VECAN Conference 2018: Transforming Vermont’s Energy Future From the Ground Up
Over 300 people joined VECAN partners, town energy committee leaders from across Vermont, the state’s leading clean energy businesses, policy makers and concerned Vermonters for another inspiring and action-oriented day geared towards doing far more to meet our 90 by 2050 total renewable energy goal. This year’s event offered some of the most timely, interesting workshops yet – from helping low income earners access clean energy solutions, to the latest in transportation innovation and more. The day also included a framing panel, outlining where we stand on climate and clean energy in the state – and what the big and little leverage opportunities are to make needed progress.
We secured two dynamic keynote speakers: Bill McKibben – world renowned author, environmental activist and founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement; and Michael Shank – communications director for the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance and Urban Sustainability Directors Network (and also a new energy committee member in Brandon, Vermont) – sure to frame how, why and why it matters for Vermont to break free from fossil fuels.
Bill McKibben - A Global Crisis: A State and Local Fight
Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who in 2014 was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’ In 1989, Bill wrote The End of Nature – regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change – and he is the author of over a dozen more books. He is a founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement – incubated in Vermont – which has organized 20,000 rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement. Bill, also a Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, was named by Foreign Policy to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe has said he is “probably America’s most important environmentalist.”
Michael Shank - From Apathy to Action: Motivating the Masses on Climate
Michael Shank, Ph.D., is the Communications Director for the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, a group of international cities committed to achieving aggressive long-term carbon reduction goals, and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, a peer to-peer network of local government professionals from cities across the US and Canada dedicated to creating a healthier environment, economic prosperity, and increased social equity. His professional career includes leading press shops at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Climate Nexus and far beyond. Michael’s work to successfully engage some of the biggest cities across the nation to make clean energy and climate action a priority is a great example of what’s possible.
Welcome and Panel: Vermont's High Impact Transformation Opportunities
The opening panel provided an overview of the recent findings of EAN’s annual report, which shows that Vermont has significant work to do to meet our near and long term clean energy and climate commitments – particularly in the transportation and heating sectors.
EAN highlighted the arenas where more progress can be made by sector – heating, transportation, electricity and more – and offered their conclusions on the scope and scale of the investment needed to bend the curve.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Creation of "Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing"
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced his support for Vermont to lead the nation in the fight against climate change, and become the first state to pass a revenue-neutral Carbon Pollution Fee. While Vermont can and must lead, given that this tool would be strengthened as a regional policy, Mayor Weinberger also announced that he has formed a coalition of mayors throughout the Northeast – “Northeast Mayors for Carbon Pollution Pricing” – who commit to calling on their state legislatures to enter a multi-state agreement to put a price on carbon pollution.
Now, more than ever, strong state policy is required to do our part to mitigate against a warming world and ensure Vermonters can access more affordable, efficient, and renewable technologies for all their energy needs. This workshop will provide an overview of likely policies in play in the 2019 legislative session, including a platform shared by low-income, business, faith, public health and environmental advocates. Expanding weatherization. Deploying more electric cars and buses. Expanding renewable opportunities. Examining and advancing pollution pricing that works for Vermont. Get the scoop and find out what’s needed to make much-needed progress this year.
Join veteran energy committee and grassroots leaders for a peer-to-peer discussion on the tips, tools, and best practices that will help any local group — advanced or new! — hit the ground running in 2019. Hear about successful day-to-day organizing approaches, low cost technology tools, strategies for setting priorities and much more — all in the name of dramatically expanding the efficiency, renewable, transportation, and energy innovation outcomes in your community.
Kate Stephenson, Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee
Sarah Brock, Vital Communities
Ashley Strobridge, Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network
Municipal solar energy is an important cost- and carbon-saving option for many municipalities. This workshop will cover the current state policy framework and lay-of-the-land for municipal solar in Vermont, including an update on the state’s net metering rule and the state’s preferred siting criteria. Hear how communities have — and can — structure municipal solar projects that save money and reduce climate pollution. And, get an in-depth overview of how and why one Vermont town made a significant commitment to generating its power from the sun.
Land Use, Transportation, and Housing for Low Carbon Communities
Smart growth approaches to land use are a cornerstone to decarbonizing our communities. At the center of climate friendly communities is the integration of good land use policies, the creation of transportation choices, the consideration of location efficiency and, importantly, housing, including affordable housing. This workshop will focus on these important solutions and policies communities can and should put in place to help accelerate the transition to vibrant zero net energy communities.
