Wendy Wilton: The Affordable Heat Act that isn’t affordable

This commentary is by Wendy Wilton, of Milton. She served as a former state senator and executive director of the U.S. Farm Service Agency in Vermont. She is vice chair of the Ethan Allen Institute.

It turns out the real long-term cost of the Affordable Heat Act, S.5, proposed by the Natural Resources and Energy Committee is $5 billion over a 5-year period as demonstrated in a detailed financial analysis by the Ethan Allen Institute. Most of that cost will be on the backs of low- and moderate-income Vermonters who will pay for it through increased fuel costs in the range of $5 per gallon. Worse, hoped-for long-term energy savings will not occur.

The detailed financial analysis, which was presented in person and as a document, is available here.

The Ethan Allen Institute analysis supersedes the administration’s previous estimate of $1.2 billion overall cost and a fuel increase of $0.70 to $1.00 per gallon to pay for it. The Ethan Allen Institute estimate was based on more complete and accurate assumptions including:

  • The actual cost of weatherization, heat pumps and heat pump hot water systems for the average Vermont home is more than 3 times the cost presented in the earlier estimate, resulting in a $5 billion expense for the program.
  • Implementation of the program over the expected timeframe will require a rapid increase in fuel price of $5.05 per gallon for all customers to fund the passthrough costs of the fuel dealers.
  • The cost assumptions in the previous estimate did not take into account price inflation for goods and labor, and administrative costs, that would accrue during implementation.
  • The previous calculation for the costs of the changeovers overestimated the amount of federal funding that would likely be available for subsidies by 100%. Total federal and state subsidies only amount to 7% of the total cost.
  • The out-of-pocket costs for the average homeowner will be over $4,000 not $1,379 as envisioned in the earlier projection. The homeowner will pay another $33,000 over time through fuel surcharge because there aren’t sufficient government subsidies available.
  • Due to an increase in borrowing rates since 2022, impacting the discount rate applied to future costs and greater upfront costs, the CAP model now results in a net expense not $6.4 million in savings for the benefits of weatherization and heat pumps.

The proponents of the bill themselves can’t or won’t tell Vermonters what it will cost and how much fuel will increase to pay for it, as no financial analysis has been requested or developed by the committee. Without a fiscal note of any kind the bill was passed by the committee on Friday, February 19.

Surely the Appropriations Committee, the next stop for this monumental legislation, will do a better job of examining “how much will it cost” and “who will ultimately pay.” Ethan Allen Institute’s thorough fiscal analysis should provide the foundation to answer these questions for the committee and the public.

Image courtesy of TNR

5 thoughts on “Wendy Wilton: The Affordable Heat Act that isn’t affordable



    I have three Mitsubishi HPs, with 6 heads ($24,000 – $2,400 subsidy from GMP) in my well-insulated/sealed house.
    I displace only 35% of my propane Btus, based on MEASURED consumption data during 3 years.
    I do not use my HPs below 15F, because they cost more PER HOUR than my efficient propane furnace.
    I save about $200/y in energy costs.
    If I amortize the cost of the HPs over 15 years, I lose about $2,000/y
    Any maintenance and parts are not counted

    NOTE: Due to recent increases of propane prices, I will operate my HPs down to about 10F to 15F (depending on wind conditions and passive solar gain), which means, I will:

    1) Displace a little more than 35% of fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus,
    2) Have a greater CO2 reduction.
    3) Have a MUCH greater monthly electric bill.

    Coddling RE Businesses

    Heavily subsidized businesses selling/installing/servicing HPs, etc., will be collecting hundreds of $millions each year over the decades, while already-struggling, over-regulated, over-taxed Vermonters will be further screwed out of a decent standard of living.

    HP boosters Sens. Bray, McDonald, etc., know about those dreadful HP results in Vermont, and yet they continue shilling for HPs.

    All these expensive Vermont GWSA efforts will be having ZERO IMPACT ON GLOBAL WARMING.


    This article should be read by the Vermont Environment and Energy Committee and all Vermont legislators, so they understand the short-comings of HPs at low temperatures, when operated in houses, other than highly sealed and highly insulated houses.

