VGS has launched an ambitious and comprehensive strategy to transform the company and eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The company will achieve this using three key strategies to achieve the near-term goal of a 30% greenhouse gas reduction in customers’ homes and businesses by 2030: doubling energy efficiency savings with a $20 million investment; significantly expanding renewable natural gas for customers; and strengthening partnerships to advance projects such as district energy in Burlington, and a net zero home pilot program.
Double energy efficiency savings by 2025
The cornerstone strategy of the VGS vision is to double efficiency savings by 2025 with a $20 million investment in its award-winning energy efficiency program. VGS will propose to triple home weatherizations – 3,350 homes weatherized by 2025 – focusing on low-to-middle income customers, as well as boost energy improvements for commercial & industrial customers.
As part of the efficiency expansion, VGS will help customers find the right low-cost, low-carbon solution for their energy needs, including non-gas alternatives such as electric cold climate heat pumps, advanced wood heat systems, and other options in support of the State’s 90% renewable by 2050 (90×50) plan.
The average residential customer that participates in VGS’ energy efficiency program saves about $200 per year – between 15-20% – on their energy bills.
Expand renewable natural gas for customers
VGS plans to increase its levels of renewable natural gas (RNG) so that 20% of its supply mix for retail customers will come from RNG by 2030. RNG is produced by capturing naturally occurring methane emitted from decomposing waste materials at places like farms, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants. VGS plans a steady increase in RNG in the coming years. The Company will propose to add approximately 2% RNG per year into its portfolio, which will allow VGS to build out its RNG supply chain and help keep rates affordable.
In 2018, VGS became the first utility in the nation to offer customers a retail RNG option. Since no other program like it existed, VGS built the program from the bottom up, including the accounting, supply management, verifications, and gas quality procedures to introduce this product to the marketplace. Paul Ralston, owner and founder of Vermont Coffee Company in Middlebury, Vermont, was among the program’s first customers and is the first to roast coffee entirely on renewable energy.
Further, to promote in-state development, VGS is working to increase the availability of locally sourced RNG. In August 2019, VGS joined its partners at Vanguard Renewables, Middlebury College, and the Goodrich Family Farm in Addison County, Vermont to break ground on the first local digester project that will turn farm and food waste into renewable natural gas in VGS’ pipeline. Vanguard Renewables and VGS recently received the American Biogas Council 2019 Up-and-Coming Biogas Project award for this project. RNG projects not only produce renewable energy, they can provide farmers a new income stream and help reduce run-off into Vermont waterways.
Partnering to speed development of pro-climate projects
VGS understands the value of great partners. We will achieve our climate goals by working closely with others to help customers significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
A district energy system (“DES”) is a network of underground pipes used to provide thermal/heat energy to buildings more efficiently than individual systems. VGS is partnering with Burlington Electric Department and other stakeholders to develop a system in Burlington. Burlington DES would capture the waste heat generated with biomass at the McNeil Generating Station, providing a renewable heat source to large commercial customers.
Net Zero Home Pilot
In partnership with Burlington Electric, VGS will launch a Net Zero Home Pilot that will assist residents in achieving their greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The pilot is intended to help residents make their entire home energy footprint “net zero” – meaning all of their electric, thermal, and transportation energy is from renewable sources. The initiative will put the customer in the driver’s seat for designing least-cost, zero-carbon solutions that fit their energy needs.
The two utilities will provide customers with an action plan that can be tailored to fit a customer’s energy goals and budget to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Plans will include weatherization, equipment replacement, electrification options (e.g., cold climate heat pumps), renewable natural gas, and electric vehicle options.
RNG for off-grid customers
Last month, VGS partnered with NG Advantage (NGA) to announce a first-of-its-kind plan to offer renewable natural gas to industrial users and hospitals across the northeast through VGS’ pipeline and NGA’s virtual pipeline infrastructure. This unique partnership allows NGA’s customers here and across the Northeast to significantly reduce their carbon footprint with RNG, a benefit that until now has only been available to pipeline-connected users.
Benefits to the Environment, the Economy and our Community
Each of these initiatives provide an environmental, economic, and societal benefit to our communities. Taken together, the environmental benefit of these proposals is a 30% greenhouse gas reduction in customers’ homes and businesses by 2030 as compared to 2019. In 2030, that’s an annual reduction of over 187,000 metric tonnes of CO2e. In everyday terms, that is equivalent to about 40,000 passenger cars, over 15% of cars registered in Vermont.
Affordability is a foundational value at VGS. VGS customers have seen their heating costs drop steadily over the last 10 years. The average residential customer saves about $250 per year on heating compared to a decade ago.
Further, with a focus on weatherization for low-to-moderate and fixed income customers, VGS is determined to help those least able to make ends meet contribute to a clean energy economy. Additional investment in energy efficiency advances the Vermont economy through the support of clean energy jobs.