Alison Despathy: Affordable Heating Act is an attack on Vermont businesses

Wikimedia Commons/Santeri Viinamäki

Would money go to global corporations while local fuel dealers carry this immense burden and are penalized? Will Vermont pay global corporations such as Big Oil twice in order to use fuel? How will this situation ripple to other Vermont businesses and consumers?

By Alison Despathy

The new Clean Heat Standard called the Affordable Heating Act is an attack on Vermont businesses and our local economy. This bill, S.5, was introduced on Jan. 6, 2023, and is supported by 13 senators. Although there may be good intentions and hopes behind S.5, it is actually harmful to Vermonters and small businesses who have been heating homes for decades, even generations. The true nature of S.5 hides behind the words ‘equitable’ and ‘affordable’ but it will result in a trickle down effect of damage to small fuel companies, consumers, businesses and Vermont’s economy — this will negatively impact all of us.

The language within S.5 reveals that fuel dealers will take the brunt and be coerced to play a highly regulated, convoluted game regarding carbon credits based on limited and specified eligible measures in order to comply and meet goals. This game is designed by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), an unelected body, and although it is cloaked in equity, repercussions and negative impacts are guaranteed yet unknown and the inequitable burden and strain placed on Vermont fuel dealers is unfair and dangerous. All Vermont homes and businesses require heat- intensely regulating and monitoring, and demanding that these targeted businesses solve the problem — because the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) demands it — is cruel.

Fuel dealers are actively working towards broadening environmental options as industry innovates and access and affordability of technologies becomes realistic. Many want options that save money and may have less of an impact, but to force this on the industry and people is unacceptable, especially with a compromised electrical grid and a design which specifically targets hard-working individuals and Vermont businesses. Applying this degree of pressure from competitive industries via the government does not serve Vermont and is inappropriate. Vermonters will suffer from these demands and this carbon trading game, there is no doubt.

Many questions arise: Will these businesses be able to financially survive this attack and burden? Will this lead to closures and the invasion of global fuel dealers who can weather this storm? Will this create a monopoly? If people do not want this system or these technologies forced on them, if they cannot afford them, if there is not the funding, then again the fuel dealer suffers and has to pay for not accumulating enough credits in relation to the fuel that they sold. It is completely unfair that these businesses have to pay more or be penalized because they could not engage and influence enough people to jump on board with this game and purchase the “eligible measures” that the PUC has deemed acceptable for receiving credits.

Will the fuel dealers need to hire help in order to keep track of this forced system and all of the data and records required for reporting? How will they determine if the people they serve are of low or moderate income? Will they be expected to advertise and market these specific “eligible measures”? This is invasive, breaches privacy and these responsibilities, issues and extra costs should not be placed on the fuel dealers or obligated parties — this is an overstep.

In addition to multiple advisory groups, the PUC and the Department of Public Service are appropriated a combined total of $1.2 million to implement this plan and hire staff and consultants. This money could be spent more effectively and be used to directly accelerate progress. California went through this nightmare and failed; they now need others to enter the game in order for it to lock in and make the carbon market boom. Implementation of a real action based plan that does not involve creating, trading, cycling and buying carbon credits among the players — consumers, industry and the commission — would be the real answer. Penalizing these entities who do not fall in lock step to bring in this new system or cannot generate enough credits to stay afloat is an attack.

Under Consumer Protections within S.5, it reads “Entities that provide clean heat measures shall not unfairly induce customers to install or adopt clean heat measures. Entities shall not engage in predatory practices to generate clean heat measures.” However, S.5 by definition is predatory and coercive upon these businesses to play this game in which an unelected body has designed and set the rules. This degree of ongoing and demanding regulation is unprecedented and risks interference with a consumer’s ability to work with a local business who will best serve them and their needs

Will this service become skewed because of the intense pressure and looming penalties placed on the entities to implement these eligible measures? The actual level of intrusion into businesses is appalling. This scheme is unnecessarily complicated, and if it requires this many people to drive the game, then it is evidently a poor design which wastes resources, time and money.

If the GWSA was repealed, then Vermont could actually focus its efforts on solving real environmental issues and developing a real plan of action that aligns specifically with Vermont needs.

If carbon mitigation must be tackled as some in the Legislature demand, then continued and intensified carbon sequestration efforts can be prioritized. Vermont has 75% forest, healthy ecosystems and many sustainable practices in place which equate to an already present, massive and functional carbon sequestration infrastructure.