    Air source HPs will not economically displace anywhere near 100% of fossil Btu in existing Vermont buildings, weatherized or not.

    The Vermont clean heating standard, CHS, modified or not, is deeply flawed. It is putting the horse behind the cart, because they are blinded by generous subsidies for HPs.

    Average Vermont House

    Based on my many years of energy systems analysis experience, I claim, the average Vermont house is totally unsuitable for HPs.

    It is down-right criminal for New England governments to cajole/browbeat/scare/force people to install HPs in such houses

    – The annual energy cost savings were, on average, $200/y, but the annual maintenance, and annual amortizing costs (at 5.5%/y for 15 years) would turn that gain into a loss of at least $500/y.

    – On average, the HPs provided 27.6% of the annual space heat, and traditional fuels provided 72.4%. These numbers are directly from the survey data. The small percentage of displaced fossil fuel heat indicates HPs would not be effective CO2 reducers in the cold climate of Vermont, if used in average VT houses.

    – Owners started to turn off their HPs at about 28F to 30F, because their past experience showed significant increases in electricity bills, if they had not turned them off.

    – Very few owners were using their HPs at 10F and below, as shown by the decreasing kWh consumption totals on figure 14 of URL.
    – At those temperatures, the hourly cost of operating HPs exceeded the hourly cost of using a traditional heating system.
    – This statement is true for average Vermont houses, which comprise about 90% of the Vermont housing stock.

    – On average, an HP consumed 2,085 kWh during the heating season, of which:

    1) To outdoor unit (compressor, outdoor fan, controls) + indoor air handling unit (fan and supplemental electric heater, if used), to provide space heat 1,880 kWh
    2) Standby mode 76 kWh, or 100 x 76/2085 = 3.6%. The HP cycles to “heat on” to “heat off”, but the fan keeps running
    3) Defrost mode 129 kWh, or 100 x 129/2085 = 6.2%. Defrost starts at about 37F and ends at about 10F.

    The HP overhead was (2085 – 205)/1880 = 10.9%, i.e., 10.9% more electricity was fed to the HP than was converted to space heat.

    – Turnkey cost for a one-head HP system is about $4,500 (2017 pricing); almost all surveyed houses had just one HP, which would be far from sufficient to heat an entire house. See URLs.

    CADMUS Survey of Vermont Air Source HPs

    CADMUS, an energy consultant hired by the Vermont Department of Public Service in 2017, performed a survey of 77 HPs at 65 sites, in Vermont. See URL of CADMUS report

    VT-DPS was advised by the Vermont Legislature to obtain an “independent” study, because many people with HPs had complained, they did not get anywhere near the annual energy cost savings stated on websites, etc., of GMP, BED, VPIRG, VT-DPS, EAN, EFFICIENCY VERMONT, etc.,

    NOTE: The CADMUS report was written in such a confusing way, the average Vermonter, including almost all legislators, would not be informed by it, and would be more confused by it, unless they had a mechanical engineering degree, with applicable experience.
    I do have the degree and experience, so I could analyze it.

    HP Operating Data from Survey

    Figure 14 in the CADMUS report shows, the measured total electricity consumption, kWh, of all HPs was 8 kWh at 66F, then increases to a maximum of 97 kWh at 28F, then decreases to about 5 kWh at -12F. That kWh includes about

    Whereas the building heating load was increasing, because it was getting colder, the measured electricity to the HPs was decreasing!!

    That decrease could only happen, if Vermonters turned off their HPs, to save on electricity costs.
    Instead, they used their less-costly-to-operate traditional heating systems, such as oil, gas, propane and wood stoves.

    Deceptions by HP Proponents

    Vermonters operate their HPs mostly above 28F, which yields an average coefficient of performance, COP, of about 3.0. See figure 14

    HP proponents brag Vermonters get about 3.0 x 3412 = 10,200 Btu/kWh of electricity.
    However, proponents do not mention, if Vermonters had operated their HPs below 28F, the COP would become less and less
    Vermonters would get only 2.0 x 3412 = 6,824 Btu/kWh of electricity at 10F, or 1.6 x 3412 = 5,460 Btu/kWh at 0F

    The lower COPs occur while the building heating load is increasing, i.e., it is very expensive to operate an HP at low temperatures.

