Mayor’s Office

Mayor Miro Weinberger Releases Building Electrification Proposal to Dramatically Reduce New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Construction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2020
Contact: Olivia LaVecchia
(802) 734-0617

Mayor Miro Weinberger Releases Building Electrification Proposal to Dramatically Reduce New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Construction

Proposed zoning ordinance would use science-based carbon pricing to accelerate electrification of thermal systems for all new construction

 

Burlington, VT – At Monday’s City Council meeting, the City presented a proposal for building electrification, the latest step in progress toward making Burlington a Net Zero Energy city. The proposal, called the “Building Electrification and Carbon Price Ordinance,” would create two pathways to incentivize new development to use efficient and electric power for heating needs and to dramatically reduce the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure in Burlington in the years to come. The proposal was heard by the Council and will next go to the Council’s Ordinance Committee as part of the process toward adoption.

“Even as Burlington has sought to respond to a global pandemic and national uprising for racial justice, we’ve also kept focus on our other central emergency – the climate crisis,” said Mayor Weinberger. “It is increasingly clear that strategic electrification of buildings and vehicles is a critical way to both help save the planet and sustain our standard of living. Burlington is aggressively leading the country toward this essential and promising vision, and our building electrification proposal represents the City’s next big step forward.”

Building Electrification and Carbon Price Ordinance

Efficient and electric buildings are one of the most important areas in which to reduce fossil fuel emissions in Burlington, according to the “Net Zero Energy Roadmap” for local-level climate progress that the City released in September 2019. Making buildings efficient and electric means incorporating comprehensive weatherization and using renewable electricity for space and hot water heating by installing technologies like cold climate heat pumps and heat pump water heaters.

Accordingly, the “Building Electrification and Carbon Price Ordinance” proposal that the City presented on Monday night creates two pathways. In pathway one, a new building does not connect to fossil fuel infrastructure and, therefore, no further requirements apply during the permit process. In pathway two, the new building connects to fossil fuel infrastructure and, therefore, the owner would pay a “building carbon fee” of $100 per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent to the expected emissions for the first 10 years of building operation. This process would repeat every 10 years until the building no longer is using fossil fuels. The building also would be required to be constructed as “electric ready,” so it can add electrification technologies in the future. Further detail about the proposal is available online.

Work to decarbonize the heating of new buildings started in October 2019, and was endorsed by a City Council resolution in May 2020 that directed several City departments to develop a policy proposal that would include consideration of a ban on new buildings connecting to fossil fuel infrastructure for thermal needs. Since May, Burlington Electric Department (BED), Office of City Planning, and Department of Permitting and Inspections have been collaborating to develop this proposal, including holding a well-attended public meeting, consulting with building developers, and seeking technical assistance from the Building Electrification Initiative that included a review of building energy policies in other communities. Next, the City team will work to develop draft ordinance language and the Council’s Ordinance Committee will consider the proposal.

Progress Toward Net Zero Energy Goal

The building electrification proposal follows other recent progress. In July, BED presented a new analysis that contains encouraging numbers on Burlington’s progress. Takeaways from the analysis include:

  • Between 2017 and 2020, Burlingtonians made investments that will collectively avoid more than 20,000 tons in greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of electric vehicles, cold climate heat pumps, electric buses, and electric bikes that were purchased with the assistance of BED incentives (the total number likely is higher as this analysis was limited to purchases for which BED incentives were available);
  • Investments in energy efficiency have resulted in Burlington continuing to keep electricity consumption below 1989 levels, even as consumption has increased around the state and country, and even as Burlington has been focused on electrification;
  • After having only a handful of solar installations eight years ago, in April 2019, Burlington was named the number one city for solar per capita in the Northeastern US by Environment America and repeated this achievement again in the May 2020 rankings. Burlington also ranked number five of all American cities in 2020;
  • Burlington met and exceeded our earlier Climate Action Plan goal, with our emissions in 2018 down 20,000 tons annually from 2010 levels; and
  • More takeaways and the full presentation may be viewed online.

While there is much more focused and hard work ahead, this early progress demonstrates the possibility of continuing to respond meaningfully to the global climate crisis at the local level.

“This policy proposal to reduce fossil fuel use and increase the use of technologies such as cold-climate heat pumps in new buildings would accelerate our progress toward Net Zero Energy and continue Burlington’s long record of climate leadership,” said Darren Springer, General Manager of BED. “Burlington Electric’s analysis shows that moving in the direction of Net Zero Energy is not only going to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also can reduce rate pressure for our customers, providing a true win-win for our community.”

Even as the City is focused on charting a path through the climate crisis at the local level, BED also has prioritized affordability and now is heading into its twelfth year of holding electric rates steady. Further, BED recently submitted an analysis [PDF] to the Vermont Public Utility Commission that shows that, even as electrification continues, with strong management of peak demand, additional sales revenues can outpace BED’s investment in new infrastructure – or in other words, that electrification can reduce rate pressure and be a net positive for BED customers.

About Burlington’s Goal to Be a Net Zero Energy City

Decarbonizing Burlington will take all of us. To become a Net Zero Energy city by 2030, the Burlington of the future will be one where all our buildings are energy efficient and use new electric heating technologies, such a cold climate heat pumps, where our land use and transportation policies help support less energy use, where nearly all vehicles are powered by 100 percent renewable electricity, and where we replace 15 percent of the miles we drive each year with forms of alternative transportation.

The City asks all Burlingtonians to consider efficiency and electrification every time you make a decision about your homes, businesses, and transportation. In return, the City is working to make those choices as easy and affordable as possible. Learn more about the Net Zero Energy goal and significant incentives for electric technologies like heat pumps and electric vehicles by visiting www.burlingtonelectric.com.

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Press Release Date: 
10/06/2020
City Department: 
Mayor's Office