McClaughry: Tomorrow’s energy plan

By John McClaughry

The Department of Public Service has just released its 2022 Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP). Aside from the “stakeholders,” it’s probably fair to say that very few Vermonters — and very few of their legislators — will be able to penetrate the CEP’s acronym-ridden complexities.

Here are some of the informative nuggets contained in the 251-page document.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Like the Vermont Climate Council’s Climate Action Plan, the CEP is determined to drive down 80% of today’s level of carbon dioxide emissions by persuading, subsidizing or forcing Vermonters to use much less — or no — fossil fuel for electricity, vehicles and heating until by 2050 90% of all energy use qualifies as renewable.

The CEP states that “the [electric] grid must continue to … reliably deliver the energy needed to customers every hour of the year — to and from exponentially more distributed, diverse, and variable resources (distributed solar, storage, electric vehicles, heat pumps, smart appliances), under increasing pressure from severe weather events and cyberattacks, while transitioning from fossil resources and remaining affordable.” That’s a sound operating principle.

Perhaps the key question is this: Where will Vermont find the electricity required to power 279,000 light duty cars and trucks and install 300,000 electric heat pumps in homes and businesses by 2050 (Velco’s estimates)?

The CEP foresees “at least half of Vermont’s future generating capacity being sited in-state, and in an electrified future being served almost if not entirely by renewables, equivalent to about 3,500 MW of additional solar panels, wind turbines, methane digesters, combined heat and power plants, and hydroelectric facilities than exist today.”

Making that happen will be quite challenging — and likely impossible — not to mention financing half a billion dollars of grid upgrades to collect and distribute that much new power.

Reducing current demand is essential: weatherizing 90,000 more households in the coming eight years and requiring building construction to meet energy efficiency standards. But the CEP acknowledges that there’s not nearly enough workforce to pull this off.

The CEP also favors Flexible Load Management of Distributed Energy Resources. That means that high demands on the electric grid can be met by reducing demand in your home, barn or business by sending unavoidable “controlled outage” signals through “dynamic, reactive control devices” (your smart meter).

The CEP expects that today’s 4,360 Electric Vehicles can be made to increase to 55,000 by 2035. EVs are steadily dropping in price, but not enough to reach that ambitious goal. The CEP recommends levying “feebates” — taxes on internal combustion vehicles to subsidize EVs enough that thousands of people will make the switch.

Gas and diesel vehicles provide around a third of the Transportation Fund revenues that pay for highway construction and maintenance. How will that be made up, when the motor fuel taxes disappear? To date the legislature has declined to require EVs to make equivalent contributions to the Transportation Fund, on the grounds that paying those taxes would dissuade people from buying thousands more EVs.

Subsidized EVs, the CEP reports, have “largely been concentrated in more affluent and urban areas.” The obvious remedy for this injustice would be to pay people in lower income and rural areas to buy EVs. But presumably those subsidies should not be directed to residents in rural areas, because that would run afoul of the CEP’s insistence on achieving “compact and mixed-use settlement” enforced by a “decision making framework,” a euphemism for the state land use controls recommended by the Vermont Climate Council’s Climate Action Plan.

Despite Gov. Phil Scott’s repeated resistance to putting Vermont into the regressive Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), his Department of Public Service, in the CEP, urges moving toward joining TCI — even though none of the 12 states originally involved still wants to go through with it. The appeal to the DPS planners, obviously, is that taxing motor fuel in an attempt to drive down carbon dioxide emissions can yield millions of tax dollars. Those funds will be needed to subsidize all those EVs, and pay off disadvantaged groups in the name of energy equity.

The CEP is also on board with the Climate Council’s plan for a Clean Heat Standard. This complicated scheme would force fossil fuel wholesalers and Vermont’s natural gas company to buy Public Utility Commission-created credits from parties that earned them by weatherizing buildings and installing heat pumps, pellet stoves, and the like.

