An annual report by a state nonprofit claims Vermont could improve the environment along with the economy by using less fossil fuel and more renewable and efficient energy sources.
Vermont imports about $2 billion in fossil fuels annually, said Jared Duval, executive director of Energy Action Network. About $1.5 billion doesn’t remain in-state. Vermont could meet its emissions goals as well as improve the local economy by doing more with renewable energy and energy efficiency, he said.
“Really, what this report is trying to do is take a lot of information that the state and federal government are producing around greenhouse gas emissions … and combines that information to try to tell the story of where we stand and what it’s going to take to get where we want to go in term of the commitments the state has made, and doing that in a way that’s going to be beneficial to Vermonters and the Vermont economy,” said Duval.
Electric vehicles, weatherization, and energy efficient heating methods can curb fossil fuel emissions and help the economy, he said.
“We produce this report to make sure Vermont’s energy and climate conversation is grounded in facts, evidence, and the latest and best data analysis,” said Duval. “Our goal is really just to make sure we are helping to ground and inform an evidence-based conversation about both where we stand and what it’s going to take to get where Vermont has committed to go.”
According to the network’s Emissions Reduction Pathways Model, Vermont is halfway toward its 2025 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 26% below 2005 levels. Emissions in 2018 were 13% below 2005 levels. That said, the state has only just begun getting emissions to 40% of what they were in 1990 by 2030. In 2018, emissions had dropped to 1990 levels.
“To have a chance to meet our emissions reduction requirements under the Global Warming Solutions Act and to protect Vermonters in a time of social and economic disparities, we have to stop purchasing and installing new fossil fueled equipment when there are affordable electric and renewable alternatives,” said Duval.
Among the sets of data the Energy Action Network uses are data from the Vermont Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Forecast, produced by the Air Quality and Climate Division of the Agency of Natural Resources.
Bennet Leon, planning section chief for the Air Quality and Climate Division, said Monday that this edition of the report, which is being released today, uses a different method of calculating fossil fuel emissions from the transportation sector. The old way used data from the Environmental Protection Agency that was only available every three years and centered around miles traveled. The data contradicted other data points as well as data from other New England states, so for this report a new method using fuel consumption was used instead.
“After doing a lot of digging and not being able to find a clear answer for why that model was showing that big of a decrease from 2014 to 2017, we went with the simpler method of tracking the fuel consumption,” said Leon.
The new method lowers the baseline for 2005, but not 1990, he said.
“The fuel-based methodology we’re using shows lower emissions, it just didn’t have that change from 2014 to 2017 that didn’t make sense,” he said. “Essentially, it adjusted the whole range from 2000 up to 2017.”
Duval said the new method should be simpler and more accurate, which is important when it comes to climate discussions.
The report can be found at eanvt.org, Energy Action Network’s website.