(Host) Lawmakers want to cut the state’s use of fossil fuels and expand renewable energy
But they also hope an energy policy that focuses on Vermont-based sources will create jobs and grow businesses.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) The idea of energy policy as a way to spur economic growth is laid out in a report from the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
The council is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works on a broad range of issues affecting rural Vermont. Last year, the council created a group to look at how to promote more in-state energy production.
The council’s conclusion is fairly simple: what’s green can also be gold.
Here’s council Executive Director Paul Costello at the Statehouse:
(Costello) “These actions could have strong economic benefit, benefit communities across the state, send out a strong signal to entrepreneurs and renewable start-ups all across the country today that Vermont is open for business. Vermont is intending on being a national leader in the energy development sector.”
(Dillon) The council’s report says the state could create as many as 6,000 new jobs over the next decade through aggressive support of renewable energy.
The report lists 23 recommendations, including tax incentives, expansion of small-scale hydro power, and a new state office to promote energy development.
Mark Sinclair works for the Clean Energy Group, which tracks what states around the country are doing. He says Vermont is not a leader in the renewable energy field.
(Sinclair) “We are way behind. We’ve got a very clean portfolio but it’s because we import power from Canada and we have a nuclear power plant. That is not renewable energy home-grown. So Vermont needs to take this seriously, because other states are not waiting. If we want to have jobs and manufacturers, we’ve got to begin now.”
(Dillon) One of the fastest growing energy companies is groSolar in White River Junction. Company CEO Jeffrey Wolfe told lawmakers that 96% of his business is outside Vermont. He said clean energy companies are the leading edge of the new economy.
(Wolfe) “We need to support new companies, energy companies, innovative companies. Stop giving life support to old companies. Life support by definition doesn’t end in progress.”
(Dillon) Wolfe and the other witnesses spoke to four legislative committee, from both the House and the Senate. But the Senate Natural Resources Committee will take the lead on the issue. Chittenden Senator Virginia Lyons chairs the committee.
(Lyons) “This is about making us as independent as possible at the most local level as possible. Will we be able to provide all the electricity from renewable sources in this state? …We don’t need to answer that question in order to move forward.”
(Dillon) Lyons said her committee is also trying to put many of the recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change into legislation.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.