Rep. Sibilia: A Vermont Clean Heat Standard

In 2020 Vermont established a Climate Council charged with creating a comprehensive, equitable plan to lower our greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Global Warming Solutions Act. One of the most urgent and compelling reasons for this work was to help Vermonters adapt our lives, communities and businesses to the accelerating effects of climate change. 

With Vermont’s citizens and small businesses increasingly buffeted by a volatile, globalized fossil fuel economy, the Climate Council has recommended adoption of the Clean Heat Standard. The Clean Heat Standard is the single most impactful policy in the Climate Action Plan to help Vermonters transition to a cleaner, more predictable, more affordable energy future. The Clean Heat Standard is a performance standard that requires fossil fuel sellers to reduce emissions created by the fuels they sell. In short, a Clean Heat Standard takes a largely unregulated industry and regulates it. 

Building off of insight gained during the initial Global Warming Solutions public process, the Clean Heat Standard as envisioned in H.715 will be developed in an intentionally inclusive format with extensive public input. Upon passage, the Vermont Public Utilities Commission will be required to undertake a two year public process, engaging with fuel dealers, manufacturers, public advocates and citizens, in a manner that seeks to ensure those Vermonters and small business owners most likely to be affected are not only part of the process, but influencing the makeup of the standard along the way. 

A Clean Heat Standard is not a new concept. It’s modeled after systems that are working to reduce transportation emissions in California, Oregon, Washington, and western Canada. Colorado passed a Clean Heat Standard law last year and other northeastern states are considering variations of this program. Vermont’s own Renewable Energy Standard similarly requires electric utilities to annually increase the amount of renewable energy in their portfolios. 

Global energy economy and climate change adjustments are already disrupting our small fossil fuel providers and the cost of fossil fuels. Diversification and consolidation of smaller companies is already underway.  What will happen to our small fuel dealers if we do not act?  

During testimony in our committee by the region’s largest wholesale oil companies, we asked what strategic investments these major employers were planning for the next decade. Those companies planned investments are in solar and wind. Other fuel sellers are augmenting their businesses with investments in selling, installing, and maintaining heat pumps and weatherizing homes. 

Our smallest fossil fuel dealers, and the Vermonters reliant on them to heat their homes, are in danger of being left behind in this increasingly volatile and evolving global energy market. Inaction will not be a buoy that lifts Vermonters out of the turbulent seas of change. Inaction threatens to be an anchor pulling small fossil fuel dealers and their most vulnerable customers under. Passage of the Clean Heat Standard adds predictability and time to a transition that is underway.

The objective of the Clean Heat Standard, as well as other provisions of Vermont’s Climate Action Plan, is to ensure we meet our emissions reductions targets and to ensure Vermonters are adapting at a pace that leaves no one behind.

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