transportation and heating efficiency. 

The Senate Transportation Committee has been grappling with how to move ahead with a regional cap and trade emissions reduction effort known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). 

The goal of the program, which is modelled after a similar effort in the electric sector, is to cap greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The final TCI agreement is not expected to come out until after the session adjourns. Signing on to TCI could provide Vermont with an estimated $18 million-$66 million in the first year of the program for emissions reductions efforts. 

The Senate will consider an amendment to authorize the governor to sign onto TCI if Massachusetts and New York join, but the timing is unclear as the Legislature recesses amid coronavirus containment concerns. Ashe said that his committee has heard that if most of the region is in the TCI, then related gas price increases would be felt in Vermont whether or not it participates. 

While Duval said that it would take “carrots and sticks” — or incentives and regulations, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, Gov. Phil Scott has expressed reservations about emissions reductions mandates. 

On Wednesday, Peter Walke, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation and Scott’s lead on climate matters said that “the governor is pretty clear about his preference for the carrots.”

DISCLOSURE: Neale Lunderville is on the board of the Vermont Journalism Trust, the parent organization of VTDigger.org.

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Elizabeth Gribkoff

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Gribkoff is VTDigger's energy and environment reporter. She graduated from UVM's Environmental Studies program in 2013, receiving departmental honors for her thesis on women's farming networks in Chile and Vermont. Since graduating, Elizabeth has worked in conservation and sustainable agriculture. Most recently, she was a newsroom and reporting intern with VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

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james_Baker

What a bunch of “What Ifs” at the expense of the Vermont taxpayers.

Mark Aubel

This is so misleading. How much must be spent to ‘save’ $800M? How many additional $’s will Vermonters have to PAY in carbon taxes to get back $18-66M from TCI?

James Berry

Save $800m….sounds good. So, our property taxes will go down right?

Chris LaMothe

First you say we’re behind the rest of the New England states as it relates to reductions in ghg’s, then you site a large portion of their reductions coming from the increase in the use of natural gas. So where are we if that is factored in? Probably on par or even a little better I would guess. That’s called cherry picking your data! How much is this TCI fantasy going to cost the average Vermonter and making practically no difference to global climate!

don white

Vermont doesn’t need this. Neale Lunderville and his nonprofit needs this. Jared Duval and his nonprofit needs this. Giving Neale and Jareds and their nonprofits 3380,000,000 dollars is not an investment in VT. It is a gift to their nonprofits and and to themselves. Not one mention of the Co2 off sets by Vermonts huge forestlands

Russell Frank

In the news last fall Dartmouth College abandoned plans for a biomass plant due to concerns about the negative effect that burning wood for heating has on greenhouse gases emissions compared to oil or gas. A number of Vermont scientists raised questions about the biomass project. The VT EAN Annual Progress Report recommends adding 25,000 advanced wood heat systems to help Vermont meet climate change targets. One of the arguments was burning wood instead of oil or gas helps keep dollars here rather than sending out of state. I think we all would benefit from a review of the report by our climate change scientists.

Mark Keefe

Last I checked: 90% of the electricity used in VT is Green Mountain Power (a Canadian company) and we manufacture zero electric cars. How are we going to keep an extra 800 million in VT?

Sandy J Rhodes

The Energy Action Network, probably makes the same statements in all the states it reports to.
“But Vermont now has the highest per capita emissions of New England and New York…”
This line keeps being published but never with any supporting data. Just because someone publishes a report, doesn’t mean it has the ring off truth. The progs use this technique with overwhelming frequency and people readily accept it as truth. If they pass a tenth of what is proposed for 2020, VT will be in the economic dark ages.

John Porattis

Turn back the clock a bit to when Vt Gas was trying to put a natural gas line in to service points south to Middlebury. The same people who are fighting for reducing green house gas emissions were protesting. They want it both ways

Stewart Clark

Reducing greenhouse gasses added to the atmosphere requires a budget calculation that factors emissions and carbon withdrawal. Vermont’s emissions are now balanced by the carbon sequestered by our forests. Let those so focused on stopping emissions consider an approach to equilibrium.

Frank Westcott

There is an saying. Garbage in garbage out ! That’s what this study is. Besides since when in the land of the free and home of the brave did we get to, do what you are told or else we will make your life miserable? Forcing your will on your fellow citizens is no way to get good neighbors! That’s how you grow a revolution.

