Green energy group pushes Paris climate accord on Vermont

Michael Bielawski/TNR

GREEN ENERGY AT ANY COST: Jared Duval, executive director of the Energy Action Network, sits at the end of the House Energy Committee table and talks with Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, P/D-Middletown Springs, left, and Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh.

MONTPELIER, Vt. — While Vermont’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement may be a policy goal only, environmental groups at the Statehouse told lawmakers the accord’s lofty green energy targets should be pursued at almost any cost.

“While it will be incredibly ambitious to do, meeting the Paris targets — which is quite similar to the first milestone of the comprehensive energy plan in terms of what it would take — is possible,” Jared Duval, executive director of the Energy Action Network told the House Energy and Technology Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

“But it will take a massive amount of work across multiple sectors and there’s no silver bullet policy or market mechanisms to get there.”

The Energy Action Network presented what’s called “Vermont’s Energy Emissions Picture,” which is an annual progress report on the state’s efforts towards these green goals.

The latest check point was for Vermont utilities to use 55 percent renewable energy by 2017, and the next target is to get to 25 percent by 2025, which is written into statute. The final goal is to reach 90 percent renewable energy usage by 2050, but that target is an aspirational goal, not law.

To achieve these goals will require significant increases in the use of hydro, solar and wind for electric utilities, and also a change in the way Vermonters drive cars and heat their homes. Those two activities account for the majority of the state’s total carbon dioxide emissions.

“If we don’t make transportation and heating more renewable, there is just a diminishing amount of progress that we can make if we focus just on the renewable sector alone,” Duval said.

A graph presented by Duval indicates 42 percent of carbon comes from transportation, 28 percent from building thermal heating, and just 9 percent from electric generation.

Leigh Seddon, president of L. W. Seddon, and chairman of the Energy Action Network, also spoke on this green energy push.

“We need to have a 24 percent reduction in fossil fuel use between and 2025,” he said.

With transportation accounting for the biggest piece of the emissions pie, Seddon urged more use of electric vehicles.The state’s comprehensive energy plan has a target of 40,000 electric vehicles by 2025, a significant increase from around 2,000 today.

“Electric vehicles are about twice as efficient as the combustion engines,” Seddon said.

He said while tax incentives were offered on a certain number of vehicle sales from automakers, and once the limit is reached, the incentive expires, and the state may have to pick up the put up funding.

“There really needs to be a state policy that can help pick up that incentive,” Seddon said. “One of the policy pitches was a fee-based schedule that [incentivizes] efficient cars like electric vehicles and puts a tax on inefficient cars.”

Thermal heating follows transportation as second biggest opportunity to shift energy use to renewables. Cold-climate heat pumps were pushed as an alternative to heating with oil or gas.

“Those are effective, efficient and cost-effective today– the market is finally taking off on that,” Seddon said. “But we would need to have 60,000 buildings retrofitted in the next eight years and right now I would say there are 8,000 buildings that run on heat pumps.”

Matt Cota, executive director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, attended the event and had some reservations about such approaches.

“[Cold-climate heat pumps] are effective at keeping people cool when it’s warm and they are also effective at keeping people warm when it’s cool, but they don’t work so well when it’s cold,” he said. “We’ve had a winter that we haven’t experienced in more than 40 years, and what our fuel dealers are finding is that those people who installed cold-climate heat pumps are needing emergency deliveries of fuel oil.”

Other strategies to get to 25 percent renewable by 2025 include increasing the burning of wood pellets and wood chips. Seddon suggested that Vermont would have to move from about 20 percent wood heat as it is today to about 30 percent by 2025.

“It’s cost-effective and importantly it supports the working lands and the forest,” he said.

Rep. Mike Yantachka, D-Charlotte, and Rep. Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, each inquired about the renewable energy credits (RECs) that can be bought and sold separately from building renewable projects.

“So, anything they generate in renewable energy in excess of that [renewable energy targets] can be sold as RECs, but they have to retain the RECs for at least the 55 percent [2017 target],” he said. “Do you account for that?”

Seddon said that lately the Department of Public Service is accounting for RECs and subtracting any that are sold out of state. He said this hadn’t always been the case but for the last two years the accounting system has been adapted for this.

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

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

15 thoughts on “Green energy group pushes Paris climate accord on Vermont

  1. Van Wyck should demand a REC spreadsheet with line items for each project to get a picture of the REC status, with and without sales.

  2. Cold climate heat pumps are inadequate during the colder days in winter.

    Many households with heat pumps found they could not adequately heat their houses.

    They had to turn off the heat pumps, which are very inefficient in cold weather and turn on their oil and propane stoves or their wood stoves.

