Editor’s note: This article was updated 11:21 a.m. Sept. 12.
Green Mountain Power is showing its support for the political Global Climate Strike by increasing green energy rebates and partnering with Vermont customers and communities to reduce carbon emissions.
According to a company press release, the energy utility will work with the communities where its 15 district offices are located to advance projects that “support their local carbon-cutting actions.”
Kristin Kelly, spokeperson for GMP, told True North the activities are mostly collaborative.
“GMP is really just partnering with the communities that we serve,” she said. “We have 15 district offices around the state where line-crews are stationed and we are all gonna be partnering with those communities to support carbon reduction efforts that those communities may have.”
Mary Powell, president of Green Mountain Power, said the effort will demonstrate that Vermonters can do something to affect global climate patterns.
“All working together we can make a difference in the fight against climate change, while also offering programs that drive down costs for all customers,” she said. “GMP is proud to partner with communities to assist them with projects to reduce emissions.”
Powell said youth activism on global warming politics was an inspiration to the power company.
“The students who have led the Global Climate Strike this past year are so inspiring and we’re proud to do our part to support their message and give back here in Vermont, while maintaining great service for all of our customers,” she said.
According to Kelly, Green Mountain Power has not heard complaints about the company’s climate activism and emphasis on subsidized green energy.
“I have not heard that, and again our participation in the climate week is supporting local community efforts,” she said.
Vermont has Renewable Energy Standards that mandate a switch to green power in electricity production, transportation, and heating. Kelly said that’s part of the overall push for climate action, but she added it is also about GMP encouraging customers to go green.
“We also encourage customers to reduce their own carbon footprints if they choose, and all of our programs that we have are designed around that,” she said.
Bill Powell, director of products and services for Washington Electric Co-op in East Montpelier, said that these green financial incentives are mandated.
“WEC is not doing this [green subsidies] on its own, at all,” he said. “Even a company like Hardwick Electric Department is required to be doing something.”
He further explained this is all part of “Track 3” [Tier 3] of the state Renewable Energy Standards.
According to its press release, GMP is investing more money for incentives to “drive carbon out of … homes and businesses.” This includes a subsidy of $3,000 for electric vehicle purchases, $650 for heat pumps, $250 for electric bikes and $50 for electric mowers.
“These programs, encouraged by the state’s leaders and legislation, and reviewed by regulators, help increase affordability and predictability for Vermonters while helping meet state decarbonization goals,” the release states. “When customers choose to go electric it helps cut carbon emissions because GMP’s power supply is 60 percent renewable and 90 percent carbon-free. The switch also directly helps to cut costs for all GMP customers.”
Some business owners are really feeling green. Ben Hills, owner of Flying Crow Coffee in Springfield, says that his company’s switch to 90 percent carbon-free electric is helping his coffee roasting business.
“Without the help from GMP my business wouldn’t be growing the way it is now,” he said.
Green Mountain Power also is behind the push to get more Vermonters driving electric vehicles as a “better option for many Vermonters.”
However, EV technology has many hurdles to overcome. The entry-level cost for a new EV remains around $30,000 — after a $7,500 federal rebate and additional rebates — and the batteries are made from a rare earth material called cobalt, which is mined in terrible conditions from underpaid labor in Africa.
Electric heat pumps have also come under scrutiny after during a two-week bitter cold stretch in 2018 when many of the pumps failed to perform under frigid conditions.
Kelly acknowledged electric heat pumps sometimes require a supplemental heating system.
“Our experience has been that people have had great success with heat pumps, and often a backup heat system is recommended,” she said.
GMP is also hosting a contest in which employees will plant 40 trees for the Vermont communities that write the best essay on why they should get these trees. The essay should include how the they intend to “ensure they continue to reduce carbon for decades.”
JT Dodge, of Newbury, has been one of the leaders of the anti-carbon tax movement in Vermont, and he had some tougher words for GMP’s venture into climate action.
“Green Mountain Power has selfish reasons for being so ‘helpful’. When GMP initiates higher rates, fees, and rebates while pushing e-bikes and electric mowers, they are pushing and encouraging carbon fees and taxes,” he wrote in a statement.
“What really bothers me is that many Vermonters are missing that Green Mountain Power is Canada’s billion-dollar energy corporation named, ‘Energir’ (formerly Gaz Metro). The ‘Democratic Climate Caucus’ would have this foreign corporation in charge of all of our electricity generation and service here in Vermont. They serve to win very large, long term profits by securing Vermont’s electricity.”
Green Mountain Power says they are a fully regulated utility that does not profit from electricity sales.