Last week, Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore met with the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee to discuss the investments needed in heating and transportation technologies to meet Vermont’s ambitious emissions reduction goals.
The reduction requirements are spelled out in the Global Warming Solutions Act, which mandates a reduction in transportation-related carbon emissions of 11% by 2025, 30% by 2031, and 88% by 2050.
“The way we are going to achieve those reductions is primarily by expanding the number of electric vehicles,” Moore said.
To put those targets in perspective, there are currently about 7,500 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in Vermont, or only about 1.7% of the total market.
Moore says that number will have to change in a big way — officials want to have 126,000 EVs registered in Vermont to meet a 2030 target date, and the state will focus on fuel dealers to apply the new costs.
“We’re going to take a different type of approach and limit the types of vehicles that are available to Vermonters — that would be, I think, the direction that we need,” she said. “… The manufacturers are the ones that are required to comply, not Vermonters.”
Other methods to reduce emissions in transportation include increasing the fuel economy of vehicles, the use of biofuels, and simply encouraging Vermonters to drive fewer miles.
There also are calls for dramatic investments in building and thermal spaces, including increases in the weatherization of homes, the use of electric heat pumps, the use of advanced wood heat, and the use of biofuels. Moore shared some of the ambitious targets.
“So giving a sense of the magnitude of the work that needs to occur and a little bit of perspective, by 2025 we need to weatherize about 69,000 homes to achieve these reductions, and 120,000 homes by 2030,” she said. “We also need to dramatically increase the number of heat pumps and heat pump water heaters that have been installed throughout the state.”
Other key targets include, by 2030, 177,107 heat pumps, 136,558 heat pump water heaters, 14,992 units of advanced wood heat, and 21,806 homes heated with biofuels.
Moore explained that Vermont has achieved little momentum toward meeting these targets, and said green efforts must accelerate greatly.
“For perspective, for the last five years for which data is available, which is a period from 2015 to 2020, Vermonters installed about 30,000 heat pumps and 13,000 heat pump water heaters. So getting to 96,000 and 63,000, respectively, over the next five years is a significant increase in the magnitude of what needs to be accomplished,” she said.
Vermont farmers are mandated to reduce emissions as well — 8% by 2025, 16% by 2030 and 32% by 2050. Lawmakers want the goals achieved through alternative feed practices, manure management and soil sequestration.
Agriculture is estimated to be comprise 15% of the state’s carbon emissions, compared to about 40% for transportation and around 30% for heating.
A quarter billion already committed, long-term costs uncertain
Vermont has has already committed about $250 million in one-time money for climate initiatives including, among other things, more EVs and charging stations.
While Moore explained that the state can anticipate long-term savings from new green technologies, little hard data was provided.
Looking to use lots of federal money
In addition to state funds, federal funds from the Inflation Reduction Act — which invests $370 billion in federal carbon-reducing goals — will play a role in helping Vermont cut emissions.
“It is an enormous package of programs; it includes tax incentives, direct appropriation of states, as well as competitive grant opportunities,” Moore said.
Critics say it’s still a carbon tax
As some critics of these initiatives have pointed out, funds for climate initiatives will be raised in part by charging fossil fuel dealers for the continued sale of their products. For example, such businesses may need to purchase clean heat credits, and that cost will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
Moore’s presentation to the committee can be viewed online here.