Burlington, Vermont has sourced 100% of its energy from renewables since 2014. In 2018, the city implemented a Net Zero Energy Plan to eliminate all fossil fuel use in its heating and ground transportation by 2030. A program that provides incentives for residents and businesses to switch to such renewable energy technologies has been extended.
Burlington launched its Green Stimulus Program in June 2020 with incentives for heat pumps, water heaters, electric vehicles and other renewable technologies. Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat who is running for a fourth three-year term, recently announced that the Burlington Electric Department will continue the Green Stimulus incentives through the end of the year or until funds are exhausted. “Strategic electrification is the answer to the climate emergency. This is how we save the planet while preserving and even improving our 21st century standards of living. The city is extending the Green Stimulus Program into 2021 and we’ll do everything we can to ensure that all Burlingtonians have access to and receive an equitable share of the economic relief and recovery resources available through the Green Stimulus.”
The most popular Green Stimulus program, according to Burlington Electric Department General Manger Darren Springer, is incentives to install heat pumps. He said since the program was announced last summer there has been a fivefold increase in installations. “Those heat pumps are helping to offset 40-thousand tons of CO2 annual in Burlington and they are making a significant impact in our efforts to meet the Net Zero Energy goals.”
Renewable Energy Vermont Executive Director Olivia Campbell-Anderson says about 10,500 cold climate heat pumps were installed across the state last year, supporting 1,275 jobs. “Many customers would not have chosen or may not have been able to make the switch off of fossil fuels for heating onto heat pumps, onto clean renewable electricity but for these types of incentives. And this is the type of real leadership on climate that we need.”
Environmental and low-income advocates including Vermont Natural Resources Council Energy and Climate Action Program Director Johanna Miller praise the program for ensuring that lower income and vulnerable Vermonters have access to energy savings. “This is a model that I really hope gains traction especially prioritizing renters, more lower income Vermonters really accessing these programs so that they can really reduce their energy bills. You know reducing the fossil fuels that we use to heat our homes and buildings is a big climate strategy. And so there are lots of benefits to the kind of innovative programs that a Green Stimulus program can provide.”
The Burlington Electric Department operates the Green Stimulus efficiency program on a three-year budget cycle. Springer says the utility just entered the first month of the latest fiscal round so there is flexibility allowing the incentives to continue. “As part of state law efficiency utilities like Burlington Electric have been given some flexibility to propose new programs with the Public Utility Commission. And we’ve taken the experience that we’ve learned so far from the Green Stimulus and we’ve seen what levels of incentives really begin to spur adoption of heat pumps and other technologies and we have made filings and recommendations at the Public Utility Commission that would help us continue these programs even perhaps beyond 2021.”
Officials say up to 75% of the cost of a residential heat pump is covered by rebates and incentives for low- and moderate-income customers.
The Green Stimulus Program also includes incentives and loan programs for electric vehicles, weatherization, energy efficiency projects and appliance purchases.