Burlington is on track to meet Net Zero Energy city goal
Fossil Fuel Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Lower in 2019 and 2020; Action Steps Related to Energy Policy, District Energy, Bike Lanes, and Green Stimulus Are Key to Continued Progress
EV driver Linda Provost listens to a question outside her Burlington home on Monday. To Linda’s right are Darren Springer and Jennifer Green. To Linda’s left are Mayor Weinberger, Stu McGowan, and Gabrielle Stebbins. Courtesy BED.
Vermont Business Magazine Mayor Miro Weinberger, the Burlington Electric Department, and other city team and community leaders today jointly announced that Burlington is off to a great start toward meeting its ambitious Net Zero Energy city by 2030 goal and that continuing to stay on track will require strong action during the rest of 2021 and beyond.
The update to the 2019 Net Zero Energy Roadmap, the first since the 2018 baseline numbers were presented by Synapse Energy Economics and Resource Systems Group, concludes that the city is on the right path to reach its 2030 goal with reduced fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in both 2019 and 2020.
The mayor set forth key 2021 steps for reaching Net Zero Energy, including: implementing energy policy changes; creating a district energy system; building a bike lane network; and continuing BED’s Green Stimulus programs, while planning for a revenue bond plan to support future electrification incentives and Net Zero Energy infrastructure.
The update was announced outside the Old North End home of electric vehicle driver Linda Provost.
“Burlington’s Net Zero Energy roadmap is both one of the most ambitious local climate plans anywhere in our country and a feasible, optimistic vision for bringing the climate emergency to an end,” stated Mayor Weinberger. “It’s exciting to learn that Burlington is on track to meet our goal. Through very tangible actions by our Burlington community, we have been able to achieve great progress, and I thank our engaged citizens for their focus and efforts. We must continue to take such bold steps to help us lock in additional emissions reductions and continue our progress toward Net Zero Energy.”
Key Takeaways from 2021 Net Zero Energy Roadmap Update
Key takeaways from the update provided by Synapse show the following:
- Fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in Burlington were lower in 2019 and 2020 compared to the 2018 baseline.
- Greenhouse gas emissions (impacted in part by the pandemic) were down more than 15 percent in 2020 compared to 2018, putting Burlington slightly ahead of pace compared to the Roadmap goal for 2020.
- When the economy more fully reopens following the pandemic, there will be a risk of rebounding emissions, which could be mitigated through updated telework and remote work policies by Burlington area businesses and organizations, additional walk/bike/transit efforts, and faster adoption of clean technologies such as heat pumps.
Next Steps for Reaching Net Zero Energy
Mayor Weinberger identified four key next steps designed to continue Burlington’s momentum on its climate work in 2021, including:
- Implementing Energy Policy Changes
- The Administration will work in collaboration with the City Council in the coming weeks to implement new rental weatherization standards for all Burlington apartments.
- The Administration also will work with the City Council in the months ahead to require new buildings to use renewable heating, dramatically reducing their emissions.
- The City will work with the State Legislature and the Governor to enact the Charter Change recently approved by a strong margin by Burlington voters that would provide the City with the ability to more comprehensively regulate greenhouse gas emissions in buildings, allowing the City to take a more holistic approach to reducing emissions in new buildings than would be afforded through the primary renewable heating requirement ordinance change.
- Creating a Burlington District Energy System (DES)
- In 2021, Phase III of the district energy work currently underway with the City of Burlington, BED, VGS, University of Vermont Medical Center, and City partner Ever-Green Energy will be completed. While the City has explored a DES for more than 30 years, no prior effort has ever reached this stage.
- The goal of the current work is to reach a “Go/No-Go” decision and, if a “Go” decision is made, to make every effort to advance this project to permitting and construction.
- DES has the potential to reduce Burlington commercial sector natural gas related greenhouse gas emissions by more than 11.5 percent.
- Building a Bike Lane Network: The City, through the Department of Public Works, will continue its efforts to build a dedicated bike lane network to support alternative transportation and reduce the need for vehicle travel.
