Community Progress Maps From the Energy Action Network
By Anne Watson, Mayor of Montpelier
Originally published in The Bridge
If there were a venn diagram of people who loved energy, data, and Montpelier, I would sit right in the middle of that diagram, and I don’t think I’d be alone there. I know many of you care about our community’s energy profile as well, so I’m glad to be able to share with you some information that I recently learned.
At the last meeting of the Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee, we heard a presentation from Jared Duval, who is the executive director of the Energy Action Network (EAN), and he’s also a committee member. Jared told us about the newest update to the Vermont Community Energy Dashboard. This website now allows visitors to search for how the state and individual towns are doing in terms of energy on a variety of metrics. I’ve included five graphs specifically about Montpelier to help us see how we, as a community, are doing in terms of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Each graph tells a story, and I’d like to explore what each graph means.
Total Number of Electric Vehicle Registrations in Montpelier for Electric Vehicles
In order for Vermont to reach its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, EAN has modeled a set of actions that we would need to take. One of those actions is to replace ninety thousand internal combustion engine cars with electric vehicles (EVs). Since Montpelier represents roughly 1% of the total population of Vermont, that would mean we need approximately 900 EVs registered in Montpelier for us to be doing our part. Since we currently only have 136 EVs, we’ve still got a ways to go to reach our goal. However, from a statewide perspective, we’re not doing too badly. Montpelier comes in 4th in the state for highest number of EVs per capita, just barely behind Plainfield.
I want to recognize, too, that buying or leasing an EV may not be an option for everyone. Public transportation and carpooling remain essential pieces of the solution as we look to address climate change. In the words of Bill McKibben, “There’s no silver bullet for climate change. We need silver buckshot”. EVs are just one piece of the transportation solution.
Number of Housing Units Comprehensively Weatherized in Montpelier for Building Efficiency
Here’s a topic close to my heart: weatherization. Montpelier is also doing relatively well in this category. At 801 units weatherized, Montpelier comes in 3rd in the state for the highest rate of weatherized housing units per capita. What’s odd about this graph, though, is that it appears as though the rate at which homes are being weatherized is slowing down. Every year since 2014 the rate for weatherization has decreased. This is fascinating to me. Why would that be? It’s quite a nice little curve too. We know that about 40% of Montpelier’s housing units are rentals. It would be interesting to see about separating out how many of these weatherized units are rentals. Perhaps rentals are weatherized at a lower rate? Perhaps Montpelier has a subset of housing that is wildly expensive to weatherize? Perhaps there’s another subset of housing that’s relatively new and likely does not need to be weatherized? Still at roughly 800 units out of a total of 3800 units, 20% is not bad.
Total Number of Heat Pumps (Efficiency Vermont Approved) in Montpelier for Space Heating
The heat pumps in these graphs are for space heating, not hot water, as in the next graph. It seems like Montpelier is just starting to discover heat pumps with a substantial increase in the number of heat pump projects in 2017. At 112th per capita in the state, we still have plenty of room for improvement. I am curious to see if the rate of uptake continues in the 2018 data. In case you’re unfamiliar, heat pumps are similar to air conditioners or refrigerators, where they simply move heat from one location to another. This is why the back of a refrigerator is very hot. It’s removing heat from inside the fridge and dumping it behind the fridge. Heat pumps take heat from the air outside your house and move it inside your house. Consequently, heat pumps can also be used as air conditioners. Heat pumps are probably one of the most efficient forms of heat available at this point in Montpelier. This is one of the reasons why EAN identified cold climate heat pumps specifically as a part of their comprehensive package of solutions for Vermont to address its fossil fuel use. According to EAN, Vermont could use ninety thousand cold climate heat pumps to replace fossil fuel heat (in combination with other solutions) to help reach our Paris Climate Agreement goals. Again, at 1% of the population of Vermont, Montpelier would need to install approximately 900 heat pumps.
Total Number of Heat Pumps (Efficiency Vermont Approved) in Montpelier for Hot Water
Using a heat pump for hot water works similarly, only the heat that’s removed from the air is deposited into a hot water tank. This is also an encouraging graph as it looks as though the adoption of heat pumps for hot water is solidly increasing. This is logical though, as it’s one of the most energy efficient technologies for heating hot water, and property owners have to replace their hot water heaters with some regularity.
Annual Electricity Capacity in Montpelier for Solar
In terms of solar electricity, there were significant jumps in 2014 and in 2016, which also corresponds to jumps in the total number of solar sites in those same years. It would be interesting to see if this graph aligns at all with either the beginning or ending of subsidies. As a part of the package of solutions laid out by EAN, they estimate that Vermont needs approximately 500MW of new solar, which means Montpelier would be aiming for 5MW (or 5,000kW). At 2,486 kW currently, Montpelier is almost halfway to its Paris Agreement goal!
There are many more graphs on this site (https://www.vtenergydashboard.org/statistics): advanced wood heating, battery storage capacity, wind generation, hydro generation, etc. These are just a few of the graphs I found particularly interesting and relevant to the city’s energy independent goals. If you’re interested in learning more about specific energy technology trends in Vermont as a whole or which towns are leading the way in particular technologies, this site has that. It also lets you see progress made over time (see the play button at the bottom). I highly recommend poking around this site. I love that we have a place to go to see how we’re doing in terms of meeting our net zero goals. I can’t wait to see what it will continue to tell us in the future.
If you’re interested in exploring any of these technologies for your own home, I’d recommend starting by getting in touch with Efficiency Vermont. They would be able to direct you to all the best subsidies and installers.