By Max Dodson, Community News Service
Despite Vermont making strides to reach it’s renewable energy goals, and a national goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, hurdles still exist and there is still much progress to make, according to speakers at this year’s Renewable Energy Vermont Conference.
Saul Griffith was the keynote speaker for the first day of the conference. An engineer, scientist, educator, and entrepreneur, he has spent his life working many jobs, most of which are related to mitigating climate change.
Griffith said it’s important to “electrify everything,” saying how a huge portion of greenhouse gasses contributing to climate change stem from inefficient appliances, and many things that do not run on electricity. Among these are cars, home heating systems, and gas stoves.
A common ideal among environmentalists is that the best energy is the energy not used, highlighting the importance of efficiency. Griffith said one of the best ways to increase efficiency is to implement better utilities attached to the grid.
Griffith didn’t say that every Vermonter should go out and buy an electric car. He highlighted the need for federal and state subsidies to make these more efficient technologies available to consumers, so that the bulk cost of the transformation to greener technologies is not on the consumer.
Throughout his talk, he focused on the household as the forefront for the fight to reduce emissions.
“The household needs to be the center of American climate policy. It connects to all sectors, and contributes to 42% of all emissions,” said Griffith.
This transition to efficient, electric appliances has the power to create huge economic progress, Griffith said.
“If you tried to get as close to 1.5 degrees, you would create 20 million new energy jobs in the first five years, to ramp up the manufacturing and deployment of these new machines,” said Griffith
A UN panel of climate scientists has consistently set the target of 1.5 degrees celsius at the ceiling for climate change. Further climate change past this will result in irreversible damage to the planet.
The conference also focused on new technologies and developments that are less focused on electrification or green energy, but still play a role in the state’s sustainability and transition toward a greener economy.
An example of this is the South Village Community in South Burlington. This project aims to promote more sustainable land use in a suburban setting.
Will Raap, the founder of Gardener’s Supply, played a big role in the creation and vision of the community. He said that rather than directly focusing on renewable energy or electrification, his work has focused on sustainable land planning and community development.
“This 220 acres could have been 10 McMansions, it’s now over 300 housing units. This is trying to demonstrate that suburbia can be a solution to climate change, opposed to a problem to it. We take half of 1% of all real estate sales and invest them in community farming and land conservation,” said Raap.
The community is also designed to support walking, and reduce the use of cars for short distances. It also includes a level of green building design, making the houses efficient. There are also 150 acres left undeveloped for conservation and wildlife corridors, to avoid splitting up habitat.
“We have developed a 12 acre farm on the property that produces a range of products that live in and around the development to promote sustainability,” said Raap.