The Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan

Since the first Arab oil embargo in 1973, each succeeding decade has put more and more focus on how we use and generate energy.  Political, environmental and economic factors all play a part as we try to figure out how our energy demands will be met and how much it will cost.  During the 2010 session the legislature required by law that a plan be developed for Vermont’s energy future, taking us firmly into the 21st century with less reliance on fossil fuels.  Since January representatives from state agencies, environmental groups, utilities, agriculture, and private industry have been meeting to map out a strategic plan for the next 20 years that will get us there.  Their draft report consisting of two volumes has been released by the Department of Public Service entitled Comprehensive Energy Plan 2011 and is available for public comment until October 10th.

In the first volume of the CEP, the current status of Vermont’s energy consumption as well as future goals and strategies to achieve them are described.  The second volume describes in great detail the supporting analysis and the recommendations for implementing the plan. 

Our energy demands consist of electricity, heat, transportation and land use.  In satisfying these demands Vermont has already made strides in energy efficiency improvements (2% per year since 2008), and increased use of renewable energy sources including solar, biomass, wind and hydro for both heat and electricity generation.  Two-thirds of Vermont’s energy usage is for heating and transportation, depending almost entirely on fossil fuels. Approximately 50% of our electric supply and about 25% of Vermont’s total energy usage presently is from renewable sources.  Greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont have been reduced by 3% per year since 2004, but we are still well behind in reaching the current goal of 25% below 1990 levels by 2028.

The CEP sets a goal of achieving 90% of our energy needs from renewable sources by 2050 which will provide these four key benefits: 1) foster economic security and independence by creating jobs, enhancing local economic activity and reducing total costs for Vermonters, 2) safeguard our environment through efficiency and conservation thereby providing an example to the nation and enhancing our Vermont brand, 3) drive in-state innovation and jobs creation through research and development and energy infrastructure development, and 4) increase community involvement and investment by supporting productive energy uses of our working landscapes including our farms, forests and fields.

This strategy for reaching this lofty goal of virtually eliminating Vermont’s reliance on oil by mid-century includes “moving toward enhanced efficiency measures, greater use of clean, renewable sources for electricity, heating, and transportation, and electric vehicle adoption, while increasing our use of natural gas and biofuel blends where nonrenewable fuels remain necessary.”  The implementation will take careful planning over an extended period “to ensure overall energy costs for our businesses and residents remain regionally competitive.”  Key elements of implementation will be greater use of both in-state and external hydropower, wind energy where feasible, sustainable biomass from farms and forests, solar generation, and geothermal systems.  The CEP also recognizes that the least expensive energy is energy that isn’t used; so conservation by thermal and electric efficiency improvements has to be increased at a faster rate than is currently being done.  Transportation concepts will also have to be transformed by greater use of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) and hybrids as well as mass transportation and blended fuels.

As Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller states in the preface to the CEP, “we view this plan as the beginning of the conversation — not the end... [recognizing] that a successful plan must remain current and responsive to change. As progress is measured, we will revisit the goals set forth in this plan and adapt strategies to achieve our vision based upon experience."

This brief overview cannot do justice to the vision, thought and analysis contained in the CEP.  I hope it will stimulate you to take the time to read it yourself.  You can find it at along with a schedule of public forums for presentation and discussion of the plan.

Cleaning up after Irene

The costs of cleaning up Vermont after hurricane Irene are still being tallied, but we know they will be HUGE!  The road repairs alone are estimated at $700M.  And we won't know how much disaster relief we will get from the federal government because of the political environment in Washington -- this despite the fact that besides the dozen states affected by Irene, several more, including Texas, have had major damage due to wildfires.

The Vermont legislature will have a lot of work to do in January to make Vermont whole again.  However, that work has already started.  The House Appropriations Committee, as well as several other committees, is already working with the administration to map out a strategy.  Vermonters all over the state have already pitched in financially and with countless volunteer hours to help neighbors and strangers alike. has a fantastic, lengthy review of the work accomplished in the month since Irene hit Vermont.  We WILL get the job done!