Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger, joined by Burlington Electric Department (BED) General Manager Darren Springer, City Director of Sustainability Jennifer Green, and other stakeholders, today publicly released the City's Net Zero Energy Roadmap. More than a year in the making, the Roadmap studies what it will take for Burlington to accomplish its goal to become a Net Zero Energy city by 2030, and identifies four key pathways to get there. At the same time as it released the Roadmap, the City also started putting the report's strategies into action, and launched a slate of new programs and initiatives designed to help Burlington achieve this ambitious climate goal.
"I know that many Burlingtonians believe, as I do, that we are in a climate emergency, and at the same time, that it can feel tough to know how to respond to the scale of this problem," said Mayor Weinberger. "With this Roadmap in hand, we now have clear next steps for what we can do to respond at the local level to this global crisis. We now know that it really is possible for Burlington to largely decarbonize the heating and ground transportation sectors by 2030 – and this report makes it more clear than ever that achieving this goal will take actions by all of us. If we are serious about responding to the climate crisis, then the Burlington of 2030 will be one where every one of our buildings is much more energy efficient and electric, where our land use and transportation policies help support less energy use, where nearly all vehicles are powered by 100 percent renewable electricity, and where we replace 15 percent of the miles we drive each year with forms of alternative transportation. Today, I call on all Burlingtonians to join me in committing to working to achieve this goal. Together, we can accomplish it, as we have many ambitious climate goals before – and at the same time, make Burlington healthier and more resilient, give our community a competitive advantage, and show the country that another path forward is possible."
The journey to this Roadmap first began back in 2014, when, with BED's purchase of the Winooski One Hydroelectric Facility, Burlington became the first city in the nation to source 100 percent of its electricity from renewable generation. Following the achievement of that milestone, in 2016, Mayor Weinberger announced a commitment to do more, and set the goal of Burlington becoming a Net Zero Energy city. BED then adopted and incorporated that goal into its strategic direction, which was approved by the Burlington Electric Commission (BEC), and BED's resulting 2030 vision is to "make Burlington a Net Zero Energy city across electric, thermal, and ground transportation sectors by managing demand, realizing efficiency gains, and expanding local renewable generation, while increasing system resilience."
To understand what it truly would take to meet this ambitious goal, in the summer of 2018, BED issued a request for proposals for a firm to analyze a business as usual scenario, model pathways that achieved more progress, and recommend strategies to achieve Net Zero Energy. Following a competitive process, in November 2018, BED selected Synapse Energy Economics and its partner, Resource Systems Group, to work with BED on developing a Net Zero Energy Roadmap to help guide the City's efforts to achieve the 2030 vision.
Key Pathways to Reach Net Zero Energy
To reach Net Zero Energy by 2030, Burlington will have to reduce total energy use and increase electrification across the electric, heating, and ground transportation sectors, while continuing to source all of its electricity from renewable generation. The Roadmap identifies important criteria to achieve that goal, including four key pathways, which are:
The Roadmap also notes the many environmental, economic, and social co-benefits that come with these strategies, including safer and more comfortable living spaces, improved air quality, reduced congestion, support for local jobs, and a more resilient city.
"Today's release of the Net Zero Energy Roadmap builds on our community's strong track record on energy efficiency and our accomplishment of being the first city in the nation to source 100 percent of our power from renewable generation," stated BED GM Springer. "Today, in response to the Roadmap's clarion call, we announce the most comprehensive and sweeping set of actions to-date to make progress toward our Net Zero Energy goal. These include new incentive programs with enhanced incentives for our low- and moderate-income customers. We also are announcing new programs to help make electric vehicles more affordable for our customers, and new investments to add more than 20 electric vehicle charging stations at public locations and multi-family buildings across our community. Knowing that moving to Net Zero Energy is good for both our environment and our local economy, the BED team is proud to help spearhead this work in partnership with the Mayor, our City colleagues, and our community."
New BED Programs and Incentives, Metrics and Engagement
In response to the strategies outlined in the Roadmap, today, BED also announced a slate of new programs and incentives that build on BED's existing initiatives and focus on both buildings and transportation. The programs related to building electrification mark BED's first major foray into that sector, and are a direct response to the needs identified by the Roadmap. Along with helping to advance the aims of the Roadmap, with appropriate management of grid impacts these programs can benefit all BED ratepayers by electrifying additional sectors and putting downward pressure on electric rates.
These programs and incentives are:
"All of these new programs and incentives are made possible by the efforts of BED's extraordinary workforce," added GM Springer. James "Duke" Dutra, BED's Chief Union Steward for IBEW Local 300, stated: "With approximately two-thirds of BED's workers in the union, we take a close look at every major new BED initiative to ensure that implementation works well for our workers and our community. In this instance, we appreciate that management brought us into the Net Zero Energy conversation early and often. I am pleased to report that both the management and the BED workers of IBEW Local 300 fully supports this bold effort. We hope that our union will serve as a model for other chapters around the state in leading to similar impactful work to fight climate change."
