Vt. measure aims to transition from fossil heating fuels

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 6:39 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2022 at 7:10 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A lot of Vermonters are cranking up the heat with the frigid temperatures this week. A third of all of the state’s pollution comes from heating homes, businesses, and schools, so lawmakers are working on a major transformation to cut those greenhouse gasses.

Vermont lawmakers call the proposed Clean Heat Standard the most significant change in thermal energy policy in the state’s history, all part of an effort to put a dent in the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals

“This is going to be a really important policy in how we can heat our homes and do it in a less carbon-intensive way, said Rep. Tim Briglin, D-Thetford Center, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Technology.

The vast majority of Vermonters heat their homes with boilers and furnaces fueled by oil, natural gas, kerosene, propane, and wood. The sweeping proposal in Montpelier would incentivize fuel dealers to ditch dirty fossil fuels and switch to cleaner ones.

“How can you reduce the carbon content that that equipment uses in order to reduce overall carbon emissions and supply the home with an affordable reliable source of energy,” said Matt Cota with the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

The measure includes credits for fuel dealers who choose to sell cleaner sources like renewable liquid fuel, cold climate heat pumps, and weatherization. And also added fees for selling fossil fuels. Dealers would be able to pass on those costs -- or savings -- to customers.

The Clean Heat Standard replicates what’s already happening in the electric sector, spurring utilities to transition away from purchasing dirty fossil fuels to generate electricity.

“Vermont has one of the cleanest electricity portfolios in the country and that’s largely because we have a renewable energy standard similar to what many want to create for our thermal sector,” said Peter Sterling, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont.

But Cota says not everyone may be able to make the switch with ease. “The outdoor tanks that use kerosene are attached to mobile homes or lower-income housing, obviously there’s a concern there,” he said.

Lawmakers and the Vermont Climate Council say they are looking to ease the burden on low-income and rural Vermonters who will have to pay more to heat their homes. “It’s more of a system that looks at providing a variety of mechanisms to help clean up our thermal sector,” Briglin said.

The Clean Heat Standard is one way to cut pollution under the Global Warming Solutions Act. Under the measure, the state is legally required to reduce greenhouse gas levels to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.

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