The wholesalers would add the cost of the credits onto heating oil and propane distributed to homes and businesses. This is just the latest scheme to impose a carbon tax where the taxpayers can’t easily see who’s doing it.

The CEP is a competent and informative piece of work. It addresses the implications of the coming “90% renewable by 2050” crunch, and contains some useful ideas. What it doesn’t do is explain just who is expected to pay for this dramatic transformation.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and John McClaughry
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11 thoughts on “McClaughry: Tomorrow’s energy plan

  1. The genius Henry Ford realized that the fuel infrastructure had to precede the proliferation of the machinery that required it. Vermont’s leftist elected leadership seems ok with mandating the equipment BEFORE we have the necessary electrical grid upgrades in place. I would like to see a comprehensive survey done to determine how many members of the Vermont Legislature have their own fossil-fuel powered backup generators at their homes to assure that they wont be affected by their own poor decisions. Just like people in California with electric cars realized,
    when the rolling blackouts were ordered during times of fire risk and they were ordered to evacuate, they had to have a backup plan.
    Elections have consequences.

  2. The BBB bill has 1) selective tax breaks, 2) state and local tax relief (SALT), 3) increased OSHA penalties, 4) Funds for an EPA Climate Corps.

    If Congressmen and Senators vote for the BBB bill:

    – They think it is more important to give tax breaks to reporters, the media, unions, trial attorneys, than to plumbers, truck drivers, etc. This is a clear statement of who they really represent.

    – They think is important to give rich taxpayers in states like California, Illinois, and New York a big tax break.

    – They think it is important to targeted small businesses, because the BBB bill would increase OSHA penalties (this is hard to believe) 10 times, to $700,000 per violation. It would break many businesses.

    They would give the EPA $7 billion to employ a “climate corps.”.
    The local climate cop will be on your doorstep surveying your carbon footprint.

    Ronald Reagan stated, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
    https://www.openthebooks.com/wall-street-journal-dear-mrandms-taxpayer/

  3. Elon Musk Comments on BBB, Subsidies, Government Regulations

    ”We don’t need the $7,500 tax credit,” Musk told a shocked Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit interviewer. ”Honestly, I would just can this whole bill. Don’t pass it, that’s my recommendation.”

    “Rules and regulations are immortal,” Musk continued. “They don’t die. The vast majority of rules and regulations live forever … there’s not really an effective garbage collection system for removing rules and regulations, so this hardens the arteries of civilization where you are able to do less and less over time.”

    This bill, which Democrats originally referred to as a “budget reconciliation bill,” has now morphed into little more than a vast expansion of the social welfare state for individuals and for rent-seekers in the renewable energy space. BBB is in fact a Green New Deal cornucopia.

    When the moderator at the WSJ event pointed out that the bill contains billions in subsidies for the installation of new EV charging infrastructure, Musk responded by saying “Unnecessary. Do we need support for gas stations? We don’t. I’m literally saying get rid of all subsidies.”

    Musk also took to Twitter on Wednesday to further blast Democrats’ social-spending plan, saying it would explode the national debt by 24%. ”If ‘temporary’ provisions in the Build Back Better Act become permanent, US national debt will increase by 24%!” he tweeted.

    ”There is a lot of accounting trickery in this bill that isn’t being disclosed to the public,” Musk wrote in a subsequent tweet, adding a final shot at big-government policies: ”Nothing is more permanent than a ‘temporary’ government program.”