- Continuing Green Stimulus and Seeking a Revenue Bond
- BED’s Green Stimulus incentives have made a meaningful difference in adoption rates for cold climate heat pumps and other technologies, and those incentives are continuing in 2021.
- To support BED’s Net Zero Energy incentives longer-term and accelerate progress in a way that helps maintain affordable rates, the Mayor has directed BED to develop a revenue bond proposal for consideration by the City Council and voters later this year.
- Green Stimulus incentives will result in increased sales of BED’s 100 percent renewable electricity, which are projected to partially pay for the servicing of the revenue bond.
BED’s Best Year of Strategic Electrification Incentive Progress
In 2020, BED had its best year to date with progress on strategic electrification incentives. While BED is not yet meeting the ambitious Roadmap pace for electrification measures, such as electric vehicles and cold climate heat pumps, noteworthy accomplishments are:
- In 2020, BED tripled its state requirement for electrification and fossil fuel use reduction under Tier 3 of Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard, and lifetime emissions reduction from measures installed in 2020 alone is approximately 25,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to removing 8,500 cars from the road for one year.
- Increased incentives under Green Stimulus programs have boosted the City’s residential cold climate heat pump installations under BED’s strategic electrification program by more than six times since June 2020, allowing many Burlingtonians, including low- and moderate-income community members, to benefit from heat pump technology.
“Burlington’s accomplishment of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in both 2019 and 2020, and BED’s tripling of our 2020 strategic electrification targets under Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard are both exciting results for our community,” said Darren Springer, General Manager of Burlington Electric Department. “Our partnerships with organizations such as CarShare Vermont, as well as BED’s enhanced incentives for low- and moderate-income customers, are making technologies such as cold climate heat pumps and electric vehicles more affordable and accessible for Burlingtonians. By continuing the Green Stimulus incentives in 2021, and planning for a revenue bond to support Net Zero Energy programs longer-term, we can help more Burlingtonians switch to electric vehicles, heat pumps, e-bikes, e-lawn mowers, and other clean technologies.”
BED Customers Taking Steps along the Path to Net Zero Energy
During the announcement, Mayor Weinberger emphasized the importance of creating more and better incentives that would lead Burlingtonians to take steps along the path to Net Zero Energy. The Mayor encouraged members of our community to share their stories with their neighbors to influence them to “go electric” not only by considering driving electric vehicles, but also by trying out an electric bike instead of a car, by doing yardwork with electric mowers and blowers, and by installing heat pumps at their homes.
To highlight examples of community members who have taken such steps, GM Springer introduced Linda Provost, who hosted the announcement at her Old North End home, which also houses two bed-and-breakfast units. Provost, who was born and raised in Burlington, has been driving electric since 2017, when she leased the first of two Chevrolet Bolts. Provost benefitted from BED electric vehicle rebates in both instances, most recently receiving a $2,400 rebate, including an additional $600 low- and moderate-income adder, on the lease of her second Bolt in late 2020.
Provost charges her Bolt at home with a 240-volt, Level 2 charger and advertises in her Airbnb listings that EV charging is available to guests. She also has taken advantage of BED’s special EV charging rate during off-peak hours (from 10pm to 12noon), which allowed her to charge her car with 100 percent renewably-sourced electricity at the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon.
“I believe climate change is the overarching crisis of our time,” stated Provost. “When I needed to replace my car, I wanted to get a plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle to do what I could to reduce my personal use of fossil fuels. Having always bought used cars, I was discouraged to learn how expensive it was going to be to lease even a used plug-in hybrid. The generous rebates offered by Burlington Electric and the State of Vermont made it economically possible for me to put my money where my mouth is and drive electric, while knowing that Burlington’s electricity is 100 percent renewable.”
