Another Opinion, Editorial

Can we Afford Not to Pass the Renewable Energy Standard?

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GREENSBORO – Governor Scott recently vetoed H.289, the Renewable Energy Standard (the RES), because he claims the bill would unnecessarily increase Vermonters’ utility bills by “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Estimates from the Vermont legislative Joint Fiscal Office (JFO) now put the cost of implementing the RES at between $150 million to $450 million. This is the cumulative cost over the 11 years to 2035. However, the Vermont Department of Public Service models of the RES, show net benefits of $560 million, including $51 million in saved healthcare costs and $400 million in general savings from reduced carbon pollution.

Can we afford not to invest heavily in new local and regional renewable energy?   

How steep will the future costs be for our children and grandchildren if we let short-sightedness keep us from acting now?

The RES is the result of a historic agreement between Vermont’s utilities, who have long resisted significant steps towards renewables, climate and environmental groups and legislators, representing all Vermonters.

There’s no reason Vermont ratepayers should shoulder unaffordable costs.

According to the JFO, the RES would add between $2.24 and $3.73 per month to the average ratepayer’s bill in 2030. However, the legislature has instructed the Vermont Public Utility Commission to assess the need for a statewide ratepayer protection program to ensure that everyone can afford their electricity bills.

Also, through the federal Inflation Recovery Act, there is more federal money available now than ever to support an equitable transition to renewable energy. Vermont’s new Climate Superfund Act aims to get restitution from those most responsible for the climate crisis: the fossil-fuel companies who have reaped vast profits from destabilizing the climate.   

The world broke the record set in 2016 for the warmest year on record in 2023 by a large margin: 1.18 degrees Celsius (2.12°F) above the 20th-century average,  NOAA  reported Jan. 12. 

Last year was the warmest on record at 1.18 degrees Celsius (2.12ーF) above the 20th-century average,  NOAA  reported.

Our towns have flooded, our farmers are struggling, our snow-related economies are in jeopardy. The RES will help set us up with renewable, reliable, local energy economies, redirecting the $2 billion a year that Vermont currently gives to enrich giant fossil-fuel corporations. The RES is progress from which Vermont can build a more sustainable energy future.

Scott’s alternate plan takes us further from the clean, resilient grid we need to build. As outlined, Governor Scott’s plan would bring a third less new renewables online in the next decade compared to the RES, with no new renewables required at all after 2035; slash the solar net metering program that compensates homeowners and communities for the solar power they contribute to the grid; and allow additional energy from problematic sources like large hydro (methane-emitting and drying up as the climate changes), biomass (high-emissions and high-pollution) and nuclear.

I encourage all Vermonters to consider the longer term impact of inaction on building a resilient, renewable energy infrastructure today.

Access to clean, affordable energy is a critical milestone to achieving a livable planet for future generations.

Urge your legislators to override Governor Scott’s veto of the Renewable Energy Standard.

Liz Steel is a resident of Greensboro and a volunteer for 350Vermont, the grassroots climate justice organization.

Liz Steel

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