  4. The EU is facing an energy crisis, because:

    – Brussels’ RE idiots refused to sign long-term contract for gas from Russia
    – NATO and the US are stupidly trying to contain and pressure Russia.
    – There is minimal wind, minimal solar, and some nuclear plants are down with “issues”
    – Germany and Belgium will close down nuclear plants in 2022, for “green” reasons.
    – The EU sucked gas from storage that would be needed in winter

    – Russia provides gas, as required by signed long-term contracts, plus about 5%.
    – The 5% is sold by Gazprom on the spot market at very high prices.
    – Germany and France received all the 2021-contracted Russian gas by mid-December
    – Germany and France are pumping some of that gas, via Poland, to Ukraine, which buys it at high cost.
    – Owners are diverting LNG carriers to the EU to rake in on the high-SPOT-price bonanza.
    – US spot price $7/million Btu; EU spot price $65/million Btu

    EXCERPT from:
    WIND AND SOLAR TO PROVIDE 30 PERCENT OF NEW ENGLAND ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION BY 2050
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wind-and-solar-provide-50-percent-of-future-new-england

    Energy systems analysts of Denmark, Ireland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, etc., have known for decades, if you have a significant percentage of (wind + solar) on your grid, you better have available:

    – An adequate capacity, MW, of other power plants to counteract any variations of (W+S), 24/7/365
    – High-capacity, MW, connections to nearby grids
    – An adequate capacity of energy storage, such as:

    1) Pumped hydro storage
    2) Hydro plants with reservoir storage
    3) Grid-scale battery systems

    The more presence of variable (W+S) on the NE grid, the more the other generators have to vary their outputs, which causes these other generators to be less efficient (more wear and tear, more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh).

    Owners in European countries with much wind and solar on the grids get compensated for their losses.
    Those compensations are charged to the general public, not to the Owners of wind and solar systems, as part of the political (subsidy + cost shifting) regimen, to make wind and solar appear price-competitive versus fossil fuels.

    RE folks often advocate:

    1) Electricity must be 100% renewable, or zero carbon, or carbon-neutral by 2050
    2) Getting rid of the remaining nuclear plants
    3) Getting rid of natural gas, coal, and oil plants
    4) More biomass burning

    About This Article

    This article has four parts and an Appendix
    Part 1 provides an introduction to miscellaneous energy topics, and consumption of world energy quantities
    Part 2 provides an introduction to existing NE grid conditions
    Part 3 provides an introduction to daily NE grid load shaping, to deal with heat pumps and EVs in 2030
    Part 4 provides the future NE grid conditions with 20% wind and 10% solar in 2050

    The Appendix shows various energy topics, such as Turnkey Capital Costs of Grid-scale Battery Systems; Grid-scale Battery System Operating Cost in New England; Energy Losses of Battery Systems; “All-in” Electricity Cost of Wind and Solar in New England

    • Yeah…Vermont’s grid issue is trying to be solved by hooking up with Canada’s grid…
      Its like we are trying to solve problems we don’t have here that are problems elsewhere because of the lifestyles lived there, and the same model is being applied to Vermont…because apparently Vermonters were and are living wrongly.*
      That’s why “Vermont” is such a bad selling point – no one wants to live here, no one likes the former cottage industry’s products, and the people in Vermont are really mean. (SNARK)
      The transplants we’ve got bringing that urbanity into our rural hills is destroying it.
      They never developed eyes to SEE Vermont for the precious treasure it always was – so precious it should’ve been preserved forever. Not just a disneyesque “Vermont-ish” village of Vermont you have to pay admission to.
      I’ve always seen ecotourism and organic farming as the way Vermont saves itself.
      Vermont being Vermont, and not trying to be anyone else.
      We COULD save ourselves if we wtfu right now.
      But we’re just another pitstop along the highway for a selfie now.
      That Vermont is gone.
      (Or maybe its not. Its our choice).

  5. POOR ECONOMICS AND MINIMAL CO2 REDUCTION OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES IN NEW ENGLAND
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/poor-economics-of-electric-vehicles-in-new-england

    RE folks claiming EVs have no CO2 emissions is utter nonsense.