Further, the thermal and transportation sectors could continue to analyze and determine innovative technologies and options that are effective and make sense for Vermont. These could be promoted, incentivized if found worthy, and Vermont could continue to move into a diversified, energy system design without coercion and create a transitional hybrid model while keeping an eye on real industry solutions versus temporary and transient trends in the energy sector.

Another issue related to S.5 is who will be the statewide default delivery agent in which the obligated party has to pay for clean heat (carbon) credits. S.5 states that the “The Commission may order an obligated party that fails to retire the number of clean heat credits required in a given year, including the required amounts from customers with low income and moderate income, to make a non-compliance payment to the default delivery agent. The per-credit amount of the noncompliance payment shall be three-times the amount established by the Commission.” This potential for penalties holds unknown impacts and could be devastating.

Where will the PUC or the default delivery agent acquire additional clean heat credits/carbon credits if necessary, if Vermont cannot generate enough of its own? Will it be a requirement to purchase them from British Petroleum or another global corporation or bank who has stockpiled carbon credits for decades to get in on the forecasted game and evolving market? Would money go to global corporations while local fuel dealers carry this immense burden and are penalized? Will Vermont pay global corporations such as Big Oil twice in order to use fuel? How will this situation ripple to other Vermont businesses and consumers?

This is beyond a racket — attacking and harming local businesses, even if one feels it is justified for the environment is cruel. Vermont’s economy is already struggling, and S.5 does not help the situation. The emphasis on carbon reduction emissions does not make sense in Vermont and will undoubtedly result in business closures, businesses fleeing Vermont and an actual inequitable situation in which one sector is attacked and fiercely pressured in order to meet the goals of the GWSA when all they have been doing is trying to make an honest living and providing Vermonters with a steady supply of fuel to heat their homes — an actual necessity in Vermont. S.5 is dangerous to Vermont on many levels.

Alison Despathy is a Danville resident. She has a clinical nutrition practice in St. Johnsbury.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Santeri Viinamäki
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6 thoughts on “Alison Despathy: Affordable Heating Act is an attack on Vermont businesses

  1. I have no idea why there is such a push to get everyone to install Heat Pumps, as they are not able to adequately heat homes here in Vermont without another source of back up heat. When I started looking into Heat Pumps to cool and heat our home, it was made clear to me by the company I hired to install 2 Heat Pump systems, that cooling would not be a problem, however heating throughout the cold Vermont winters would not be practical, nor cost effective to do so unless we had a back up system. Fortunately we have an excellent and more cost effective heating system powered by natural gas that is our main source of heating. We use the Heat Pumps for cooling when needed, and for heating only in late fall before winter sets in and late winter heading into spring. For those Vermonters that do not have a back up heat source for their Heat Pump(s), I wonder how they get through the very cold months when Heat Pumps are less effective and extremely costly!?
    In my experience and opinion, Heat Pumps are just not ready for prime time, nor should they be shoved down anyone’s throat as replacements for heating systems powered by oil, natural gas, propane, or wood.

  2. GWSA has a “Heat Standard”, that includes “transitioning to heat pumps”

    Here is the miserable HP experience of Vermonters.

    The VT-DPS had a study performed of HEAT PUMPS in Vermont in 2017.

    THE RESULTS WERE MISERABLE, BUT AVERAGE VERMONTERS COULD NEVER FIGURE IT OUT BY READING THE SURVEY REPORT!!!

    CADMUS Survey of Vermont Air Source Heat Pumps

    CADMUS, an energy consultant hired by the Vermont Department of Public Service, DPS, in 2017, performed a survey of 77 HPs at 65 sites, in Vermont. See URL of CADMUS report
    https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/EVT%202018%20Savings%20Verification%20Report%202019.07.01.pdf

    VT-DPS was ordered by the Vermont legislature to obtain an “independent” study, because many people with air source heat pumps had complained, they did not get anywhere near the annual energy cost savings stated on websites, etc., of GMP, BED, VPIRG, VT-DPS, EAN, EFFICIENCY VERMONT, etc.,

    NOTE:
    The CADMUS report was written in such a confusing way, the average Vermonter, including almost all legislators, would not be able to understand it. In fact, they would be more confused by it.

    Unless they had a mechanical engineering degree, with applicable HVAC system experience.
    I do have the degree and experience, so I could analyze it.

