Transforming Vermont's Energy Future from the Ground Up: The 10th Annual VECAN Conference
VECAN’s 10th annual Community Energy and Climate Action Conference was a resounding success for energy committees and the partners and policymakers who support grassroots energy action. The event highlighted programs and opportunities leaders can implement locally and frames the opportunities we, together, can seize to take climate action. We shared a message of expanding local leadership, advancing big ideas and initiatives and making much-needed progress on climate and energy issues.
Workshops explored a wide range of topics, from Transforming Our Transportation System, Helping More Low-Income Earners Participate in the Clean Energy Transition, The Economic Opportunities of Climate Action and many more. Our keynote speaker was Gina McCarthy, who served as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama.
Gina McCarthy has been a leading advocate for common sense strategies to protect public health and the environment for more than 30 years, most recently serving as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama. At the EPA, Gina led historic progress to achieve the administration’s public health and environmental protection goals as well as its Climate Action Plan. In 2015, Gina signed the Clean Power Plan, which set the first-ever national standards for reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants, spurring international efforts that helped secure the Paris Climate Agreement. During her tenure, EPA initiatives cut air pollution, protected water resources, reduced greenhouse gases and strengthened chemical safety to better protect more Americans, especially the most vulnerable, from negative health impacts. Before joining EPA, she served five Massachusetts Democratic and Republican administrations and was Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. Currently, she is serving as a Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.
To make significant progress on clean energy and climate, there is far more Vermont must do. This panel, comprised of some of the state’s leading policy and political experts, is intended to set the stage for today’s conference and, more importantly, for the work ahead in 2018 and beyond. After grounding us in Vermont’s current state-of-the-state, the panelists will describe high impact comprehensive energy solutions, economic development opportunities, innovative policymaking and the need for greater state and local leadership.
To make progress on clean energy and climate, Vermont individuals, communities and the state must lead. In this workshop, get an update on the progress and focus of the Vermont Climate Action Commission. Hear far more about the most impactful innovative ideas Vermonters put forward at the recent Climate Pledge Coalition Summit. And, get an in-depth overview of the exciting, uniquely Vermont approach to carbon pricing that could significantly accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy for heating, transportation and electricity for all Vermonters.
Helping Low-Income Vermonters Participate in the Energy Transition
Many low-income Vermonters have a high energy burden – meaning a high percentage of their income goes toward energy costs. Come learn about resources available to help low-income Vermonters, including programs that help people learn about and take advantage of these services, as well as innovative approaches to providing direct services.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector is by far Vermont’s largest contributor to climate change. In this workshop, hear from a few of Vermont’s leading transportation innovators. Learn about how they and others are working to change the drive-alone paradigm and make our communities more livable and affordable. Join this expert panel working to challenge the dominant paradigm of “automobility” with transportation options that promote physical and mental health, sensible planning, livable communities and ecological sustainability.
There is tremendous environmental benefit and economic opportunity in helping all Vermonters invest in clean, locally sourced, renewable resources to heat and power our lives. In this workshop get an update on the current lay-of-the-land policy landscape for renewables, including obstacles and opportunities. Hear the results of the recently concluded “Solar Market Pathways Analysis” and learn about ways to communicate about – and help spur the uptake in – modern wood heat.
Olivia Campbell-Andersen, Renewable Energy Vermont
Meeting Vermont's Goals Through Comprehensive Energy Planning
Act 174 requires regions and empowers communities to articulate – through regional and municipal plans – how they intend to help meet the state’s necessarily ambitious comprehensive energy plan goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. In this workshop, get an update on how this nascent effort is working from the state and regional perspective. Hear how one community’s energy plan is being developed, informed and shaped with help from the local energy committee leaders. And, get an overview of how you might use the Vermont Community Energy Dashboard to engage your community and develop a strong plan.
This workshop offers a unique opportunity to hear from a few of Vermont’s most respected elected officials, advocates and communicators on how to effectively influence key policy-making arenas and community conversations. Learn how you can hone your skills as a concerned citizen to shape policies and public conversations. Also, learn about – and provide input on – a new communications approach that aims to make it easier for climate and clean energy-interested Vermonters to stay informed and weigh in when the time is right.