    “Break their will” RE folks want to “Electrify Everything”, but that is an easily uttered slogan
    It would require:

    – Additional electricity generation plants, such as nuclear, wind, solar, and hydro
    – Additional grid augmentation/expansion to carry increased loads for future EVs and heat pumps
    – Additional battery systems to store the midday solar electricity surges for later use, aka, DUCK-curve management.
    – Major command/control-orchestrating to avoid overloading distribution and high voltage electric grids regarding:

    1) Charging times and duration of EVs and heat pumps
    2) Operating times of major appliances
    3) Control of electricity demands of commercial/industrial businesses

    RE folks would have everyone driving UNAFFORDABLE EVS, that would reduce very little CO2 compared with EFFICIENT gasoline vehicles., on a lifetime, A-to-Z basis.

    EVs do not have a tail pipe, but they sure as hell “emit” CO2.

    On a lifetime, A-to-Z basis, with travel at 105,600 miles over 10 years, the CO2 emissions, based on the present New England grid CO2/kWh, would be:

    NISSAN Leaf S Plus, EV, compact SUV, no AWD, would emit 25.967 Mt, 246 g/mile
    TOYOTA Prius L Eco, 62 mpg, compact car, no AWD, would emit 26,490 Mt, 251 g/mile
    SUBARU Outback, 30 mpg, medium SUV, with AWD, would emit 43.015 Mt, 407 g/mile
    VT Light Duty Vehicle mix, 22.7 mpg, many with AWD or 4WD, would emit 56,315 Mt, 533 g/mile

    If LDV average would become 40 mpg (by means of carrots and sticks), CO2 would become about 22.7/40 x 56.315 = 32 Mt over 10y, which is not that much more than the 26,490 Mt of a Prius L Eco.
    If the NISSAN Leaf is compared with my 30-mpg Subaru Outback, a vastly more useful vehicle than a NISSAN Leaf, the CO2 reduction would be only 17 metric ton over TEN years.

    “Going EV” to obtain a few more Mt/vehicle would require huge capital investments having a very high cost of CO2 reduction per metric ton.

  6. HEAT PUMPS ARE MONEY LOSERS IN MY VERMONT HOUSE, AS THEY ARE IN ALMOST ALL NEW ENGLAND HOUSES
    https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/heat-pumps-are-money-losers-in-my-vermont-house-as-they-are-in

    I installed three heat pumps by Mitsubishi, rated 24,000 Btu/h at 47F, Model MXZ-2C24NAHZ2, each with 2 heads, each with remote control; 2 in the living room, 1 in the kitchen, and 1 in each of 3 bedrooms.
    The HPs have DC variable-speed, motor-driven compressors and fans, which improves the efficiency of low-temperature operation.
    The HPs last about 15 years. Turnkey capital cost was $24,000

    My Well-Sealed, Well-Insulated House

    The HPs are used for heating and cooling my 35-y-old, 3,600 sq ft, well-sealed/well-insulated house, except the basement, which has a near-steady temperature throughout the year, because it has 2” of blueboard, R-10, on the outside of the concrete foundation and under the basement slab, which has saved me many thousands of space heating dollars over the 35 years.

    I do not operate my HPs at 15F or below, because HPs would become increasingly less efficient with decreasing temperatures.
    The HP operating cost per hour would become greater than of my efficient propane furnace. See table 3

    High Electricity Prices

    Vermont forcing, with subsidies and/or GWSA mandates, the build-outs of expensive RE electricity systems, such as wind, solar, batteries, etc., would be counter-productive, because it would:

    1) Increase already-high electric rates and
    2) Worsen the already-poor economics of HPs (and of EVs)!!

    PART 1

    Energy Cost Reduction is Minimal

    – HP electricity consumption was from my electric bills
    – Vermont electricity prices, including taxes, fees and surcharges, are about 20 c/kWh.
    – My HPs provide space heat to 2,300 sq ft, about the same area as an average Vermont house
    – Two small propane heaters (electricity not required) provide space heat to my 1,300 sq ft basement
    – I operate my HPs at temperatures of 15F and greater; less $/h than propane
    – I operate my traditional propane system at temperatures of 15F and less; less $/h than HP

    – My average HP coefficient of performance, COP, was 2.64
    – My HPs required 2,489 kWh to replace 35% of my fuel.
    – My HPs would require 8,997 kWh, to replace 100% of my fuel.

