Burlington (VT) Reaches 100%-Renewables Goal

Burlington (VT) Reaches 100%-Renewables Goal

Lisa Markowski for Zondits, February 9, 2015

The city of Burlington, Vermont, has recently achieved the notable status of supplying 100% of its power through renewables. Burlington Electric’s recent acquisition of the Winooski 1 hydroelectric project was the final piece needed to set this admirable precedent.

Burlington, the home of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and the jam band Phish, has earned a reputation as a very likable community with a progressive, liberal feel. (Travel + Leisure crowned it Top College Town in 2013.) It’s not surprising, then, that it has now made national news on the renewable energy front.

The Green Mountain State’s largest city is able to supply its 42,000 residents through a combination of sources roughly equal to 50% hydropower, 30% biomass-to-steam, and 20% wind power. The achievement, 10 years in the making, is estimated to save $2 million over the next two decades and to keep rates low for consumers. Burlington Electric, one of two Vermont utilities designed to reduce consumption, has not increased its rates since 2009.

All of this does not mean that traditional power sources are never used. When nature does not comply—say, when drought slows down water flow and the winds are light—Burlington will buy energy from fossil fuel-generated sources. Overall, though, it produces more renewable energy than it can use, in turn selling it to utilities in need.

Learn more in this PBS NewsHour video with reporter William Brangham.