    These households had been misled by glib salesmen/installers

  3. Retrofit 60,000 buildings at $20,000 per residential building would cost $1.2 billion over 8 years, or $150 million per year

    40,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids in 8 years, or 5000 per year, would cost about $1.6 billion over 8 years, or $200 million per year

    For reference: The electric vehicle addition from end 2015 to end 2016 was about 300 for the entire year

    Going from 20% from wood heat to 30% would require excessive logging of Vermont forests.
    The Forest Service recommends logging at less than 50% ot net above ground biomass annual growth .

    Vermont already is looging in excess of that.

    • Addition
      If above buildings are larger than residential, the cost per building would be much greater

  4. Debate is useless with zealots. If this insanity is not stopped, these lunatics will totally bankrupt this state.

    Remember—these folks are going to save the world—-but YOU are going to pay for this myth.

  5. At present, the world RE investments are about 1/5 of what is required to achieve 1.5 C by 2050.

    – What ever Vermont does is totally irrelevant.
    – Vermont should concentrate on increasing the productivity of its economy so living standards can be increased.
    – Vermont needs to reduce the wet blanket of government rules and regulations and taxes, surcharges and fees on the private sector so it can breathe again.
    – All below numbers are from IPCC reports

    Paris Conference of the Parties, COP21: COP21 is a non-binding agreement, which aims to limit the world temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level (the 1861 – 1880 period) by 2100. By 2015, the increase was about 1.0 C above pre-industrial. That leaves just 1.0 C to go by 2100, if a 2 C increase is the limit, or 0.5 C, if a 1.5 C increase is the limit.

    This may appear minor, but it is not, because the BAU CO2eq trajectory points to higher temperature increases by 2100. See IPCC “The Emissions Gap Report 2017”

    Comments on table 1A

    1) The world CO2eq, all sources, including Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), are on a “business as usual” trajectory to become about 64.7 b Mt by 2030. If so, the increase above pre-industrial would be about 4.3 C by 2100.

    There has been a reduction in the rate of increase of emissions during the past few years. The IPCC BAU CO2eq projection for 2030 is based on a higher CO2eq growth rate than the actual growth rates in 2015 and 2016. However, a greater growth rate is expected in 2017. See URL.

    World investments in RE systems have averaged about $280 b/y for the 2011 – 2016 period (6 years). That level likely would lead to CO2eq emissions of about 64.7 b Mt by 2030. China has spent about $80 b/y during the past 3 years to finally deal with its horrendous pollution problems.

    2) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 58.9 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of all policies and pledges made prior to COP21. If so, the increase would be about 3.7 C by 2100. Investments of at least $600 b/y, starting immediately, would be required to achieve the IPCC trajectory of 58.9 b Mt by 2030. See note 1.

    3) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 55.2 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of UNCONDITIONAL COP21 pledges by 2030, per IPCC. If so, the increase would be about 3.2 C by 2100.

    4) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 52.8 b Mt by 2030, with full implementation of CONDITIONAL COP21 pledges by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 3.0 C by 2100.

    5) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 41.8 b Mt by 2030, with an ADDITIONAL 52.8 – 41.8 = 11.0 b Mt of CO2eq emissions reduction by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 2.0 C by 2100. That additional reduction is not trivial, as it is equivalent to about 11 times the total annual emissions of the entire EU28 transportation sector.

    6) The world CO2eq emissions, all sources, would be about 36.5 b Mt by 2030, with an ADDITIONAL 52.8 – 36.5 = 16.3 b Mt of CO2eq emissions reduction by 2030. If so, the increase would be about 1.5 C by 2100. Investments of at least $1.5 trillion/y, starting immediately, would be required to achieve the IPCC trajectory of 36.5 b Mt by 2030.

    NOTE 1: Item 2 is a big if, because since COP1 (Kyoto-1990), all major developed nations have failed to fully implement all policies and pledges to decrease CO2eq emissions.

  6. “Electric vehicles are about twice as efficient as the combustion engines,” Seddon said.

    Seddon is a PE and he should know that statement is not quite true.

    An EV, which is designed to be highly efficient, should be compared on a source to meter basis with an IC, which is highly efficient, on a source to tank basis.

    All other comparisons are bogus, as is well known by engineers, but not by lay people.

    Two vehicles require the same energy to go from a to b.
    US 2016 grid emissions: 1.1275 lb CO2/kWh, source to meter basis.

