Climate Dispatch: January 27, 2023: The Opportunity of Affordable Heat with Senator Anne Watson 

Today’s Episode

Today we’re joined by Senator Anne Watson, Vice Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, to discuss the Affordable Heat Act! Senator Watson share’s her thoughts on the work underway to successfully shape and enact S.5— the Affordable Heat Act

As Vermont’s thermal heating sector continues to be our second largest source of carbon pollution, this policy is an opportunity to create an energy transition that brings everyone along. Fuel prices continue to rise and for many neighbors, it can be a challenge to afford keeping homes warm all winter. The Affordable Heat Act would foster a market transition in our thermal sector, prioritizing affordability of clean energy services for low- and middle-income Vermonters and supporting our fossil fuel heating sector in diversifying the services and measures they deliver. Importantly, the policy would: 

  1. Improve Equity & Affordability In Vemont’s Thermal Heating Sector – The policy requires that the majority of clean heat services at the residential level go toward lower- and middle-income (LMI) households. Additionally, it requires that no less than half of those heating services provided to LMI households be “installed measures” that reduce heat costs over time.
  2. Increased Focus on Weatherization and Electrification, While Limiting Biofuels & Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) – The policy specifies that options like network, grid, and micro-grid geothermal, ground-source heat pumps, solar hot water heaters, on-site and community renewable electricity paired with heat pumps – are all eligible clean heat measures. It also puts restrictions on eligible biofuels and RNG that ramp these energy options down over time, in line with climate science, ensuring that the market moves towards eventually only the most clean and renewable energy sources available. 
  3. Increasing Climate Accountability and Transparency – In addition to the limits on biofuels and RNG, the bill lays out several key components of how lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions will be calculated. How these energy sources will be measured and scored in terms of clean heat credits will be transparent and accountable, and will ensure that any emissions from extraction, production and use are accounted for. 

Call to Action

We will need your help to ensure that Vermont passes a well-crafted Affordable Heat Act so we can tackle emissions in our second-most polluting sector equitably and affordably. This bill is already getting hearings, and legislators are already hearing voices of opposition. Please reach out to your legislators and urge them to support a strong and equitable Affordable Heat Act. Find your legislators and their contact information here. 

If you want more information about the Affordable Heat Act, including answers to some of the big questions about the policy, check out the newly-published Frequently Asked Questions page from our friends at the Energy Action Network. 

We look forward to working with you all, and many others, to advance the Affordable Heat Act and much more.