City of Burlington Leads the Path Toward 100% Clean Energy and $20 Million Savings

Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, became the first in the U.S. to use 100% renewable energy – including wind, solar, biomass, and hydro – to power all of the electricity needs for its 42,000 residents.

Ken Nolan, who helps run Burlington’s local utility company, expects that switching from fossil fuels to clean energy will save the city about $20 million over the next 20 years, without increasing rates paid by its residential customers. In an interview with PBS NewsHour’s William Brangham, Nolan shared that “our financial analysis indicated, to our surprise, that the cheapest long-term financial investment with the least amount of risk was to move in this direction.”

Burlington ranks as one of America’s smaller cities, so the progress it’s made toward local climate solutions is only one piece of the larger puzzle. University of Vermont Environmental Science Professor Taylor Ricketts explains that “climate change is the biggest problem we face, maybe the biggest problem we’ve ever faced. There’s no silver bullet to fix it. It’s going to be a million individual solutions from all over.” 

More than being just a big milestone for Burlington, achieving 100% renewables shows other cities that it can be done. Ricketts sums it up this way: “There’s nothing magic about Burlington. It’s not a lot windier here, or more rivers, and certainly not a lot sunnier here than others parts of the U.S. It was just a bunch of decisions made over ten years or more, to get towards renewable energy.”

For some perspective, National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)’s 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book reveals that new renewable electricity accounted for over 61 percent of total new U.S. generation capacity. That compares to just 4 percent in 2004 and 57 percent in 2008. Solar electricity was the fastest growing segment of U.S. electricity generation, with cumulative installed capacity increasing by nearly 66 percent from the previous year.

Although some critics argue that Burlington could do even better by installing new and cleaner forms of energy, many local residents and business owners are proud of the city’s success story and its role in spurring a growing market for new renewable energy in the whole region.

And perhaps the best news is that Burlington’s success story can be replicated elsewhere — so long as city leaders, policymakers, and their local communities get serious about starting down the path toward clean local energy. To learn more about how Burlington is moving toward energy independence and climate solutions, check out the 7-minute video (or podcast or transcript).

Running on renewable energy, Burlington, Vermont powers green movement forward

By William Brangham | PBS NewsHour @NewsHour

From the moment his alarm goes off early in the morning, to shaving with an electric razor for the day ahead, longtime Burlington, Vermonter Stephen Conant — much like the rest of us — lives a life powered by electricity.

It powers his toaster, his coffeemaker, the fridge. But electricity matters even more to him at work, where hundreds of light bulbs at his lighting and metal fabrication company pull power from the electrical grid.

But just as his company strives to use reclaimed and renewable materials in its products and designs, some of which Conant himself occasionally welds, that ethos has been embraced by his city as well.

Burlington recently announced that it now produces or gets more power than its citizens use. And it’s all coming from renewable sources of energy like wind and solar and hydroelectric.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *