VECAN Celebrates its 10th Year Anniversary!

Ten years ago the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) and partners had the idea of creating a network of town energy committees which could work in coordination to help advance a sustainable clean energy future in Vermont and New HampshireDQES1lnXUAEU3Fw. This network is called the Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network (VECAN) and it is coordinated by VNRC in collaboration with Efficiency Vermont, the Energy Action Network, New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, Net Zero Vermont, and Vital Communities.
This past Saturday, Dec. 2nd, was the 10th annual VECAN Conference which brings together energy committees from across the state as well as partners and resources for a full day of networking, workshopping, and general education. In addition to a great range of workshops throughout the day, the keynote speaker for the conference was former head of the EPA under the Obama administration, Mrs. Gina McCarthy.

VECAN is always a great opportunity to learn about what other energy committees are working on and to learn about what other major initiatives are taking place across the state outside the bubble of the Upper Valley.

Paige Heverly, Energy and Transportation Project Coordinator for Vital Communities, attended the conference and said that “It was a great conference with a lively, yet realistic energy. Almost defiant in its attitude of moving ahead despite the nonsense happening at the federal level.” She attended the “2018 Legislative Look Forward” workshop where the focus was on the “ESSEX Plan to put a price on carbon pollution while lowering the cost of electricity for all Vermonters. There was also a discussion of a new Community Energy Program, which would promote the construction of an additional 250 MW of renewable energy, with projects ranging in size from 150 kw to 5 MW with the potential to update or replace the current net-metering program.”

Among other new and exciting initiatives happening around the state I learned about the Climate Pledge Coalition. A new group of businesses, organizations, and municipalities who have all made pledges to stick to the goals of Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy plan, its greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals, and the goals of the Paris Climate agreement. Mayor Weinberger of Burlington as well as Gov. Scott created the coalition in response to the president withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate accord.

Sally Miller, Executive Director of Sustainable Woodstock, attended the “Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard: Progress to Date and a Look Ahead” workshop. “[P]anelists talked about the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) law passed in 2015 which requires Vermont electric utilities to include electricity from renewable sources in their portfolio and included a first-in-the-nation requirement for utilities to acquire fossil-fuel savings.” They also discussed what utilities are doing to meet these goals. People can learn more about these plans at this website- vpirg.org/innovation-plans. Green Mountain Power continues to offer energy savings and storage incentives such as eHome, heat pumps, and EV charging stations. Contact GMP to learn more about what is going on in our service area.

The energy and excitement at the conference was contagious and inspiring. Several hundred people from all across the state committing their time and resources towards building a clean energy future for Vermont despite a president and administration which does not believe in climate change was a breath of fresh air. Speaking with so many passionate and active people across the state was a reminder that just because we have a dysfunctional government doesn’t mean that we stop doing the work. To the contrary people are working harder, finding innovative solutions, and will continue to fight to build a resilient, independent, and secure future for Vermont.

We are not alone in our efforts in Vermont either. Gina McCarthy was light hearted, witty and very funny as she reminded everyone there the government has never had an original idea. That every good idea starts at the grassroots level and that this is a huge failure on the part of the current administration which creates clunky and illegal proclamations which continue to be tried and shut down in courts. Gina brought to our attention that scientist across the country are working hard to make sure climate change science taken down from the EPA website, the equivalent of modern day book burning, is still available on websites like www.envirodatagov.org. She reminded us to fight and never give up!

Just do one thing: Get involved with your local energy committee!

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