    Computer Program to Determine Heating Consumption

    CADMUS used a decades-old, standard, HVAC computer program that takes the hourly temperature history of one heating season (or averages, say 5 years of heating seasons).
    The temperature history is obtained from US weather data.

    The computer program allocates the frequency and duration of temperatures to two-degree temperature intervals, also called “bins”.
    See URL of CADMUS report; horizontal axis of figure 14

    The space heat to a site is calculated for each two-degree bin, say 32 F – 34 F; 34 F – 36 F; 36 F – 38 F, etc.
    The total space heat to a site is obtained by adding the space heats for all two-degree bins.

    The computer program calculated the following values, as stated in the CADMUS report:

    – Space heat to a site was 92 million Btu, of which 25.35 million from HPs (27.6%), and 66.65 million from other fuels (72.4%)
    – Space heat to all sites was 65 sites x 92 million Btu/site = 5,980 million Btu. See CADMUS URL, page 22
    – Space heat from HPs was 77 HPs x 21.4 million Btu/HP = 1,648 million Btu. See CADMUS URL, page 21
    – Traditional systems provided 5980 – 1648 = 4,332 million Btu, or 4332/5980 = 72.4% of the total space heat.
    – HPs provided only 100 – 72.4 = 27.6% of the total space heat for an average Vermont house. See table
    – Heating season average COP = 21400000 Btu/HP x 1/2085 kWh x 1 kWh/3412 Btu = 3.0

    Energy Cost Savings

    The energy cost savings averaged about $200/y, instead of the $1,200/y to $1,800/y grabbed out of the air by GMP, VT-DPS, VPIRG, etc.

    After the CADMUS report, those overblown estimates disappeared from their websites. See

  3. Wendy,

    Did Biden not sign the Inflation Reduction Wind and Solar Act for a mere $500 billion, all added to the national debt?

    Almost all the leases on the east and west coast and gulf were signed by European financial wind and solar consortia.


  4. The EU is considering a ban on fossil fuel cars by 2035, however some German leaders have their own idea about that issue:

    Germany’s opposition leader Friedrich Merz of the center-right Christian Democrat Union (CDU) sharply criticized the EU Parliament’s call for a ban of the internal combustion engines beginning 2035: “We will not take our cue from the yuppies in the big cities,” the CDU leader said.
    See tinyurl.com/yksync3b

    You would hope that someone in the Vermont legislature will eventually say the same thing about the Affordable Heat Act. But that’s the basic problem with the way States are run, control is maintained by “the yuppies in the big cities”.

  5. It seems rather obvious that state senators bray, watson, macdonald, mccormick and white really have become so addlepated as to believe “We do things to save the world”- Vermont and it’s residents be damned. Apparently under professor pro tem baruth’s orders, S.5 will move to the senate floor for a full vote after a pencil-whipped approval from appropriations. On the Senate floor- will Senators Mazza and Brock- Williams, Westman and Weeks, Ingalls and Collamore, with perhaps Starr be able to counter the environmental evangelicals and carnival barkers? I include Sen.’s Starr and Mazza in this because these senators have in sessions past provided balance, experience and moderation to the senate- and we need those attributes now. The fervor to force a carbon tax on Vermont’s citizens is nasty, hateful stuff. For all the blustering of “disadvantaged” and “marginalized” groups being “protected” from this tax, the senate natural resources committee certainly seems to have agenda before good governance. Even when state’s own “director of racial equity” tells these apparently uncaring and unconcerned hubristic political hacks their plan is flawed, she is rebuked.
    baruth made it clear in a comment that his parties majority win was a mandate, but I do not think Vermont’s voters were expecting a monarchy with baruth and krowinski as supreme leaders. We, here in Vermont are watching our government become a socialist totalitarian regime, just as predicted.
    “Socialism has a record of failure so blatant, that only and intellectual could ignore or evade it”
    Thos. Sowell

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