John Freitag

My goodness, seems like more questions than answers. What may make sense is first simply using less and conserving more. Then a balanced energy portfolio that in Vermont that at this point uses Hydro Quebec as the base power supplemented by appropriately placed and amount of high tech solar, wood for heat, and hydro.
By the way, recent studies reported by National Geographic and PBS News Hour have found fracked natural gas to have almost twice the methane loss as previously estimated. Methane has 80 times the climate warming impact of carbon dioxide. Makes one wonder how much green natural gas actually is.

Mark Higley

86,000 more EV’s on the road! The lost revenue (from the gas tax) to our Transportation road budget (Federal match money for paving) is already having a negative effect. We are also losing revenue with MPG improvements in new vehicles. If we are going to encourage EV purchases by incentives and hope for faster roll-out, we need to be “bold” in our efforts find EV revenue now! With our current 3541 EV’s as of 10/2019 and 70+ in the last three months we need to set a fair fee for EV owners to contribute to our roads. There has been legislation to do just that, but little movement. Being talked about: registration fee of $120+; KW charge at charging stations; per mile charge; take the 1st year’s registration fee from the incentive money and more? Fees and programs can always be adjusted, we need to come to a concensus now.

Weiland A Ross

How stupid do the climate warriors think we all are? Answer: they think we are totally mindless. The proposal, change consumer habits by ending all, as in no, purchases of gasoline or diesel vehicles is so unrealistic as to defy description. We could lower the methane emissions by getting all cows to stop farting. Equal chance of either of these happening. When all else fails, think.

jeffrey green

How about some facts, instead os using non-facts as “fear” to scare people into a total political agenda. Vermont and USA are doing fine. READ: “A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that tracks carbon emissions worldwide dropped great news for the United States. “The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt. US emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period.”…..and is leading the world in energy saving…. the IEA also reported that natural gas is on the rise and coal-powered energy declined by 15% in America. “A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019. ” Use MORE natural gas and close down coal. Problem solved. But no VT gas pipelines allowed?

Tim Vincent

And Japan, China and India continue to build coal-fired power plants.
Little Vermont contributes virtually nothing to global warming.

Willem post

Moving from fossil heating to electrical heating would increase the load on the VT grid.
Moving from fossil driving to electrical driving would increase the load on the VT grid.
You do not mention any costs for expanding/augmenting the grid ($1+ billion?)
You do not mention the cost for about 150,000 private and public chargers required for EVs ($250 million?)

The report does not mention increased wind and solar would require costs for solar systems ($3.5 million/MW?) and wind turbines ($2.5 million/MW?), plus expanding/augmenting the grid ($500 +million?), plus storage to mitigate daily duck curves on distribution grids ($1+ billion?).

The report does not mention adding expensive wind/solar electricity to the mix would increase electricity prices/kWh, which would make it more expensive to heat energy-hog houses with ASHPs and operate EVs.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cost-shifting-is-the-name-of-the-game-regarding-wind-and-solar

Willem post

This article shows heat pumps in energy hog houses are money losers if all costs are considered, plus do not reduce much CO2.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/cost-savings-of-air-source-heat-pumps-are-negative-in-vermont

The report does not mention about 88% of Vermont’s houses are completely unsuitable to economically heat with ASHPS.
The report does not mention such houses would need “deep” retrofits at about $30,000, plus about $20,000 for ASHPs, for 100% space heat from ASHPs.
DHW would be in addition.

This article shows efficient EVs compared with efficiency hybrids, and efficient gasoline vehicles, have about the same CO2, on a lifetime basis, source energy basis.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket-regarding-foolish-energy

Willem post

Instead of EVs, it would be much better to have Gas Guzzler Fees to Reduce CO2

Vermont should have an energy efficiency standard for light duty vehicles.
Annual fees would be paid at time of annual registration.
Inefficient vehicles would rapidly disappear.
CO2 would be rapidly reduced.
The collected funds could be used for filling potholes.
The wasteful Comprehensive Transportation Initiative, TCI, would not be needed.
http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/electric-vehicles-and-mass-transit-subsidized-by-carbon-taxes

Willem post

Physical and Paper CO2 Emissions

No CO2 is physically reduced by GMP signing paper PPAs with electricity generators, in-state or out-of-state.
It is completely in error for VT-DPS to calculate CO2 of the electrical sector, and g/kWh, based on paper PPAs. See table 2
It is equally in error for the report to base the CO2 savings of heat pumps and EVs on the artificial VT-DPS numbers.
https://www.eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EAN-report-2020-final.pdf

The Global Warming Spending Act requires SCIENCE to be the basis.