Expanded Charging Opportunities for Residents of Multifamily Rental Properties
GM Springer next introduced long-time Old North End resident and property owner, Stu McGowan. Like Provost, McGowan drives electric, as does his spouse, Joan Watson, each driving a Chevy Bolt.
Further, McGowan, who owns many rental properties in the Old North End, was an early adopter in terms of making energy efficiency improvements to his properties by working with VGS to insulate all his houses when he was renovating them. He believes in treating both his tenants and the environment with great care and respect. McGowan understands the benefits of weatherization and efficient windows.
One of McGowan’s latest efforts to keep up with today’s strategic electrification opportunities was to partner with BED in a new pilot program designed to help multifamily building owners provide charging for their tenants without access to electric vehicle charging and to help other local residents have better access to available charging locations.
BED is working with EVmatch, a start-up company that participated in a business accelerator program called DeltaClimeVT that was hosted at BED and that earned the opportunity to partner with BED on this BED-funded program, EVmatch describes itself on its website as “a nationwide peer-to-peer network for sharing and renting private EV charging stations” and has been described by others as the Airbnb of non-commercial EV charging.
The EVmatch platform allows a building owner to schedule times when the charger would be available for tenants and the times it would be available for members of the public. The goal is to encourage more individuals to drive electric knowing they will have greater access to vehicle charging.
Recently, McGowan installed a Level 2 charger provided for free by BED on the barn garage at one of his rental properties in the Old North End where there is space for anyone who would like to park and charge their car. McGowan has connected the EVmatch technology platform to his charging device, allowing anyone with the EVmatch app to learn when the charger is available for public charging. BED looks forward to sharing information about the success and impact of the EVmatch pilot in the coming months.
“I’ve always felt called to serve my community, to be a change-maker,” stated McGowan. “I like to help folks get connected, do good, and get a job done. The changing climate is no small thing. If we don’t all do everything we can, it’s going to be a really big problem for us, our kids, and our grandkids. In 2021, Joan and I have three grandkids being born. If I don’t do everything I can for their future, I will have failed as a parent and grandpa. That’s why I jumped on the opportunity to partner with BED and EVmatch to play my part in encouraging my tenants, neighbors, friends, and family to consider driving electric.”
City Leaders Support Net Zero Energy Progress
Burlington City Councilor (East District) Jack Hanson, who was unable to attend the announcement, shared the following statement: “Today’s Net Zero Energy progress report serves as a reminder that Burlington can, and therefore must, get off fossil fuels by 2030. As we emerge from the pandemic, we must double down on our efforts to build a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable local economy. We all have a role to play in improving energy efficiency, switching our homes and apartments to renewable heating, and switching to more sustainable forms of transportation. I’m encouraged by our progress so far, and am excited to keep working as hard as ever to make sure that Burlington is leading the way on the climate emergency and showing communities around the world what is possible.”
Gabrielle Stebbins, Chair of the Burlington Electric Commission, stated: “Once again, our Burlington community and Team BED are working hard and making strong progress toward a more sustainable, equitable, and affordable energy future. The progress we’ve made over the past two years is a good indication of what we can achieve if we continue being strategic, creative, and collaborative in our approach. Net Zero by 2030 will require every tool in the toolbox – from the usual offering of incentives to more creative approaches like ordinance changes and new financing products. This is no easy task, and we must work even harder as a community to use less energy overall, move away from fossil fuel emissions, and strategically electrify our vehicles and our home heating systems.”
Jennifer Green, City of Burlington Sustainability Director, stated: “Our City’s journey toward Net Zero Energy builds on years of climate efforts by our engaged Burlington community. As I connect with my colleagues in cities and towns around the nation, I hear from them admiration for our community having set one of the most ambitious, local, community-based climate change initiatives anywhere. And, here in Burlington, we have the community engagement and will to get the job done.”
GM Springer will present a full update on the Net Zero Energy Roadmap at tonight’s City Council meeting. Springer’s presentation slide deck is available at bit.ly/nzereport.
Source: Burlington, VT – Mayor 4.12.2021