    An IC vehicle, 38 mpg, 177 gram CO2/km
    Totoya Prius hybrid, 52 mpg, 135 gram CO2/km
    EV, 120 gram CO2/km

    However, that is just the DRIVING CO2.
    There also is the EMBEDDED CO2.
    Lifecycle CO2 over 15 years, 93,750 miles = driving + embedded

    Lifecycle Greenhouse Gases of Vehicles: A lifecycle assessment should cover four distinct phases of a vehicle’s life, and be based on driving, say 150,000 km (93,750 miles) during the 15 years of a vehicle’s life, using 10% ethanol/90% gasoline blend (E10), and a grid CO2 intensity of say 500 g CO2/kWh, or 1.10 lb CO2/kWh.

    1) Vehicle production – to assess embedded CO2
    2) In-use phase – to assess CO2 incurred during the driving
    3) Disposal at end-of-life
    4) Fuel production and delivery processes of electricity generation and gasoline production, depending on vehicle type.

    The embedded greenhouse gases of average vehicles, as a percent of the lifecycle total emissions, in metric ton, are shown in below table. CO2 estimates of the Toyota Prius, Toyota plug-in Prius and Tesla Model S were inserted for comparison purposes. See URL and click on press release.

    Vehicle Embedded Driving, etc Replace Battery Lifecycle
    CO2, Mt CO2, Mt CO2, Mt CO2, Mt
    Average E10 vehicle; 5.6 (23%) 18.4 0 24.0
    Average hybrid; 6.5 (31%) 14.5 0 21.0
    Hybrid, Prius; 6.5 (31%) 12.0 0 18.5
    Average plug-in hybrid; 6.7 (35%) 12.3 0 19.0
    Plug-in hybrid, Prius; 6.7 (35%) 10.0 0 16.7
    EV, medium-size battery; 8.8 (46%) 10.2 3.8 22.8
    EV, Tesla 11.5 (60%;) 10.4 5.0 26.9

    On a LIFECYCLE basis, the CO2 emissions of a Prius hybrid and a Prius plug-in hybrid are lowest, and of the Tesla Model S are highest, which has an 85-100 kWh battery.

    Remember, we are doing all this to save the world.

    Cost is no objection, per “environmental groups at the Statehouse told lawmakers the COP21 accord’s lofty green energy targets should be pursued at almost any cost”.

    For Vermont to go hog-wild into high cost renewables in a unilateral manner would be economic suicide.

  7. Burning coal makes more sense than burning wood pellets. Trees, which inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, make life possible for us. How much energy goes into harvesting,
    processing, and transporting wood pellets?
    Coal is plentiful, cheap, energy-dense, safe to handle and transport, and domestically produced. We are in an era of low atmospheric carbon dioxide, since the last ice age anyway.
    There’s no global warming (oh yeah, it’s now called “climate change”).
    It’s a scam, hoax, myth, psy-op, racket.

  8. One should note that all the folks involved in green energy and its lofty enviornmental saving goals have a BIG skin in the game and that’s all the perks and subsidies available to fund this economically unsustainable goal.

  9. If Green Energy is so cost competitive, the marketplace will take care of its implementation – that’s the overwhelming benefit of a free market. Indeed, it is not cost effective to push it. That, in itself, is inefficient and annoys the hell out of people who want to be left to their own devices. It is devising a way to push the river downstream and sending the dwellers on the banks the bill for it. There’s no emergency in carbon based fuel availability – we have at least enough to last two hundred years (some say six hundred) – and I bet Trump’s opening new areas has extended that. Two hundred years ago we burned candles or whale oil for light, wood for heat, cooked over a fire, traveled in wooden wheeled horse drawn conveyances on dirt roads and ships were driven by the wind. No internet. No radio. No cell phones. No interstate Rt.80 to California. Does the Green Energy catechism assume that similar progress will not occur in the next two hundred, that we will be mired in the present forever? These people are gripped in the throes of a fanatic religion. It drives them into a fury that not everyone shares their beliefs.

  10. President Trump was wise to withdraw the US from it however our state representatives are not wise enough to follow suit.

  11. So, I take it that we have to move from 20% wood heat for homes in Vermont to 30%.
    I guess Mr. Seddon believes that wood burns cleaner than fuel oil or natural gas.
    Having burned wood to heat a home in Vermont I don’t believe thats so. Interesting what the atmosphere will look like in a depression along Lake Champlain called Burlington.

    Hank A Moses, President of H A Moses

    • Walter, as this movement progresses, in time there will be wood stove police traveling the country side looking for offenders who are not using the preferred (required) wood burning appliance and force the offender to shut it down at once. This will force the offender to replace the appliance with the required model that produces acceptable levels of discharge which will be manufactured by companies who will be contributing large sums of money to the leaders of this movement. It’s just another lobby group pushing an idea that will make them more money to keep pushing the idea and a little EXTRA for their efforts. A 360 degree self-serving engine.

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