“Burlington Electric and the Co-op are front-runners in a movement across the country, as governments and businesses seek to liberate themselves from using power produced by environmentally harmful fossil fuels.”
By Linn Smith
January 21, 2015—While searching the latest on renewables, I came across an article that caught my attention, “Burlington, Vermont Goes All in with 100% Renewables.” I decided to report on this town of 42,000 because, even though 100% might be stretching the truth a bit, it is a town that has the desire to move forward in saving our environment. Maybe it’s not all the way there–yet, but this town is definitely a front runner in renewable energy!
Burlington and the Washington Electric Co-op
Burlington is hometown to Ben and Jerrys (yes, that Ben and Jerrys!) and is the largest city in Vermont. Burlington recently purchased a hydroelectric facility on the Winooski River which allows it to get 1/3 of its power from the hydroelectric plant, along with producing electricity from biomass (burning of wood chips) and wind.
Burlington Electric joined the Washington Electric Co-op recently, which has about 11,000 members, who have reportedly reached their 100% renewable energy goal. This co-op started in 1939 with farm people getting together at meetings and talking about bringing power to their community. In 2012, the members voted to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Today, they cover approximately 3,000 square miles and are committed to “providing energy from clean and renewable sources, and helping members use energy efficiently and educating its members in the use of renewable power.”
Recently, the coop changed to a smart grid, installing a computer chip inside member’s electric meters. This computer chip tells the central utilities company where and why a power outage takes place. Also, if members choose, they can see the same data the utilities has access to. “By logging into their individual accounts they can see their records with an hourly bar graph of how much power a member’s home is using. This provides a starting point for coop members to begin reducing their power consumption and lower their electric bills.”
Vermont: 90% by 2050
The state of Vermont’s goal is to get 90% of the state’s electricity, heating and transportation energy from renewable resources by 2050, and the Washington Electric Co-op and Burlington are currently moving beyond the state’s goal saying, “We will continue to treat the environment with utmost respect and continue to influence decisions and public policy that enhance environmental quality, the use of renewable resources and the sustainability.”
But when the wind isn’t blowing and the rivers are low, Burlington will buy power from traditional sources (fossil fuels), offsetting the use of fossil fuels by selling their extra renewable generated power to other utility companies. To some the 100% renewable energy claim is a matter of bookkeeping, but to others it is a means of spreading the use of clean energy. What matters is this: Burlington and its citizens want to further efforts to save the planet from what is coming down the pipeline…climate change!
The Boston Globe says, “Burlington Electric and the Co-op are front-runners in a movement across the country, as governments and businesses seek to liberate themselves from using power produced by environmentally harmful fossil fuels.”