    CADMUS used a decades-old, standard, HVAC computer program that takes the hourly temperature history of a heating season (or averages, say 5 heating seasons). The temperature history is obtained from US weather data

    The computer program allocates the frequency and duration of temperatures to two-degree temperature intervals, also called “bins”.
    See URL of CADMUS report; horizontal axis of figure 14

    The space heat to a site is calculated for each two-degree bin, say 32 F – 34 F, 34 F – 36 F, 36 F – 38 F, etc.
    The total space heat to a site is obtained by adding the space heats for all two-degree bins.

    Figure 14 also shows, the aggregate electricity consumption, kWh, of all heat pumps is steadily increasing with increasing heating load, until about 30 F.

    At temperatures below 30 F, whereas the heating load was increasing, the electricity to heat pumps was decreasing!!

    That decrease can only happen, if people TURNED OFF their HPs (to save on electricity costs) and, instead, used their much-less-costly-to-operate traditional heating systems, such as oil, gas, propane and wood stoves.

    The CADMUS HVAC computer program calculated the following values, as stated in the CADMUS report:

    – Space heat to a site was 92 million Btu, of which 25.35 million from HPs, and 66.65 million from other fuels
    – Space heat to all sites was 65 sites x 92 million Btu/site = 5,980 million Btu. See CADMUS URL, page 22
    – Space heat from HPs was 77 HPs x 21.4 million Btu/HP = 1,648 million Btu. See CADMUS URL, page 21
    – Traditional systems provided 5980 – 1648 = 4,332 million Btu, or 4332/5980 = 72.4% of the total space heat.
    – HPs provided only 100 – 72.4 = 27.6% of the total space heat for an average Vermont house

    The energy cost savings averaged about $200/y, instead of the $1,200/y to $1,800/y bandied about by GMP, VT-DPS, VPIRG, etc.

    After the CADMUS report, those overblown estimates disappeared from HP booster websites.

    MY OWN HP EXPERIENCE OF THE PAST THREE YEARS

    I have three Mitsubishi HPs ($24,000 – $2,400 subsidy from GMP) in my well-insulated/sealed house.
    I displace only 35% of my propane Btus, based on MEASURED consumption data during 3 years.

    I do not use my HPs below 15 F, because they are less efficient PER HOUR than my efficient propane furnace.

    I save about $200/y in energy costs, but if I amortize the cost of the HPs over 15 years, I lose about $2,000/y

    HP boosters Bray, McDonald, etc., know about those dreadful HP results in Vermont, and yet they continue shilling for HPs

    Heavily subsidized businesses selling/installing/servicing HPs, etc., will be collecting hundreds of $millions each year over the decades, while already-struggling, over-regulated, over-axed Vermonters will be further screwed out of a decent standard of living, while all that effort will be having ZERO IMPACT ON GLOBAL WARMING.

  3. Vermont cannot repeal its dysfunctional GWSA, because it copied the identical GWSA of dysfunctional California, which is losing 250,000 to 300,000 tax-paying, long-term, well-off, residents PER YEAR.

    They are offset by poor, uneducated, inexperienced, dysfunctional, bracero-type people, who, unvetted, from God knows where, walk across Biden’s open border, who are, for free, sucking from the Social Security System, Medicare/Medicaid System, and get free rent, free food, free clothes and shelter, and pay no taxes.

    They eventually will take the jobs of similar people who were born in the U.S.

    The craziness of it all is off the charts.
    It will lead to more uncontrollable crime, chaos, dysfunction and strife in the U.S., a prelude to its downfall.

  4. The communist legislature needs to do more studying up on the subject of oil use in the US as they appear to be the most ignorant of all
    Vermonters on the subject. Just like the EV car hoax which if the US had 90% compliance would only save 10% of oil use, oil use for heating VT isn’t even in the top five of users. While New England is the top users VT and NH are barely on the chart so a so called tax that makes it affordable is a lie to generate more revenue for them to flush down the toilet of progidioticity. It’s past time for the idiot voters to wake the hell up and fire this bunch of incompetent disciples of commiefornia…

  5. Slightly off topic, but not really….they want to regulate certain fossil fuels for clean heat standard…well, now they want to ban gas stoves in your kitchen. WSJ has a nice Op-Ed …the insanity of progressives…a small quote:

    “There really is a culture war coming over gas stoves, and everything else involving fossil fuels, because climate has become for the left a matter of core cultural identity. Progressives want to impose their values on the lifestyle of everyone else, including in the kitchen. If subsidies don’t work, coercion follows. When they can’t win the political debate, they resort to brute government force. They really are coming for your stove.”

  6. What’s “affordable” about this. The proponents should be ashamed. As a well-known judge has been saying. STOP LYING TO ME !

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