The only New England state not to border the Atlantic Ocean, Vermont (with 9,616 square miles) is the sixth-smallest state by area in the US and are the second-smallest state by population (with somewhat more than 600,000 residents).
Since 1900, and more emphatically since the 1960s, Vermont has been getting warmer and warmer, with spring arriving two weeks earlier and winter starting one week later. The air temperature has increased more than 4˚F in winter and more than 2˚ in summer over the past 50 years. Only New Jersey, Rhode Island and Delaware have warmed faster.
Annual participation has increased by almost 7 inches during the same time period. With 78% of its land covered in forest, and renowned for its ski industry, one of Vermont’s largest climate challenges are the increasingly warmer winters — which threaten this large area of the state’s tourism.
In 2018, renewable resources in Vermont — primarily hydropower — provided the highest share of electricity generation of any state at 99.7% with 17% coming from its five wind farms. The state generates virtually no other forms of energy, producing as a result, less carbon dioxide emissions than any other state. It consumes close to four times as much energy as it produces, even as its total energy consumption is the smallest of all the states.
Residential use of energy represents 34.8% of its consumption; transportation 32.5%, Commercial 19.8% and Industrial 12.9%.
In 2011, Vermont set a goal to obtain 90% of all its energy from renewable resources by 2050 and to reduce its energy use by more than one-third. By 2016, Vermont had committed itself to a distributed energy future in which a significant portion of Vermont’s energy would be produced near where it was consumed. Published as the Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP), it established goals to reduce total energy consumption per capita by 15% by 2025, and by more than one third by 2050; to meet 25% of the remaining energy needs from renewable sources by 2025, 40% by 2035, and 90% by 2050. Vermont’s CEP has three end-use sector goals for 2025: 10% renewable transportation, 30% renewable buildings, and 67% renewable electric power.
Additionally, in 2018, Vermont committed itself to a reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions from its own energy use: 40% reduction below 1990 levels by 2030 and an 80% – 95% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. One of their primary tools will be to convert more heat and transportation to highly efficient electric technologies, such as heat pumps and electric vehicles.
Vermont’s CEP reflects the enormous progress they have made in the last years. They have ten times the amount of solar installed or permitted today than it did in 2010 and 20 times as much wind energy. Over the past two years, one out of every 100 new vehicles purchased in Vermont has been a plug-in or fully electric vehicles. All of this has contributed to a clean energy economy that supports over 16,200 jobs and has helped reduce electric bills in three of the last four years for the vast majority of Vermonters.
In June, 2020, the Vermont Senate took another step, approving the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020 (it had already passed the House in February), “creating a legally enforceable system by which Vermont will reduce its statewide greenhouse gas emissions and establish strategies to mitigate climate risks and build resiliency to climate change”. It specifically calls for the state to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 26% below its levels in 2005 by 2025, it requires that emissions are reduced to 40% below their 1990 levels by 2030, and ultimately 80% below by 2050. The bill is still awaiting a final decision by Governor Phil Scott.
The State of Vermont is part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 25 governors that have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.