Keelan: What is the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation?

By Don Keelan

Now that I am officially a retired CPA, I can devote a little more time to my own financial affairs — much of which have been ignored over the last 50 plus years.

I had decided to continue to maintain my office in Arlington and, in doing so, to look more closely at monthly expenses.

The billing from Green Mountain Power is about $75 to $80 per month. But what I found interesting in the detail of the charges were the assessments for energy efficiency charges and the Electric Assistance Program. The combination of the two amounted to approximately 9 percent of the total billing. This intrigued me.

Don Keelan

I decided to investigate the former and found out that the monthly charge went to a nonprofit corporation in Burlington, Efficiency Vermont — an energy efficient utility controlled by the nonprofit Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.

VEIC is by no means your typical Vermont nonprofit entity. According to the entity’s latest reported Form 990 filing (fiscal year 2017), the Burlington company had annual revenues of $95 million and assets of $24 million. In addition to owning and operating Efficiency Vermont, VEIC operates in Ohio and Washington, D.C., where it works to bring efficiency to those regions’ electric users.

The mission of VEIC and its significant operating entity, Efficiency Vermont, is quite admirable: “Reduce the costs, both economic and environmental, of energy use.” I also reviewed its 125-page annual report and noted there are a host of areas where cost and energy usage reductions have been realized.

VEIC/EV, not unlike several other Vermont nonprofits — namely, the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging and Vermont Housing Finance — are creatures of the Vermont Legislature. They are created as independent nonprofit companies with their own board of trustees who, in turn, hire the executives to operate the entities.

Then there is the issue of oversight. In the VEIC case, it is supposedly by the Vermont Public Utility Commission. Given the fact that the company receives tens of millions of dollars in transfer payments from Vermont residential and commercial electric ratepayers, some questions are raised based on VEIC’s 2017 data — for example, is there a justifiable need to have 373 employees to carry out the company’s mission, and is it necessary to have 12 executives annually earning between $151,000 and $186,000? Might the nonprofit company do just as well if it didn’t pay out $3,580,000 annually to independent contractors and consultants?

Payees were Capstone Community Action, Optimal Energy, Oracle, Techniart Inc., and Peer Consultants. The last three are out-of-state consulting firms.

But there’s more. Why is it necessary to have a Raleigh, North Carolina, CPA firm do the entity’s taxes when Vermont has many capable firms? Since the company and its mission are well known, why is it necessary to spend $928,000 on promotion and advertising, and who are the agencies that receive these dollars? Is the reason $885,000 went to travel expenses because the company has now branched out to Ohio and Washington, D.C.? Pretty expensive for a company that is Vermont-based.

Not many Vermont nonprofits could afford the $553,000 VEIC spends on conferences, conventions and meetings. Was this all spent in-state?

None of the above would be important to me if it wasn’t for the fact that the funding for this nonprofit is charged to Vermonters each month, who have little or no say on what is added to their electric bill.

And based on past experience, there is very little oversight from the Legislature or the Vermont attorney general’s office. The latter has the responsibility of overseeing how Vermont’s nonprofits are functioning, but rarely gets involved.

Several years ago, I was able to reduce the office heating oil consumption from 1,300 gallons per year to 400 by replacing 24 windows and the furnace. At the time, I never met any representatives from VEIC/EV.

Maybe I should just be satisfied that the charge I receive each month is not $50?

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

Image courtesy of VEIC

19 thoughts on “Keelan: What is the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation?

  1. Just 2 of us in a energy efficient home, with oil heat, extra insulation new windows brand new boiler – all at our expense –
    Pay $120 a year to subsidize a beaurocracy and projects for other people, many of whom make more money than we do – hand in the cookie jar.

    I have asked at every ‘show” how much the top 5 ‘executives’ make – you would have thought I wanted them taken out and shot – stunned looks.

    Thanks so much for your research – the fraud is far FAR worse than even I suspected.
    Vermont sucked dry by Non-Profits (anti-profits) and socialist Advocacies.

  2. Thank you Mr. Keelan for the research into EVIC/EV and what should be apparent to every thinking citizen of a corrupt and out-of-control non-profit. Vermont can least afford this kind of financial abuse. I view EVIC/EV’s tax as an energy tax. Similarly, progressive legislators now want to add a second energy tax, the carbon tax.
    Why stop there. Besides carbon, the other component of energy generation is oxygen, except for nuclear. Perhaps our progressive legislatures will brain storm yet a third energy tax, the Air Tax. Think of the possibilities. Should they achieve that they will have reached the pinnacle of Socialist control.

