Letter to the editor: Clean Heat Standard offers a multitude of benefits

The climate clock is ticking, yet we have made little progress towards truly addressing our climate crisis. However, we have an opportunity this legislative session to make some meaningful progress on climate change while helping our neighbors reduce their energy costs.

Many Vermonters cannot afford the upfront investment necessary to weatherize and convert to lower cost, less risky, more comfortable and healthier energy options for their homes. That is partly because the cost of fuel oil, propane and other fossil fuels do not reflect their true cost — including the damage they are already causing to the global climate.

There is currently a bill in the legislature that would address this problem. It is called the Clean Heat Standard. The Clean Heat Standard would require fossil fuel companies — major oil companies, heating fuel processors, and wholesalers (i.e., not local Vermont fuel dealers) — to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, with reductions increasing over time at a pace necessary for the state to meet the emission reduction commitments it made in the 2020 Global Warming Solutions Act (e.g., 40% by 2030, net zero by 2050).

Importantly, the Clean Heat Standard would give the fossil fuel companies a range of options for reducing their emissions, from helping to pay for the cost of weatherizing homes or installing electric cold climate heat pumps to selling more renewable biofuels. The Clean Heat Standard would assign each of these measures — and many others — greenhouse gas reduction credit values based on their life-cycle carbon reduction benefit. Any contractor or retailer who sells a clean heat product would then be able to benefit from the sale of the clean heat credits associated with that product to the fossil fuel companies. These benefits would most likely appear in the form of significant additional financial incentives to homeowners who purchase weatherization, heat pumps and other clean energy products and services.

In other words, the environmental benefits of weatherization and heat pumps will have an economic value. This means that insulation, air sealing, heat pump installations and other clean energy services will be made available to new customers at lower costs, so more of them will be able to afford the conversion to lower cost, less risky, more comfortable and healthier homes. The Clean Heat Standard will also require that fossil fuel companies fully pay for many low-income customers to realize these benefits.

Many environmental leaders and organizations are calling the Clean Heat Standard the most impactful climate policy the state has ever considered. While that may be the case, it is important to emphasize that it may also be the most impactful energy bill reducing strategy the state has considered and one of the most important economic development policies the state has considered. It really is a win-win-win.

Richard Faesy


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