Jan Demers, Executive Director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO), stated: "Our vision at CVOEO is bridging gaps and building futures. Mayor Weinberger and Burlington Electric are our partners in achieving that vision. Those we serve have long benefited from the generosity of the City and BED through their contributions to our WARMTH program that help community members who do not have enough resources to pay their heating bills. And now, BED's new program incentives, in addition to its current higher incentives for low- and moderate-income customers who purchase new electric vehicles, will allow Burlington residents with low incomes to weatherize their homes, install heat pumps and more efficient water heaters, and purchase pre-owned electric vehicles. Thanks to their leadership, Net Zero is the future for all of us."
Gabrielle Stebbins, BEC Chair, stated: "For over 30 years, the community that directs the course of our Queen City's energy choices – our residents and businesses, elected officials and the Burlington Electric Commission, the strong and dedicated team at Burlington Electric Department – has pushed the envelope in how we use energy. We have done so first with energy efficiency, next with achieving 100 percent renewably-sourced power, and now with a Roadmap outlining key steps needed to achieve a Net Zero Energy city by 2030. Each of these accomplishments has required effort, foresight, and gumption. On behalf of the Electric Commission, we applaud our community and Team BED for continuing to strive to create a future that is sustainable, equitable, and affordable."
Jennifer Green, City Sustainability Director, stated: "The Net Zero Energy Roadmap announced today builds on climate action efforts the City has made over many years. When I speak with my colleagues from all around the country, they continually recognize Burlington's Net Zero Energy effort as one of the most ambitious, local, community-based climate change initiatives in the nation. We're very fortunate to have such a great community that supports these important efforts."
At the announcement, Director Green also introduced two of the more than 40 third- and fourth-grade students from Edmunds Elementary School who were in attendance. These young, future leaders shared with the assembled crowd their thoughts about the City's Net Zero Energy plan.
Kaya Rubin, a fourth-grade student in Lori Palmer's class, stated: "I'm 10 years old, and in the year 2030, I'll be 21. I'm glad the City of Burlington is taking strong actions now so my friends and I will be able to enjoy a healthy environment when we're older."
Graham McNeil, a fourth-grade student in Paul Houchen's class, stated: "The McNeil Generating Station, where BED uses wood chips to make renewable electricity for the City of Burlington, is named after my great-grandfather, Joseph C. McNeil. When I grow up, I want to continue our family tradition of helping to make our environment cleaner."
Vermont environmental leaders offered support for today's announcement:
Johanna Miller, Energy and Climate Program Director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), stated: "Vermont communities must take the lead on fighting climate change. The VNRC appreciates that Burlington is stepping up to face this challenge in a strong, focused manner. We hope that the State will provide supportive policies to make it easier for more communities to make similar progress."
Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate and Energy Program Director at VPIRG, stated: "With the Roadmap and actions laid out today, Burlington is taking a big step towards doing what Vermont, and the nation as a whole, must do – cut climate pollution to zero, while saving money and advancing a more equitable society. That's why we're working to advance policies that will put our whole state on a path to meet the Paris climate commitments, and ultimately eliminate climate pollution entirely."
Vermont business leaders also offered support for today's announcement:
Joey Bergstein, CEO of Seventh Generation, stated: "As a business committed to creating a sustainable future for generations to come, we applaud the leadership from Mayor Weinberger and Darren Springer at BED. We have just 11 years to address the climate challenge ahead before we see irreversible damage. It takes the kind of commitment and leadership that Burlington is showing to have a meaningful impact – this is why we're so proud to be part of the Burlington, Vermont community."
Kelly Devine, Executive Director of the Burlington Business Association, stated: "The BBA's members agree that Burlington should be a leading-edge city in climate action. We support the City's goals for Net Zero and energy efficient buildings because they are good for the community and good for business. Our efforts, in partnership with the Department of Public Works on the 2019-20 Parking and Transportation Management Plan, dovetail into the Net Zero Energy effort by directing a portion of the self-assessed business tax to alternative transport. We look forward to working with all City departments to continue Burlington's national leadership in climate change initiatives."
Tom Torti, President and CEO of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, stated: "Once again, the Mayor and the City team are taking innovative steps that set Burlington ahead of the national curve on important issues. With today's Net Zero Energy Roadmap announcement, the City is effectively promoting public/private partnerships that give our local businesses a competitive advantage and deliver a big step in the fight to slow climate change."
Members of the Burlington community are invited to visit BED's new Net Zero Energy web page – burlingtonelectric.com/NZE – to learn much more about the City's path toward Net Zero Energy. Materials on the web page include: frequently asked questions and answers; information about our new programs and incentives, as well as a list of action steps community members can take to make progress on the City's Net Zero Energy goal; a video of BED GM Springer talking about BED's new programs and incentives; a list of upcoming Net Zero Energy events; a list of dates and times during which members of the BED team will present at the Neighborhood Planning Assemblies during the coming weeks; and more.
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