We’re pretty proud of what we have here in Vermont. For a small state, we’ve got quite the stature, and when it comes to taking action, we know what it takes to get it done. Such was the case in September when our hometown of Burlington quietly stepped to the forefront of a nationwide movement by becoming 100% powered by renewable energy.
The milestone was reached when the city rounded out its existing portfolio of wind, water, and biomass energy by purchasing the Winooski One hydroelectric dam on the neighboring Winooski River. With the purchase, the municipally owned Burlington Electrical Department joined the Washington Electric Coop, which went 100% renewable earlier this year for its 11,000 customers in central and northern Vermont.
It’s one more step toward Vermont’s goal of getting 90% of the state’s electricity, heating and transportation energy from renewable resources by 2050. In communities across the state, electric utilities are working to meet the growing demand for renewable energy—much of it stemming from vocal citizens. And from coast to coast, Vermont’s efforts are part of a movement that is gaining ground as communities of all sizes are exploring ways to keep the lights on without fossil fuels.
The results are not only good for the environment, but are easier on the wallet, too. The Green Mountain State’s commitment to renewable energy is a true win-win and one that Ben & Jerry’s can’t help but get behind. In the case of Burlington, the move towards 100% renewable energy has been done in a way that will actually keep electricity rates steady now and into the future.
At a press conference earlier this month, Ken Nolan of the Burlington Electric Department emphasized the cost-effective benefits of the 100% renewable shift, and how it will position Vermont down the road. "The prices are not tied to fossil fuels. They're stable prices and they provide us with the flexibility, from an environmental standpoint, to really react to any regulation or changes to environmental standards that come in the future."
It should be noted that Burlington’s energy achievement is not ironclad. Then again, no one’s perfect, right? In the event that the city’s renewable energy sources are not enough—like a one-two punch of low water and light wind—the system is set to tap into energy from fossil fuels. However, Burlington will often generate more than it needs, selling its energy surplus back to old school suppliers and thus balancing out the entire equation.
So what can you do? Investing in clean energy for your home or business is a start, but it isn’t enough. This is a movement that starts from the ground up, and now more than ever we need to make our voices heard at the state and local level. We can’t rely on Washington, D.C. to act fast enough. It’s in our communities where we, as tax-paying and voting citizens, have the power to create a little charged particle that can inspire change in every direction.