Becca Balint, Windham County State Senator/Senate Majority Leader
Energy committee leaders across Vermont are facing the challenge of bringing in the next generation and developing new leaders. Join fellow local energy leaders for an open dialog about what it takes to re-energize energy committees. We’ll discuss case studies from energy committees in the midst of succession, strategies for recruiting volunteers and teaming up with neighboring groups, and tools for identifying exciting new projects – even in communities who have already tackled the low-hanging fruit. Come learn about how we can keep energy committees a strong and vibrant force in Vermont communities for the next 10 years and beyond.
Being civically engaged is deeply ingrained in the culture of Vermont. At this critical moment, a more broad, engaged and climate-concerned citizenry is essential to help Vermont turn the crisis of climate change into economic opportunity and energy independence for all. In this workshop, hear about a new pilot program to identify, recruit and train Vermonters interested in running on a clean energy and climate economy platform. Hear from two successful elected officials – a Selectboard member and State Senator – about why and how to move up the leadership ladder. And, explore if a run for local, regional or state office might be right for you or others you know.
Lauren Hierl, Vermont Conservation Voters
Rebecca White, Hartford Selectboard Member
Becca Balint, Windham County Senator/Senate Majority Leader
Vermont's Renewable Energy Standard: Progress to Date and a Look Ahead
In 2015, Vermont passed the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) law that requires Vermont electric distribution utilities to procure a defined percentage of their total retail electric sales from renewable energy, including a first-inthe- nation requirement for utilities to reduce their customers’ fossil-fuel use. This “energy transformation tier” is the money-saving, energy-innovating requirement of the RES. Come learn how the RES is working, what utilities are doing to meet their requirements and how it might be strengthened and implemented – with your help.
How can we create “win-win-wins” for energy, farms and other important environmental goals in Vermont communities? What role can food system businesses and working lands play in helping communities reach their collective energy goals (particularly in the context of Act 174 energy planning)? What are “preferred sites”? Where can we find examples of success that communities can build on? In this session, hear about energy projects that are supporting farm viability, forests, birds & bees, and more – all while moving our communities toward 90 percent renewables by 2050 at the local level.
Climate Pledge Coalition and Running Local Energy Campaigns
In this workshop, get an overview of the new Vermont Climate Pledge Coalition and how you and your community can participate in this effort to make significant strides — at the grassroots level — to help meet the state’s goals. Bring a laptop and dive deep into how to harness the Community Energy Dashboard’s new campaign tool to support Climate Pledge Coalition efforts and run local, clean energy and climate campaigns in your community. Also, hear how partners, including VECAN, can support you and your community’s participation in this effort.
Now, more than ever, strong state policy will be required to meet Vermont’s clean energy and climate goals. This workshop will provide an overview of likely energy and climate-focused initiatives in the 2018 legislative session. Learn how Vermont’s landmark land use law – Act 250 – might be expanded to better address climate change and energy issues. Hear about energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation ideas on the table, and get an update on current, innovative efforts to help all Vermonters transition affordably to clean, efficient, renewable energy solutions by pricing carbon pollution. The conversation will also highlight how local leaders can help shape the policymaking arena.
Mark McDonald, Orange County Senator
Christopher Bray, Addison County Senator
Diana Gonzalez, Vermont State Representative (Winooski)
Interested in trying to crack the tough nut of getting residents in your town to weatherize their homes? This workshop is focused on getting your neighbors excited about efficiency. Get the scoop on the results from the Weatherize Upper Valley and most recent Button Up Vermont campaigns, and join in the discussion about how to make strides around weatherization in your community.
Making Vermont's Transportation Transformation Possible
This workshop will focus on transportation policies that will benefit all Vermonters – from rural public transit solutions, to EV technologies, rail and ship travel. Solutions will require investments and the raising of capital to fund massive infrastructure conversion projects by 2030. Join this policy discussion to hear perspectives on Vermont’s future transportation system.
Jennifer Wallace Brodeur, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation
Deb Sachs, Net Zero Vermont
Scott Johnstone, Intrepid Advocate for Public Good