By Kevin Batson
Williston Energy Committee
In Vermont, we’re fortunate to have a host of consumer and commercial programs and incentives for individuals and businesses alike that make it easy to electrify. By reducing the cost and simplifying the process of electrification, Vermonters can more easily switch to an electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, change to a heating/cooling heat pump system, or mow the lawn with an electric mower.
In Vermont, going electric has a huge impact on emissions as Green Mountain Power (GMP) and Vermont Electric Coop, Williston’s two electric utilities, source electricity from 100 percent renewable and 75 percent carbon free resources, respectively. This means cars, home heating and cooling systems and electric-powered tools are significantly free of carbon emissions. Because of the potential cost savings for our residents and high impact on carbon emissions, the Williston Energy Committee has made electrification one of its top priorities in 2022 and beyond.
Many of the electrification initiatives target transportation, which accounts for the majority (around 40 percent) of carbon emissions in Vermont. With state and utility-sponsored incentives, including cash rebates, Vermonters can reduce the total upfront cost of purchasing or leasing an electric vehicle (EV). Thanks to regional renewable energy credit programs, we have a large selection of electric vehicles only available in New England. When it comes to fueling EVs, our two electric utilities can provide owners Level 2 chargers, which can charge a mid-size EV in roughly four hours, for free or at a substantially reduced cost.
The Williston Energy Committee will be holding EV showcase events in the coming months. These events will allow our residents to interact with a wide range of plug-in and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and their owners to get a frank assessment of what it’s like to own or lease an EV. We will also have a few EVs in this year’s Williston Fourth of July Parade and will be available to answer EV-related questions.
In addition to vehicle electrification, the Energy Committee is focusing on electrification of heating and cooling to help reduce costs and the associated respiratory pollutants and carbon emissions — all of which can be a significant burden to Vermonters.
Electric heat pumps can be a great option as they provide both heating and cooling and run with greater efficiency than standard furnaces and air conditioners, even at temperatures as low as -5 degrees. Utilizing a heat pump system helps lower energy costs compared to electric resistance, propane and oil, allowing Vermonters to hedge against more volatile fuel costs.
Depending on your heating and cooling needs and current electric power panel, a heat pump can be very affordable, requiring only a modest installation. Working with local organizations like Efficiency Vermont, the Energy Committee will help private residents, commercial building owners and businesses connect to resources and rebates that will allow them to assess their current heating and cooling systems and find opportunities where efficiency, weatherization and electrification can help them lower their heating/cooling bills and carbon footprint.
As almost every conceivable lawn care tool is now available in a rechargeable battery-powered version, reducing emissions through electrification doesn’t have to mean making a large investment. With the recent expansion in this consumer market, most battery-operated tools are at comparable or lower cost to their traditional gas counterparts.
Unlike gas-powered tools, battery-powered tools don’t emit carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides that have a significant impact on air quality. Additionally, electric tools are much quieter, lighter and easier to use, and require less maintenance. The Energy Committee is exploring opportunities within our own town departments, like Recreation and Parks, to electrify town-owned tools.
In summary, it’s easy to electrify and more affordable than many Vermonters may realize. The next time you need to upgrade or replace a piece of yard equipment, heating device or vehicle, consider taking that opportunity to go green by choosing an electric option. There are several resources and events happening around the state that can help you make an informed choice.
You can always reach out to your Williston Energy Committee at MScott@Willistonvt.org or attend one of our public meetings, held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Be sure to keep an eye out for other Energy Committee updates and news here in the Observer and on Front Porch Forum — and feel free to say hello to us at the Isham Farmers’ Market and at the Fourth of July parade.