Harnessing the Power of Digital Tools to Advance Climate and Energy Goals
Learn why – and how – to effectively use digital tools to attract new people to the cause. This training will overview the latest techniques for engaging and mobilizing Vermonters using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and video. Learn how we can amplify our collective impact by coordinating efforts under the #ActonClimateVT umbrella and through a weekly “Climate Dispatch.” And get an overview of a powerful new datatracking tool on the Vermont Energy Dashboard that will give communities a sense of how they stack up in terms of transforming the electric, thermal and transportation sectors.
Fuel Switching! Moving to Advanced Wood Heat and Heat Pumps
Even in cold Vermont, we no longer have to be reliant on fossil fuels to heat our homes. We have the technology at our fingertips today to make different choices. Electric and wood heat in particular can be great options for Vermonters, as they get more efficient and affordable every year. Learn about how and why these options work and how you can help your community members make the switch. Also, hear about the policies and programs already in place — or needed — to help far more Vermonters make this beneficial cost saving, climate action investment.
Energy Burden: What It Is, How It’s Felt, and What You Can Do to Help
What is energy burden? We will explore how energy burden is felt by all Vermonters, particularly the disproportionate energy costs that saddle Vermonters earning lower incomes. What resources are available to alleviate some of the stress associated with energy costs? Attendees will leave with a better understanding of the process to apply for energy assistance programs, including supplemental fuel, crisis fuel, electricity, and weatherization assistance.
Ramping Up Weatherization: A Cost, Climate, Comfort Solution
Vermont is struggling to meet its statutory weatherization goals. The result? Many Vermonters are wasting money, burning a lot of fossil fuels and suffering uncomfortably in leaky homes. This workshop will provide an update on the status of weatherization efforts in Vermont and identify current gaps and barriers in our efforts to expand services, especially to the most vulnerable Vermonters. It will also explore innovative efforts, including creative new offerings from key partners, and highlight what policies are needed — and what you can do to help — to dramatically increase Vermont’s commitment to weatherization
Beneficial Electrification: A Key Decarbonization Strategy
Beneficial electrification (or strategic electrification) is a term for replacing direct fossil fuel use with clean electricity in a way that reduces overall emissions and energy costs, such as conversion to electric vehicles and heat pumps. This workshop will look at the state’s aggressive total energy goals and Vermont’s progress toward meeting them. It will also explore the longterm implications of electrification, and the key role of efficiency, distributed renewable energy and energy storage for achieving beneficial electrification. Also, hear how one Vermonter has made the whole-lifestyle transition to 100% renewable energy for meeting their total energy needs.
Economy Wide Solutions to Spur Vermont’s Energy Transformation
There are several different — and desperately needed — ways to transform Vermont’s economy away from dirty, imported fossil fuels. In this workshop, get an in-depth overview of some of the different and successful approaches to carbon pricing — from cap and trade to carbon pollution taxation. Experts will outline how different pricing approaches are working well in jurisdictions across the world, including in neighboring Quebec, where a successful cap and invest program is helping to grow their economy and reduce carbon pollution — and why and how to make a strong policy work for all Vermonters.
Communicating Beyond the Choir: Persuading Policy Makers and More People to Act
Want to learn to make the choir sing but also dramatically expand the chorus on climate action? Want tested tips and strategies on how to make this happen? This workshop offers a unique opportunity to get an in-depth training from a leading national communications expert about what works to inspire far more people — especially those who hold the purse strings — to invest in clean energy and act on climate. Find out what has worked to motivate municipal officials across the nation to take dramatic action — and what you and your community can do to catalyze that kind of leadership
Making Solar Accessible to Vermonters with Low Incomes
Solar energy is — and increasingly must be — a powerful tool in the fight against energy poverty. In October 2018, the Southeast Vermont Community Action Agency commissioned a community solar project that will serve Vermonters who often cannot afford to access power from the sun. In partnership with Minnesota-based RREAL, this “Community Solar for Community Action” model employs the use of community solar subscriptions to provide long-term, low-carbon energy assistance to Vermonters with lower incomes. Come learn about this innovative program and how this model, or other innovative approaches, might be expanded in Vermont.
Transportation Efficiency & Electrification: New Tools, Programs and Funds
There is much buzz about leveraging the state’s VW settlement funds to expand electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and buses. Paired together with Go! Vermont’s new incentive based online tools designed to increase transportation efficiency, communities can become far more sustainable and accessible to all. Learn how to support and expand transportation choices — from deploying more EV cars and buses to tapping into new tools, including an online, incentive-based carpool matching program.
Finding the Funds: Financing Community Energy Improvements
Finding the dollars to make projects happen can often be a barrier to improving energy use and investing in renewable energy solutions. This workshop will provide an overview of current financing and funding options, including highlighting a great new resource communities and Vermonters can access to explore those options. It will also overview an innovative effort happening in Montpelier that puts the savings from energy efficiency and renewable projects into funds to pay for future investments.