Rebecca Holcombe: Building Vermont’s Green Energy Economy

BURLINGTON, VT:  On July 15, 2020, Democratic Candidate for Governor, Rebecca Holcombe, released a set of recommendations on building Vermont’s Green Energy Economy.

“First and foremost, we need to thank the young people of the Sunrise Movement, who have moved the needle on climate justice. Because of their advocacy, our Democratic nominee for President, Joe Biden, has released a very progressive $2 trillion dollar climate plan of his own.

“Our climate crisis is here, and so are the economic and social justice challenges we face. To address these challenges in meaningful ways, in the face of scarce resources, we need to act aggressively to transition to a local and sustainable green energy economy, and to ensure that less wealthy Vermonters benefit from the transition. I recommend we take robust action on climate change and protect vulnerable Vermonters, so we transition to a green economy in an equitable way,” said Holcombe.

“Moving our economy beyond fossil fuels is good for our planet, good for our economy, and good for our health. Rebecca understands that it will take big ideas to move forward on this. When she’s elected Governor, we will start making the progress so desperately needed,” said Mary Sullivan, State Representative from Burlington.

“Our hub has felt a connection with Rebecca Holcombe since our first meeting with her. Her thoughtfulness, deep understanding of the problems facing Vermonters, and her brilliance make her an incredible candidate. I am proud to have been on the team of Sunrise members that worked to make our endorsement of her possible,” said Emily Thompson, Co-Founder and Political Co-Coordinator of Sunrise Middlebury.

“I’ve been an activist with Middlebury College students on climate justice for six years. I have seen first-hand the importance of listening to our young people. Young people have been leaders in the fight against climate change, so when they endorse a candidate, we need to listen to them,” said Fran Putnam of Sunrise Middlebury.

Holcombe consulted many stakeholders in the development of these recommendations, including Climate Solutions Caucus Co-Chair, Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, and Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Technology, Representative Tim Briglin. 


Building a Local, Sustainable, and Prosperous Green Energy Economy

Our current dependence on out-of-state energy, and out-of-state fossil fuels in particular, is depleting our economy and reducing opportunities for high wage green jobs in our state, all while reducing our long-term resilience. To bring these dollars back and create opportunity here in Vermont, we need to develop a long-term strategic plan for investing in renewable and green energy, produced locally. Keeping more of our energy dollars in state will strengthen our economy, and also build our resilience in the face of more frequent storms and political and economic uncertainty. As Governor, I will:

  • Boost new, in-state, green and renewable generation. Consider: solar generates only about 1% of Vermont’s electricity, and 20-50 year old hydropower facilities in Quebec do not avert climate change, and are not “green.” We need new facilities to affect climate change, and they need to be in-state to have positive economic impact in Vermont.
  • Manage the transition to a green energy future in a way that is fair and equitable. The health impacts of pollution and carbon emissions are disproportionately borne by less wealthy and historically marginalized people in our communities. That being said, renewable energy projects are not always fair, either. For example, indigenous communities of Quebec have borne the brunt of “clean” hydropower flowing South across the border to Vermont. It is our responsibility to ensure that our green energy transition does not harm marginalized or vulnerable communities. Through careful planning and progressive investments, we can make sure all have a positive stake in the transition. 
  • Encourage investment by Vermont residents in Vermont renewables. This will help keep the price of electricity low and rapidly reduce the cost structure of renewables for low-income Vermonters. 
  • Strengthen our workforce. I will pool resources for our career and tech centers and our state college system for workforce development, to allow Vermonters to get the industry-recognized credentials and/or degrees they need to drive our transition to green energy and green construction.
  • Work towards electrification of home heating and transportation, and invest in weatherization of our housing stock. I will pay particular attention to low-income Vermonters and renters. This will increase our electricity usage, which lowers rates, while bringing clean generation in state.  
  • Modify regulatory oversight of our utilities to incentivize our emerging green energy economy, storage solutions and smart grid solutions. I will ensure that regulations are responsive to the future we need, not the past.
  • Partner with neighboring states on transportation solutions. A regional partnership will generate revenue for transportation options for lower income Vermonters.
  • Develop streamlined permitting and support for housing investments that expedite development of climate-friendly, green-energy powered affordable homes in walkable downtowns.

Our climate crisis is here, and so are the economic and social justice challenges we face. To address these challenges in meaningful ways, in the face of scarce resources, we need to act aggressively to transition to a local and sustainable green energy economy, and to ensure that less wealthy Vermonters benefit from the transition. My plan will protect vulnerable Vermonters and will transition to a green economy in an equitable way.

This sort of work is starting to happen at the federal level, inspired by young voices from the Sunrise Movement. Our Democratic nominee for President, Joe Biden, announced a $2 trillion proposal for a Green Energy New Deal. Now is the time to move aggressively – at all levels of government – to shape our green, renewable, and local energy future. My plan will commit Vermont to taking sweeping action on climate change, and being a leader in building a green energy economy.

Vermonters want to save money and protect our environment. They know we can’t wait until gas is $12 per gallon, or until more frequent floods and storms have eroded our infrastructure and disrupted agriculture, to address climate change. They also know that generating energy locally will improve our resilience in the face of climate change and economic uncertainty. To ensure Vermont is vibrant in 20 years, our state government needs to be working now to help Vermonters weatherize their homes and businesses, generate their own power, move towards cheaper and cleaner forms of transportation, and focus on the construction of new climate-friendly homes in villages and downtowns. My plan has that long term horizon.

Transitioning to local, green energy is about putting our scarce dollars to work creating opportunity and paying good wages right here in Vermont. Vermonters spend about $3 billion on energy every year (10% of Vermont’s GDP), yet we buy almost 90% of our energy from out of state or out of country. Most of this energy is fossil fuels, out of state nuclear power, or industrial-scale hydropower from Canada. If more of those dollars were spent here, paying living wages to Vermont workers, we’d have more money in our Vermont economy. My plan will focus on those Vermont based jobs.

It’s time for Vermont to step up. With new leadership, we can leave inaction behind. Taking care of the environment can be an opportunity for every Vermonter, in every region of our state, to live and earn well, be healthy, and care for a family. I am running for Governor because I believe we must build a better future for all Vermonters.