Burlington is Vermont's largest city, with a population of approximately 42,000 and an area of 16 square miles. Burlington Electric Department (BED), Vermont’s largest municipally-owned electric utility, serves more than 20,000 customers. BED has delivered innovative energy efficiency programs for nearly 30 years that have enabled Burlington to meet the needs of a growing local economy while using less electricity than a quarter-century ago. In 2014, Burlington also became the first city in the country to source 100% of its electricity from renewables, and today is poised to make the transition to net zero energy in the building and transportation sectors.
Achieving Burlington’s goals will be no easy feat, given that over 90% of its 17,000 housing units use gas for heating. In 2017, BED launched a cold-climate heat pump rebate program that includes a combination of weatherization services and installations of high-efficiency electric heat pumps for its oil and unregulated fuel customers, since these homes were more likely to experience savings compared to inexpensive gas homes. In this program, BED prioritized low- and middle-income customers so they can be first to benefit from energy savings and gain access to cooling. Building on the success of this program, BEI is working with BED to explore policy and program options to increase the number of homes with weatherization and electrical capacity, making them “heat pump ready” so that installing the system will be a more cost-effective and comfortable solution for residents. Burlington will work with a range of stakeholders in the policy development process to ensure these solutions are appropriate for the local climate and responsive to residents’ needs.