  3. This site is invaluable, look at all the intelligent well thought and researched arguments. It all needs to be taken to the next level now.

    There is a valid reason why Vermont has one of the lowest ethics grade in our entire nation. The next step would be to interview, many, many officials in person.

    We need volunteers to do this. I can say from experience that our officials have no experience with any investigative reporting what so ever, because it no longer exists. When we’ve done this locally at Citizen Reports we shocked at the answers. Then they would stand in front of the local town meeting and say the exact opposite. The local papers and front porch forum just print what ever drivel they are handed, NOBODY is ever challenged, questioned or followed up with. And because of this and “news” organizations that are truly propagandists Vermonter in general don’t even know the truth or that they are indoctrinated. The subversion is almost complete.

  4. Don, A recent Efficiency Vermont advertisement in VT Digger stated: “$220 million saved by Vermonters in 2018”. That’s a great ROI. You might be happy to pay $50 for those type of returns.

    • So Mr. Wyck, you believe everything you read? I don’t believe Mr. Keelan’s point was about ROI. It had more to do with the expensive administrative aspect of the organization.

      Vermont has one of the highest number of non profits in the country. One has to wonder why that is.

      • Mr. Orr, My original reply was quite terse. I’m thankful that Don analyzed the filing of VEIC and the operation of Efficiency Vermont (EVT) as I question the benefit this tax. My point should have been is that part of what EVT does with the $928,000 (part of my money) for promotion and advertising is publicizing the fantastic claim that I wrote about. Part of the $3,580,000 might be to pay an “independent” consultant/contractor to formulate such a fantastic claim. Then Vermont Department of Public Service staff must be paid to verify such a fantastic claim. In fact I wrote a web page to display how EEC charges increase rates: Bottom line: not what I want to pay for and many others.

  5. So what is the process when a bunch of quasi-legally elected overseers concoct a scheme with smoke and mirrors to steal from rate/tax payers.? That’s a trick question – there is no due process! Thanks a lot for bringing it to our attention Mr Keelan (:

  6. If VEIC and EV were eliminated, about $130 million would stay in ratepayers pockets.

    Instead it is being stolen from us by the well connected riding the big salary, perk and expense account gravy train.

    They got a licence to steal from the ratepayers, and they will come up with all sorts of fallacious arguments regarding why they are so much needed.

    We need to clean house big time, before the VT economy goes down the drain.

    • What has been brought to the fore-front here is the tip of the iceberg, maybe not in terms of cash , but strategy and goals and plans.The State of Vt, through the PUC is thrusting Comprehensive Energy Plans onto towns, with penalties if they are not accepted as written, by the municipality. These documents are huge, and do not reflect the heartbeat of Vermont’s populous.
      Just go to your respective Town office and ask for one, every voter is entitled to that, because the goal is to get these plans accepted as part of the respective town’s complete plan. You will not be thrilled with the contents unless you are from another planet.
      The whole thing is centered around efficiency Vermont’s work, electric vehicles with huge subsidy of course, solar systems and anything else that promotes a carbon free environment, so they say. But wait a minute, now…. if being carbon free is TRULY the goal, why was there so much of a hurry to be sure that Vermont Yankee disappeared? Carbonless power produced here in Vernon and very economically done at that. The real reason was CONTROL. The Vermont psb and others could not control them because the Feds had given them a twenty year licensing extension,
      just about the time Shumlin and his warriors put the screws to VY. So a law was passed that VY had to go away, in exchange for a 600+ job loss factor in Vernon, higher prices for power, and on and on. The left in Vt is not real keen on H Q power from Canada, because they do not control it. So it comes down to control, who gets to own an electric vehicle, when it can be used, and costs mean nothing….after we get equiped with everything acceptable and when internal combustion engines are banned. Another few years of the wackey-wizards in the palace of fools in Montpelier, and that is what we will be facing. It is incumbent on every citizen to go to planning commission meetings and express your feelings. The train has left the station but it can be stopped, and must be if you are planning on living in Vermont 10 years from now. If the plans are enacted that are in the hopper, we will be doomed in 10 years, with equipment that does not meet our needs, power outages in a regular sequence, and other side effects.
      All of these changes are not market driven. With that out of the equation we will be looking at things akin to Soviet produced Yugo’s of years gone by. We must put a stop to this continuous wackey-work by those inclined to be that way. The next couple of elections can do it. In the meantime Vermonters need to come out of their dens and be heard, and be loud and clear. If we don’t, 10 years at best is about all that is left.

    • Here is an example of an organization under the VEIC umbrella.

