VGS is a leader in a growing effort to decarbonize North America’s gas infrastructure. In 2019, VGS announced a comprehensive plan to achieve Net Zero by 2050.
The three pillars of VGS’s Climate Plan are to:
- Reduce energy usage
- Increase access to the latest and most efficient in-home heating solutions, and
- Displace fossil fuels with cleaner alternatives
VGS has made steady progress toward its goal. The organization continues to align its actions with existing and emerging statewide energy policy. These include increasing access to weatherization services for Vermonters, offering new products that reduce fossil fuel use and cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in customers’ homes, and developing alternative low- or no-carbon renewable supply sources to displace fossil gas.
Through collaboration, VGS will meet or exceed the GHG reduction targets set forth in the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) and leverage its 50+ years of expertise to support Vermonters who want to transition to clean energy sources.
Significant investments in energy efficiency
The cornerstone strategy to achieve these bold goals is energy efficiency: that is, reducing the amount of energy our customers need to heat their homes, offices, and factories. Energy efficiency is so important because the least expensive, most environmentally friendly energy is that which you don’t have to use. In Vermont, we know this well, with pioneering energy efficiency leaders like Efficiency Vermont, Burlington Electric, and, VGS. In fact, VGS has been in the thermal energy efficiency business since 1992. Over the last 30 years, VGS has provided more than 44,000 financial incentives to help customers weatherize their homes and purchase high efficiency equipment.
VGS fully supports State efforts to achieve weatherization at scale, especially for low-to-moderate income (“LMI”) Vermonters, and is expanding customers’ access to affordable weatherization services for homes and businesses. Weatherization is a cost-effective pathway that provides multiple benefits for homeowners, tenants, and landlords. In addition to lower monthly energy bills and reduced GHG emissions, residents benefit from improved home health, more comfort, and added asset value. Weatherization also allows homeowners and renters to reduce overall energy usage to allow renewable supply to cost-effectively replace fossil fuels, i.e., to support fuel switching.
Home weatherization is a key approach to bolster equity in the clean energy revolution. VGS is active in efforts to deploy weatherization at scale in a way that is accessible to all Vermonters, including those who historically have been unable to afford comprehensive efficiency improvements. VGS has increased eligibility and rebates for single-family homeowners between 80-120% of Area Median Income. In addition, VGS is a key participant in the on-bill financing (“OBF”) tariff pilot led by Vermont Housing Finance Agency. OBF is an essential tool to enable LMI customers to “finance” home improvements, like weatherization and fuel switching, directly on their monthly energy bill. These actions are advancing climate policy to benefit Vermonters and will further reduce GHG emissions in line with the GWSA targets.
Expand in-home offerings and workforce to support customer transition
A significant part of the state’s effort to lower GHG emissions will occur inside customers’ homes with switch-outs of furnaces, boilers, water heaters, and appliances to cleaner and more efficient systems. VGS’s expert workforce has the skillset and experience to support this work – specifically electrification of thermal energy – and deploy in-home technology so more Vermonters can enjoy its benefits and rapidly reduce fossil fuel consumption.
Clean energy and affordability are increasingly important to VGS customers. VGS has already begun implementing efficiency and energy solutions that complement Vermont’s thermal electrification strategies. VGS’s large workforce is expertly trained and prepared to install electric thermal technology such as heat pump water heaters, air source heat pumps, and integrated controls for dual energy solutions. Given Vermont’s demographic and workforce challenges, VGS is prepared to play a central role in deploying this technology to ensure Vermonters can achieve their energy goals and cut GHG emissions on track with GWSA targets.
Advancing alternative supply to deliver multiple benefits
Over the next thirty years, even after energy efficiency savings and a transition to electric thermal energy, customers (especially those with large commercial and industrial loads) will still rely on delivered fuel for heating and process energy. To displace fossil gas and deliver Net Zero emissions, VGS is developing and deploying alternative supply for its energy mix. VGS was one of the first utilities to offer a voluntary renewable natural gas (RNG) option to its customers.
VGS is working on alternative supply options beyond RNG, such as green hydrogen, district energy, and geothermal. VGS also plans to steadily increase the quantity of biomethane RNG in its system, significant quantities of which can be produced locally. With one of the most modern pipelines in the country, VGS’s infrastructure is well suited to carry increasingly renewable energy types. In addition, VGS expects the costs of these fuels, and their enabling technology, will become more and more competitive over time, presenting Vermonters with a viable and affordable option to offset fossil fuels. Each of these alternative energy projects could present an opportunity to help advance other environmental and economic development goals.