Electricity distributes on the NE grid as electro-magnetic waves at near the speed of light, 180,000 miles per SECOND.
Per Physics 101, there is no VT mix, NH mix, Maine mix.
There is only the NE mix, slightly altered by imports.
ISO-NE accounts for that alteration.
ISO-NE ignores upstream CO2

Willem post

The report based its CO2 reductions on artificial CO2 values

GMP contracted to purchase significantly more no-particulate, very-low-CO2, very-low-cost, nuclear electricity from Seabrook Nuclear for 2018, and beyond.

GMP contracted to purchase significantly more no-particulate, very-low-CO2, very-low-cost, hydro electricity for 2017, and beyond.

GMP, by merely signing contract papers, and without making physical changes to its operations that would reduce CO2, gets credit for significantly reducing CO2 of electricity sold to ratepayers.

NOTE:
– VT-DPS calculates CO2 emissions of the electricity sector at 180 g/kWh for 2015, based on power purchase agreements, PPAs, which is an artificial farce.
– ISO-NE calculates CO2 emissions of the NE grid at 339 g/kWh for 2015, based on 1) CO2 of fuel combustion and 2) CO2 associated with imports from nearby grids. See Appendix and URL page 18

Glenn Thompson

How many $billions will have to be spent to save that $800 Million savings? I would guess quite a bit more given the fact $billions have been poured into the region to develop wind and solar power with very little to show for it. It makes no sense to invest more into anything unless you get at least an equal return.

H. Brooke Paige

Liberal Magic Math !

Wait a minute ! 86,000 more EVs @ $27,500.00/ea. = $2,365,000,000.00
PLUS 78,000 more hot water heat pumps @ $2,800.00/ea. installed = $218,400,000.00
The combined total expense to save $800,000,000.00 is $2,583,400,000.00 !

That’s right, we would be spending $1,783,400,000.00 (YES nearly $2 Billion) MORE than we would be saving.

Only in the liberal “Land of Endless Taxes” and foolish spending does this make any sense – OMG !

“Prove Me Wrong !”

James_Baker

How much money do we have to give this guy in order to “save” $800 million? This sounds very similar to the guy who has a plan to build a railroad right through Vermont that no one will use but taxpayers will pay for.
I read somewhere that expert as good as the ones who wrote this report say “The combined total expense to save $800,000,000. is $2,583,400,000”…..
Fools in their money are soon parted !

John Greenberg

One cannot assess the value of an investment without attempting to examine its return over time.

For example, most EV purchases will replace an old vehicle, so the trade-in or sale of the replaced vehicle partially offsets the price of the new EV. Additionally, the newer EV is likely to last considerably longer than the vehicle it replaces.

No one buys a car to park it: the point is to drive it, on average for 11 years. So we need to look at how much it costs to fuel and maintain it. EVs are cheaper to run: “A 2018 study from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that electric vehicles cost less than half as much to operate as gas-powered cars. ” tinyurl.com/ydd5u9u3 EVs are also cheaper to maintain, since they don’t have engine oil, transmission fluid, belts, etc. and their batteries are generally guaranteed.

Finally, we must include saved environmental impact of burning gas: air and water pollution are real costs, as is global warming.

John Greenberg

In my previous comment.I intentionally did not note that EV purchases are subsidized, but in making comparisons with conventional vehicles, it’s important to recognize that they too are subsidized, albeit more indirectly. Purchasers and drivers never get a bill for the pollution they cause. More importantly, neither do the oil companies.

But those costs are real, and as taxpayers and citizens, we ALL pay them. Like any other subsidies, the effect of socializing costs is to make the targeted product appear relatively cheaper, since few market participants consider these hidden costs when making market decisions. By contrast, the EV subsidies are explicit and transparent.

I raise the issue NOT to debate the merits of subsidies here, but simply to recognize their reality and their importance in making these comparisons.

Second, actual studies have been done, concluding that EVs “cost less over four years than petrol or diesel cars….” tinyurl.com/ycsen5yk

John McClaughry

The Energy Action Network of renewable energy aficionados is entitled to publicity for their report, but I’m amazed that reporter Gribkoff can’t find anyone to interview who has read it and may have some contrary analysis of the remarkable scenario contained therein. Woodstock engineer Willem Post (see comment below) has analyzed it, and found that it is” a multi-billion-dollar wish list of EAN members with a total cost of well over $12 billion during 2020 – 2025, about $2.4 billion/y.” Wouldn’t that analysis lend some balance to this completely one sided story?

 

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