Keelan: Town-based model needed to test effects of clean heat standard

By Don Keelan

My pessimistic side would have relished the post-mortem of what was known in this year’s Legislature as H.715. If adopted, the bill would have brought massive changes and costs to those who heat their homes and businesses with fossil fuels.

But I won’t.

The bill, referred to as the Clean Heat Standard (CHS), was passed in the House and Senate, but Governor Scott vetoed it. The Legislature attempted to override the veto in the closing days of the session. If not for the votes of three Democratic members, the veto would have been overturned.

Don Keelan

As expected, there is much grievance and soul-searching among a host of politicians, nonprofit organizations, environmental groups and lobbyists. They had invested tens of thousands of dollars and hours to make the Clean Heat Standard a reality.

In the final analysis, the CHS legislation was a form of taxation cleverly masked to give its supporters political cover. The pro-CHS legislators were so concerned about not getting any taxation stain on them that they delegated the nuances of the bill’s details to the Public Utility Commission.

The PUC was to develop how to calculate the credits awarded to the fossil fuel dealers who installed alternate non-fossil fuel heating systems, and how to charge those who did not pay additional costs for fossil fuels.

In the interest of “throwing a bone,” the Legislature, just before taking its vote on the CHS, inserted into the bill to have the PUC come back with its findings and recommendations. The Governor, the minority party, and the three Democrats did not “take the bone.”

The organizers in favor of H.715 are many; they are intelligent, committed to the doctrine of climate change, and have substantial in-state and out-of-state financial resources. They are unwilling to accept the CHS obituary but instead look for a reincarnation next January.

What would be helpful between now and next January when the Legislature comes back to Montpelier would be for CHS cohorts to adopt the suggestion I made last month: create a computer model of a town embracing all aspects of the legislation.

The model (I suggested the Town of Arlington) would consider timing to weatherize homes and businesses, the dollars it would take to complete, and where the labor would come from to do the work. Add in the timing, cost, and labor availability for installing heat pumps, pellet stoves or bio-fuel converters. The model would also disclose the timing, cost, and labor to re-wire the electric grid and transmission sub-stations in Arlington, as well as the installation of charging stations in homes, businesses, and the town’s two existing gas stations. The model would also illustrate what would happen to the dozen locally owned fuel dealers, not to mention their staff, equipment, trucks, and 100,000 oil storage tanks.

The need for a model has merit; in a recent issue of Vermont Business Magazine, Efficiency Vermont noted that its goal for the state is to weatherize 13,200 homes each year between now and 2030. Presently, only 2,000 homes are completed each year. At this rate, there will be 95,000 structures incompleted by 2030. If you go back in recent history to the Gov. Shumlin administration, it was a computer model that detailed how Universal Healthcare-Single Payer would work in Vermont. The model was quite clear: UHC would never work, and the concept was discarded.

There may come a time in the not-too-distant future when we will be less dependent on fossil fuels. In the meantime, we should not be forced to live with mandates nor have our lives dictated by lobbyists, well-funded nonprofits, or legislators beholden to such groups and not their constituents.

Preparing our communities to deal with climate change should be an educational, training-oriented, and supportive process, not an enforcement. Why pro-CHS folks are so reluctant to test their mandates is quite puzzling and suspect.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

Image courtesy of Vermont Fuel Dealers Association
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4 thoughts on “Keelan: Town-based model needed to test effects of clean heat standard

  1. Don,

    Please stop using the word weatherizing, which implies a standard, energy-hog, Vermont house could be insulated and sealed for about $10,000, and then it would be suitable for air source heat pumps to displace 100% of fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus.

    Nothing could further from the truth!

    IT IS A GROSS “MIS-STATEMENT” Vermonters are being misled to believe

    I have a well-sealed, well-insulated house, i.e., it already IS weatherized, but my 3 air source heat pumps, with 6 heads, displace only 35% of my fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus, based on 2 years of operating data.

    An air source heat pump in an average Vermont House displaces only 27.8% of the fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus, as confirmed by the CADMUS survey report.

    A Vermont house would have to be HIGHLY SEALED AND HIGHLY INSULATED, AND BE ORIENTED/DESIGNED FOR PASSIVE SOLAR GAIN, TO DISPLACE 100% of FOSSIL FUEL BTUS WITHE ELECTRICITY BTUS.

    This is well known by VT-DPS energy engineers, and EAN energy engineers, and VEIC energy engineers, etc.

    They likely know of a few, very energy-efficient Vermont houses, that can displace 100% of fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus.

    These houses are A LONG WAY ABOVE THE LEVEL ACHIEVABLE BY WEATHERIZING.

    • Displacing fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus should be read to mean ECONOMICALLY displacing Btus, because air source heat pumps are very UNECONOMICAL at low temperatures, which is exactly the condition when your house NEEDS THE MOST SPACE HEAT.

      With heat pump system losses, aka overhead, it would almost be like heating your house with electric heat; a very expensive condition on cold days.

  2. Its renewable energy industry and related interests’ money that is behind pushing H.715 and the Global Warming Solutions Act…….The renewable energy industry, etal are looking at large and a decades long payouts from the mandates arising from climate change legislation…….They have a large financial interest at stake.

    The renewable energy industry, etal pour untold amounts of money into politicians, activists, environmental groups and lobbyists pockets…….All of this spending on climate change is driven by long term profit objectives of the parties providing the money.

    Don calls for a model of Arlington, VT to be developed to determine the costs, timing and other factors not yet defined that will arise from implementing H.715……..You can be assured that the renewable energy industry, etal will be directly and indirectly lobbying full force to insure that the model produces that results they want.

    One can go back and look at the logs of who testifies before the legislature on climate issues and you’ll find the renewable energy industry and its paid for surrogates have a very large seat at the table…..And it all due to the money.

    Sadly, the power and influence of the renewable energy industry and related interests is overwhelming……..They control and essentially own a vast majority of the legislature. It is only because three Democrats who had had enough of these forces that the Governor’s veto was sustained.

    If models are to be developed, they must be done away from the renewable energy industry influence by independent and objectives parties….Is this even possible?

    • Forget about models, not only would it be extremely difficult to develop them in a bias free context, the relationships are so poorly understood, it would take years to finally resolve with any certainty.

      Another approach would be to take a look back in history and closely study the question of large government programs meeting their goals. There are plenty of examples, plus all the historical data is there. Most, if not all, failed miserably at great expense to both the intended recipients as well as taxpayer. But it would be nice to throw that kind of past performance in their face.

      At any rate, we don’t need models, we need the metrics to measure whether or not something actually did what it was supposed to do.

      That’s actually a much larger question as you have to be certain enough about both sides of the equation. The answer involves critical thinking, which is in very, very short supply.

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