As the legislature takes up the Climate Action Plan’s recommendation to electrify pretty much everything in Vermont by the year 2050, including home/business heating and transportation, a big question is how are we supposed to create and deliver enough electricity to actually do that. And, of course, how much might it cost.
Testimony to this issue came before the House Energy & Transportation Committee this week, and the answer to the latter question is $2.2 billion in upgrades - to start. This price tag just represents the “top priorities” the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority deems necessary for moving away from fossil fuels.
The breakdown of the $2.2 Billion request falls into four categories: Resilience & Reliability ($771,881,477), Grid Modernization ($89,594,826), Energy Transformation Equity ($676,575,095), and Distributed Generation Integration ($668,192,000). Click HERE to see further breakdowns and explanations.
Some of this money will likely come from federal sources as part of the ARPA program, but exactly how much was not known. This is just an immediate request for what they think it will take to meet the infrastructure needs of the Climate Action Plan.
Replacing oil, propane, natural gas, gasoline and diesel fuels with electricity – and preferably, according the Climate Council, with in-state renewables – ultimately will at least double demand for electricity. The problem is, we don’t create that level of electricity now. If we did, we don’t have the grid capacity to deliver it to homes and businesses. And, if we did, 75% of homes in Vermont are not wired to handle the levels of electricity necessary to heat their air and water and charge an electric vehicle or two. The cost to upgrade a home from a 100 amp panel to a 200 amp service is on average between $2500 to $4000 per home, with a range of hundreds of dollars up to $10,000.
We did get some hint as to where this money will come from. Energy & Technology Committee chairman, Tim Briglin (D-Thetford) warned that we can all expect to see higher fees on our electric bills in the future. "Some of this is going to be funded through electric rates. Certainly we want to minimize those costs for Vermont ratepayers, but some of this stuff is going to wind up there."
Although Vermont’s electrical grid does need to be upgraded regardless of the Climate Action Plan, this policy choice to go “all electric” is making this way more expensive and complicated than it needs to be.
- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.