Despite growing uncertainty about our national climate policy, we can be proud that the Green Mountain State is widely recognized as a leader in green initiatives. Across the state, there is a shared commitment to environmental protection and carbon reduction. It goes without saying that Vermonters would buck any effort to shy away from our environmental responsibilities, but what’s truly unique about our great state is how we’re going about it: by tackling multi-generational and global climate challenges to create opportunity and prosperity and grow our economy.
In fact, the Union of Concerned Scientists recently ranked Vermont second in the nation as a clean energy winner in their Clean Energy Momentum: Ranking State Progress. The biggest reason behind that ranking? Jobs. Vermont leads the nation for its percentage of employees engaged in clean energy jobs. One in every 16 workers in Vermont, or approximately 10,000 of our friends and neighbors, are employed in the clean energy sector at least part time. The number has grown 29% in the last four years, just one indicator that clean energy initiatives are good for our economy and job creation, in addition to being good for our planet.
Clean energy benefits us economically in other ways as well. Business leaders, policy makers, and others in our state are taking strides to increase availability of renewable sources of energy right here in our state. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, from 2011 to 2016, “Vermont installed 59.2 megawatts of commercial-scale solar photovoltaic capacity,” with almost half, 26.8 megawatts, in 2016 alone. These are the solar panels you may see on buildings, as standalone systems, or as field arrays.
All kinds of businesses, from start-ups to large, established entities, are promoting innovative ideas to grow our climate economy while putting clean energy in reach of more Vermonters. Our organization, VSECU, a member-owned cooperative and not-for-profit credit union, is one of them. We offer low-interest loans for all sorts of projects that increase efficiency and reduce energy use under a program called VGreen.
When Vermonters have the knowledge and tools to make their homes more efficient, they’ll need less energy, which will save them money. VGreen also offers lower rates to borrowers purchasing electric vehicles. Pair this effort with local power company initiatives, like public quick-charging stations, and it’s no wonder that Vermont gets top scores for our adoption of electric vehicles. We even help members finance the purchase of traditional and power-assisted bikes. If it’s energy efficient, we offer financing for it.
Next month, I will join other Vermonters in welcoming leading innovators from across the country for “Catalysts of the Climate Economy,” a three-day national innovation summit at the University of Vermont that brings together entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders who are actively engaged in solving the challenges our planet faces due to climate change. I am proud to be among participants who know that attending to our generation’s responsibility for the environment can result in economic benefits for everyone.