Burlington Electric wants net-zero energy usage by 2030

The Burlington Electric Department has set a goal for net-zero energy usage by 2030, a policy which could have a big impact for electric, transportation and heating costs if implemented.

“Burlington was the first city in the nation to source 100 percent of our electricity from renewable generation. Now we are working to achieve another even more significant first — Burlington has embarked on a journey to become a Net Zero Energy city by 2030,” the company announced in a recent statement.

To achieve this ambitious goal, BED users must “reduce and eventually eliminate fossil fuel use in the heating and ground transportation sectors,” according to the company.

Burlington’s aim is to reduce and phase out fossil fuel usage in heating and ground transportation.​ The city will try to achieve the goal by reducing total energy usage across electric, thermal and ground transportation while sourcing its entire energy supply from renewables.

Last year BED entered into a partnership with Synapse Energy Economics and Resource Systems Group to produce the “Net Zero Energy Roadmap” to reduce fossil fuel use and emissions “in a manner commensurate with the scope of the challenge.”

Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

NET-ZERO ENERGY?: Burlington Electric claims it can make its city the first “net-zero” energy community in the nation, but at what cost to ratepayers?

This roadmap includes — not unlike utility colleagues Green Mountain Power — BED wants to achieve these reductions via big subsidies to electric technologies, including “incentivizing electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), electric bikes, electric buses, and even electric lawnmowers.”

The rebates include $800 for the purchase of a pre-owned EV or hybrid, good for two cars per household, and BED will install 20 new EV charging stations. Users will be encouraged to charge during off-peak hours for the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon.

EVs are still more expensive than their nonrenewable gas counterparts, as they are still reliant on subsidies to compete in the free market. New EVs cost starting around $30,000, even after a $7,500 federal tax rebate, and then there are state rebates and now the BED rebates.

Drivers of gas-powered vehicles will be encouraged to “make the switch early” and get an EV even before the end of the useful life of those gas vehicles. It continues that a switch to EVs should be a big economic gain.

“For example, our 100 percent renewable electricity in Burlington is a cleaner and cheaper transportation fuel than gasoline,” the company claims in its statement. “As more drivers switch from filling up the gas tank to charging up with renewable electricity, we can save money in our community.”

For reducing carbon from heating systems, that will require increased weatherization of buildings and the electrification of heating systems, especially turning to cold-climate heat pumps. Other technologies include efficient heat pump water heaters, variable refrigerant flow heat pumps and ground source heat pumps.

The company also is keeping an eye on Trump administration policies that relate to green energy.

“State and Federal policies will have a significant impact — in particular, whether federal vehicle efficiency standards and electric vehicle tax credits continue, and whether the state prices carbon either on its own or in conjunction with other states in our region,” the company’s press release states.

As part of the roadmap to net-zero energy, Burlington residents can expect to see an end to conventional natural gas for the city.

Beth Parent, spokesperson for Vermont Gas, told True North that while the net-zero initiative includes eliminating natural gas usage, there is still the option for renewable natural gas, which counts towards the net-zero energy goal.

“We at VGS are committed to being leaders in that change,” she told True North Reports. “And the 90 percent renewable by 2050 goal has really sharpened our focus.”

She continued that Vermont Gas is the first local distribution company in the country to offer renewable natural gas to customers. She said renewable natural gas is taking waste from farms and food wastes and putting that through a digester, which then turns it into the renewable natural gas.

The catch is that renewable natural gas costs more than its non-renewable counterpart.

A calculator at the VGS website allows users to see how much increased cost using renewable natural gas will have on their bill. For a home using 900 cubic feet of natural gas per month, if that consumption is converted to renewable gas 100 percent, it adds almost $90 to a monthly energy bill. Customers can choose the percentage they wish to commit to; for instance, just 10 percent will just add about $10 to their bill.

Despite the costs of Burlington’s net-zero goals, Mayor Miro Weinberger is on board with the plan.

A dramatic switch to green energy for transportation and heating is central to Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standards. While Tiers 1 and 2 deal with energy production, Tier 3 states an objective to “acquire fossil-fuel savings through energy transformation projects. Energy transformation projects are those that reduce the fossil-fuel consumption of a distribution utility’s customers and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with that consumption.”

The transformation towards “a green economy” can lead to higher energy costs according to a study by Chicago University, which examined the economic impact in states that implemented renewable standards.

The BED release concludes that overhauling the transportation and heating energy sectors will not be completely painless. It states, “While the road to Net Zero Energy will be challenging, moving forward toward this bold goal is necessary.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Burlington Electric Department and Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

12 thoughts on “Burlington Electric wants net-zero energy usage by 2030

  1. GMP should buy more electricity from H-Q

    H-Q electricity price to GMP was 5.549 c/kWh for a 20-y contract.
    That price has been unchanged for several years.

    Standard offer costs 21.793 c/kWh
    Net-metered costs 21.813 c/kWh

    It is utterly irrational for GMP not to buy more H-Q electricity at about 1/4 of the price. Put in another transmission line ASAP.

    GMP purchases, 2016; MWh; % of purchases; Cost, $; c/kWh; % of Cost; Ratio of 5/2
    HQUS (Hydro-Quebec); 919312; 22.13; 51013678; 5.549; 20.34; 0.92
    Standard Offer; 78920; 1.90; 17199202; 21.793; 6.86; 3.61
    Net-metered; 71970; 1.73; 15699137; 21.813; 6.26; 3.61
    Ryegate (wood); 126707; 3.05; 12710175; 10.031; 5.07; 1.66
    ISO wholesale; 575553; 13.85; 18645214; 3.240; 7.43; 0.54
    Misc. sources; 1772462; 42.66; 115267406; 6.503; 45.96; 1.08
    Other sources; 2382075; 57.34; 135516232; 5.689; 54.04; 0.94
    Total GMP purchases; 4154537; 100.00; 250783638; 6.036; 100.00; 1.00
    ISO midday wholesale; 6.000 c/kWh


    A Tesla Model 3 has a worse life-cycle carbon footprint than a similar-sized Mercedes diesel car, the renowned German think tank, IFO, has found.

