MONTPELIER — Sue Minter, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has laid out a plan for Vermont’s energy future that she said will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, support job growth in the clean energy sector and cut energy costs for Vermonters.
Minter’s plan focuses on two main goals — reducing peak electric demand by 10 percent over the next five years and cutting back on carbon dioxide pollution in the transportation sector by expanding the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that covers fossil fuel-burning power plants to include transportation fuels. Expanding RGGI, however, would require the consent of several other Northeast states that participate.
“I am the candidate who is concerned about climate change, and who wants to make more progress on energy efficiency and local renewable energy,” Minter said in a statement. “It is unbelievable to me that we have candidates running for governor in the year 2016 who want to ban renewable energy when we now have over 17,000 Vermonters proudly working in the clean-energy sector.”
Minter said her administration would reduce peak electric demand, which is more costly and often generated through means that produce more carbon, through energy efficiency, solar power and new energy storage technologies. Doing so will create more clean-energy jobs and save ratepayers money, she said.
To reduce carbon output from transportation, Minter said she will look to expand the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to include transportation fuels. RGGI is a cooperative effort among several states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — to cap and reduce carbon emissions from the power sector. Under the agreement, the states set a cap on carbon emissions and then sell the allowances at auction. The proceeds then fund energy efficiency, renewable energy and other consumer benefit programs.
Minter, a former secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, has also served as president of the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials and on President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. In those roles, she has participated in discussions on the idea of adding transportation fuels to RGGI.
“We’ve actually been working for the last three years on setting this in motion,” Minter said. “I’ve been in meetings with leaders of the transportation sectors, the energy sectors and the natural resource sectors. It’s actually something that has been moving forward and it’s a deep discussion. We are in a very good place as long as we have leaders interested in moving forward.”
According to Minter, RGGI has helped to reduce electric power emissions in the region by 24 percent. Expanding the initiative to transportation fuels could have a major impact on carbon dioxide emissions. She said the transportation sector accounts for about 45 percent of Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Like the current system for electric production under RGGI, Minter said transportation fuel manufacturers would be under a carbon dioxide cap and face penalties if they exceed them. It would not directly impact consumers, she said.
“That’s how the state of Vermont has received $11 million since 2003, which has gone into the clean-energy fund,” Minter said. “It takes intense negotiations and discussions. We aren’t the only people doing this. This is exactly what’s happening in the Western Climate Initiative.”
The caps would be negotiated with the other states in RGGI, Minter said.
“Nothing gets done if we don’t have someone with a vision and someone with a passion who wants to do it,” she said. “This is me leading on an idea that is happening in other parts of the country and that we should be working on.”
To achieve the two main goals of her plan, Minter said she would also:
— Create more community-scale renewable energy and a “resilient grid” by supporting incentives for well-sited projects on Brownfield sites and rooftops;
— Accelerate weatherization and efficiency to make homes and businesses more efficient and cut fossil-fuel consumption by supporting funding and financing through a variety of providers including energy contractors, utilities and fuel dealers;
— Support innovation and new technologies by ensuring that Vermont utilities have the flexibility to continue to innovate and provide customers with products and services that reduce energy costs and lower carbon emissions, including working with utilities and Efficiency Vermont for the use of more cold-climate heat pumps.