      The Vermont Biomass Energy Research Center

      BERC is a pro-logging think tank, a part of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. It invented a method of calculated CO2 from wood burning plants that has no parallel anywhere else in the academic literature, and is likely not used anywhere else, except by some people in Vermont.

      BERC Stated: “While the recommended carbon emission factor of 29.58 pounds per million Btu is far from the historic “carbon neutral” stance, when compared to the carbon emissions (165.5 pounds per million Btu) from burning heating oil, it represents an 82% reduction in CO2 emissions’. See table 1A, which is based on BERC data

      The table would not reproduce, but you can see it in this article

      “Apply a conservative assumption of the minimum percentage of total wood fuel sourced that is from forest management where the harvested stand’s carbon stores will be regenerated within a 20 – 100 year timeframe”

      “Use the resulting carbon emission rate to address the remaining 10% not sourced from forest management where full regrowth is achieved within a 20-100 year time frame”

      Both these statements are a pure invention by BERC that is not supported by any forestry research, such as the above British Columbia example.

      BERC ignored the plant operation CO2 of wood plants is significantly greater than of fuel oil plants.
      BERC ignored the embedded CO2
      BERC ignored the decommissioning CO2
      BERC ignored the “C neutrality period”, which occurs even with managed forests, as in British Columbia.
      BERC ignored the fuel oil boiler plant efficiency is about 85%, versus wood about 75%.
      BERC ignored the absorption of the combustion CO2 does not start until after the “C neutrality period”.

      BERC should have stated:

      The combustion CO2 emissions of both fuels are immediate.
      All CO2 emissions of fuel oil will absorbed, or stay in the atmosphere, just as any other CO2
      The combustion CO2 emission of wood chips is not counted, but it would start its absorption after its 40-year C neutrality period and complete its absorption within about 90 to 100 years.

  7. Have been complaining to myself , about this for a couple years now . Now seeing the excesses in print makes my blood want to boil. Thanks for the info

  8. Several years ago I tried in vain to deduct the E.E.fee from my electric bill. I was told that after six month of this , that I would have my power cut off. How? Why? I paid my electric costs .
    I was informed that the GMP was just an agent for collection and that it would require a change to the law. I promptly called my local State Rep.who was sympathetic but was also in a tiny minority when it came to opposing “feel good legislation” for the benefit of the greater good and the climate.
    I too, have reduced my oil usage by over 75%, installed all the latest bulbs and appliances, twice.
    I have 10K+ of solar on my roof and have an electric heat pump, for which I was denied the $300 rebate.

    It seems to me that the annual increase in Energy Efficiency fees, which the legislature votes on , only goes to pay increased salaries and percs.

    When does this end? Get your hand out’a my pocket!

  9. Efficiency Vermont came to the Town of Panton with big plans and promises for our residents when I was Chair of the Select Board. They paid a visit to my house and rental property with no follow-up or suggestions. In my opinion it is a sham organization picking our pockets. Thanks for investigating. I agree with Neil Johnson’s assessment. Our news media knows where not to investigate!

  10. Sounds like there is substantial profit to be made in the nonprofit game.

    With so much help from these groups its not hard to see why Vermont is in such sad shape.

    Sucking so much wealth from the profit of those who do produce is parasitic but I guess you can get away with it if the people you claim to help don’t understand you are the real reason they need the help in the first place!

  11. Mr. Keelan: This is precisely the analysis I, for one, appreciate. Non-profit IRS 990 returns are very telling.

    The problem you’ve discovered is, of course, the creation of quasi business entities out side the purview of the typical free market relationships that regulate themselves with contracts between willing buyers and sellers.

    There’s another glaring curioisty too. Where is State Auditor Doug Hoffer? Would you be interested in running for that office?

  12. Sounds like they are excellent at spending out money on their pet wishes. Why is not being spend on efficiencies for the people paying the tax? And it is a tax, since I can’t opt out of it.

  13. Well done!!! It’s typical feel good Montpelier. “Trust me and we’ll all be happy”. All these clowns do is figure out how to spend money and VEIC got the message and hopped on the band wagon which is tied to the backs of the tax payers. Is anybody minding the store?????

  14. Keep digging, grat work. How can it be a non-profit when we are forced to pay? Dig a little deeper and I bet you’ll find capstone is key in the free new deal, they will be the receiver of all this carbon tax if people can get that passed. Vermont has the biggest abuse of non-profits in the country……they’re everywhere hiding al sorts of stuff. Great reporting. You’re gonna have field day in this state, much to be uncovered.

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