    It warns that electric vehicles are “no panacea” against climate change.


    The claims made by former IFO president Hans-Werner Sinn, physics professor Christoph Buchal and IFO energy expert Hans-Dieter Long could deal a big blow to Germany’s efforts to reduce traffic-related CO2 by 40% over the next decade.

    Germany is heading down a blind alley, the authors boldly state, because electric vehicles will “barely help to cut emissions” as battery-powered cars emit between 10% and “up to a quarter” more CO2 than a conventional diesel car.

    Compare footprint of: Tesla Model 3, Mecedes 220D, and Mercedes C class, LNG model


  3. There are around two million single-family houses in Sweden, and approximately 20-25% of these houses are heated with a GSHP (2015 status)

    They work well no matter the outside temperature.

    My niece lives on the ninth floor of a 12-story condo building in Maassluis, Netherlands.

    The complex consists of 20 buildings entirely provided with heating, cooling and domestic hot water from ground source heat pumps for more than 35 years.

    In the Netherlands, all that is old hat, routine BAU.

  4. The VT-DPS evaluation report indicates:

    – The owners of the surveyed HPs had average savings of about $200/heat pump per year
    – The owners displaced, on average, only about 34% of their annual fuel oil, i.e., the other 66% of fuel oil was supplied by the traditional heating system.

    The VT-DPS report did not mention other HP financial impacts on owners, such as:

    – Annual loan payments to utilities, such as GMP. See table 1 and Appendix for details.
    – Annual maintenance contract fees, at about $150 per year, no parts
    – Cost for unscheduled outages, at about $150 per call, no parts
    – Amortizing the $5000 heat pump at 5% for 15 years requiring annual payments of $474 per year
    – Amortizing the $10000 traditional back-up system a 5% for 20 years requiring annual payments of $792 per year

  5. Zero net energy means enough energy, i.e., electricity and heat (from biofuels?) is PRODUCED within city limits of Burlington to offset any energy CONSUMED within the city limits of Burlington.

    If that were achieved by 2030, Burlington would be way ahead of any moderate size city in Denmark. Wow.

    I will not hold my breath

    At present almost about 99% of buildings in Burlington are ENERGY HOGS
    That means all buildings would have to be highly sealed and highly insulated to be suitable for heating with cold climate heat pumps.
    The output of heat pumps DECREASES as it gets colder outside, but the building needs MORE heat as it gets colder outside.


    According to BED, Efficiency Vermont’s estimated savings were grossly exaggerated. “BED is scaling back its 2018 – 2020 projections of HPs installed in the City of Burlington, VT, due to the results of a 2017 VT DPS evaluation report. See URL.


  6. Electric cars are great, but there’s a fly in the ointment. When the batteries run down they need to be RECHARGED with guess with what? ELECTRICITY. WOW! Got a couple of better ideas, either every one get out and push or we go back to the horse and buggy. Maybe scooters. As for wind, we can all run to the top of the mountain and blow. Typical of feel good planners. Way out ideas with no practical solutions to the make them into reality. Looks good on paper, but that’s about it.

    • Eggzackly MIKE, and when are they charging their toy battery cars??? all at peak time when they get home from work (4:30-9pm). And what don’t blow between those hr’s??? the wind of course and the sun is long beyond it’s potential as well. I guess no AC or Stoves or TV for the masses as we need the juice to charge the pollution laden Lithium
      batteries…Great plan

  7. They could get economical, zero emission power today, just purchase it from HQ.
    Everybody loves Tesla now, right? Niagara falls was his vision. AC power made it practical.
    All this stuff to squeeze a little energy from solar farms and windmills, uses a tremendous amount of Chinese-made materials, is polluting, ugly and impractical.
    Niagara Falls! Step by step, inch by inch, slowly I turn…

  8. Just another pipe dream, sounds good on paper but totally not doable. Can’t wait to watch Burlington fail miserably.

  9. ““Burlington was the first city in the nation to source 100 percent of our electricity from renewable generation” – I don’t know the history of Buffalo, Niagra, Tonawanda power sources, but the Niagra generating plant probably supplied a lot of it, and that quite a while ago. Canada has an abundance of cheap hydropower it wants to sell to the U.S. Electric cars? Let them take over the market – when they can offer a competitive product without consumers paying taxes to the government for the government to pay them back to buy an economically non-competitive vehicle. It’s been claimed we have six hundred years of petroleum reserve – why the rush for electric? Even if that’s an exaggerated future availability, keep in mind that a couple hundred years ago we burned wood for heat, no cars, no interstate highways, electricity, internet, microwave ovens, cell phones… Let technological progress and open market competition replace the internal combustion motor, don’t force it.

  10. Great, I assume Burlington Electric will lead by example, so when are they turning in all
    their fossil fuel vehicles ??……………..

    I have noticed BE has a new fleet of Ford F150 trucks, nice paint jobs, I guess a standard
    white truck won’t cut it.

    Despite the costs of Burlington’s net-zero goals, Mayor Weinberger is on board with the plan,
    never mind the City Debt, unfunded liabilities, not a problem just raise the property tax on the
    homeowners ……………Hypocrites !!

    • What percent of electric or gas co vehicles are now only electric
      City of Burlington, GMP,
      From cars to pick-up to impossibly heavy utility trucks, all gasoline or diesel.
      Shut off carbon fuels and the city stops and freezes

      Pipe dreams, Fairy dust

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