The City of Montpelier has launched an effort to become the country's first "net zero capital city."
City officials have coined the initiative Net Zero Montpelier, and have partnered with Green Mountain Power, Efficiency Vermont, and a list of other groups and business. The Net Zero Montpelier website describes the project this way:
Net Zero Montpelier (NZM) is about transforming our energy system to ensure our community has a secure, affordable, sustainable and reliable energy future. It’s a bold, audacious, collaborative effort to have Montpelier lead the way as the nation’s first state capital where all of our energy needs — electric, thermal, and transportation — are produced or offset by renewable energy sources.
Net zero means the city will minimize its dependence on fossil fuels by investing in renewable energy alternatives such as wind, solar, hydro and biofuels. Practically speaking, fossil fuels will still be part of the mix. However net zero means the city will produce enough excess renewable energy to offset the fossil fuel energy consumed. This week, city officials said they aim to reach the net zero goal by 2030.
“This ambitious goal, endorsed by the city council, sets a new direction for Montpelier’s energy future that will provide the opportunity for every citizen to engage,” said Montpelier Mayor John Hollar.
According to a city press release, to date more than 15 percent of Montpelier's housing units have completed comprehensive energy efficiency projects with Efficiency Vermont; in 2013, the city upgraded all streetlights to high efficiency LEDs; and the downtown biomass district heating project is currently nearing completion.
The downtown district heating project went online this winter using City Hall's boilers to power the system. This week the State of Vermont's biomass plant will be fired up, tested and, if all goes as planned, begin powering that system.
As part of the Net Zero Montpelier launch, Green Mountain Power and Efficiency Vermont announced a series of initiatives designed to support the effort by driving down energy consumption and increasing the use of renewable energy in Montpelier.
- Green Mountain Power will work with the city to locate multiple electric vehicle charging stations in the City;
- Efficiency Vermont will convene a “Net Zero Montpelier” community conversation in September to help residents, businesses, and local partners set goals and take action on energy efficiency. Reducing energy consumption is a key first step towards net zero, since it enables a larger portion of energy needs to be met through renewable sources;
- Efficiency Vermont experts will offer guidance, incentives, and support to help homeowners reduce their energy usage and make their homes “net zero ready;”
- Green Mountain Power will extend to Montpelier its pilot heat pump program that saves customers money while reducing fossil fuel use for heating;
- Efficiency Vermont and the City of Montpelier will develop an energy road map for all municipal facilities, including exploring the opportunity to design the new downtown transit center to net zero standards, and kicking off a large scale energy saving project at the wastewater treatment facility;
- The Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services will collaborate with Efficiency Vermont on a large scale effort to reduce energy usage in Montpelier’s state buildings;
- GMP will work with AllEarth Renewables to install solar trackers in a group net metering project involving the Vermont Natural Resources Council and Vermont Land Trust, which have expressed interest in taking the power. The trackers will be on GMP property near the entrance of the city and will be a visual statement of Montpelier’s commitment to becoming net zero.
Other partners in Net Zero Montpelier thus far include: Vermont State Employees Credit Union, National Life, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, SunCommon, IBM and the general membership of the Energy Action Network. City officials say there will be numerous opportunities for additional organizations and stakeholders become actively involved in the effort.