    – The average Vermont house COP is about 3.34
    – The average Vermont house requires 2,085 kWh to replace 27.6% of its fuel, per VT-DPS/CADMUS survey. See URL

    Before HPs: I used 100 gal for domestic hot water + 250 gal for 2 stoves in basement + 850 gal for Viessmann furnace, for a total propane of 1,200 gal/y

    After HPs: I used 100 gal for DHW + 250 gal for 2 stoves in basement + 550 gal for Viessmann furnace + 2,489 kWh of electricity.

    My propane cost reduction for space heating was 850 – 550 = 300 gallon/y, at a cost of 2.339/gal = $702/y
    My displaced fuel was 100 x (1 – 550/850) = 35%, which is better than the Vermont average of 27.6%
    My purchased electricity cost increase was 2,489 kWh x 20 c/kWh = $498/y

    My energy cost savings due to the HPs were 702 – 498 = $204/y, on an investment of $24,000!!

    Amortizing Heat Pumps

    Amortizing the $24,000 turnkey capital cost at 3.5%/y for 15 years costs about $2,059/y.
    This is in addition to the amortizing of my existing propane system. I am losing money.

    Other Annual Costs

    There likely would be service calls and parts for the HP system, as the years go by.
    This is in addition to the annual service calls and parts for my existing propane system. I am losing more money.

    • But THEY are makin’ it, legislature signed sealed and delivered, as promised by their industry shills in situ, hand over fist, and our dying bodies.

      All of this is wrong headed in its bullying coercive policies to enforce a plan no one approved here in Vermont, and is destroying it. As elsewhere on the plan a la colonialism, and …a great reset…WE foot the bill for, over our dead bodies.
      Death by a thousand cuts.

  7. Qui bono?
    Why…the energy oligarchs of course.
    We just need to buy the right products, consume the right energy, and trust in models we can neither see nor make sense of, here in Vermont.
    In the past 2 decades, after many decades of trying to develop a “Vermont brand” for the many cottage industries Vermont moms and dads created to live where their dream of children playing safely outside, and getting a good education could come true, a stable economy rose, and Main Street started to come alive again.
    In the past 24 months, that stable under pinning has been destroyed, and now are DEPENDENT on oligarch handouts through their fiduciary agent, the US Chimerica – shaping ourselves into an obedient slave class that does not question their plans for us.
    I KNOW I did not sign up, vote for, nor do I want to engage in or with the evil behind Agenda 2030 to bring humanity to its knees, dead if possible, and that Vermont’s role in this will go down right along with our ‘secret’ history of being the Eugenics center of the nation, if not the world, and currently UVM continuing to partner in eugenics experiments, even today.
    Funding these global agendas here in Vermont keeps us sucking the teat of the oligarchy, and needing to pay to play.
    Here are again: BUY BUY BUY to play play play.
    And if you desire an ACTUAL simple life off the grid without being dependent on the commie oligarch gov’t, you are a threat to whole.
    Gee, where have I heard that before?
    When are we going to grow up, see the bullies and take them down from the get go, and learn to walk together, in simplicity and grace, and live WITH one another not in spite of one another, and certainly not you get to live and I get to die. Their choice.
    We’re here folks, however you dress up the Emperor: He has no clothes.
    Chinarmont and Chimerica are here.

  8. We simply need to issue every Vermonter Fairy Wings.
    Flit and fly anywhere our small minds take us!!

    We can then go anywhere our imagination takes us, and we will live happily ever after

  9. The day these kooks try and tax my gas and diesel vehicle for EVs, is the day I register the vehicles in South Dakota. (yes you can do that people). — And iIf these kooks really want to cut heating oil use, they need to pay people to retrofit their homes with heating zones. they could also give people a 100% tax credit for doing it. For just a rational start.

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