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Vermont’s Largest City Now 100% Powered by Renewables

Burlington, Vermont now acquires all of its energy from renewable sources, including wind, hydro, and biomass, after the recent purchase of 7.4 megawatt Winooski One hydroelectric project.

The city of 42,000 people, through the Burlington Electric Department, will get around one-third of its power from a biomass facility that primarily uses wood chips from logging residue; one-third from wind energy contracts; and one-third from the hydroelectric stations Winooski One and Hydro-Québec.

Vermont has a statewide goal of securing 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, which includes electricity, heating, and transportation.

“It shows that we’re able to do it, and we’re able to do it cost effectively in a way that makes Vermonters really positioned well for the future,” Christopher Recchia, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, told the Associated Press.

Washington Electric, another Vermont utility that services around 11,000 people across in the central and northern parts of the state, reached the 100 percent renewable milestone earlier this year. Both Burlington and Washington Electric reached the 100 percent milestone after several years of reducing consumption of traditional sources of power in favor of renewables.

It is important to note that neither utility claims that each of their customers’ electricity comes from renewable sources all the time — if the wind isn’t blowing and the rivers are low, they will buy power from traditional sources that include electricity generated from fossil fuels. However, when the resources are right, they will produce more than they can use, and the difference is sold to other utilities. They expect to sell more than they buy in the long term.

Several cities around the U.S. are exploring ways to free themselves of fossil fuels by exploring alternative forms of energy. New York City, for example, is in the midst of a pilot program that will convert the thousands of pounds of food waste currently shipped to out-of-state landfills into biogas, which will heat up to 5,200 homes throughout the city and help curb roughly 90,000 metric tons of the state’s annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In July, 12 leading US companies signed the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, created by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), to assert their purchasing needs of renewable energy in an effort to increase availability of cost-competitive clean energy. The companies — Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel,Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter & Gamble, REI, Sprint and Walmart — said they hope the principles will open up new opportunities for collaboration with utilities and energy suppliers to increase their ability to buy renewable energy.

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