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 natural gas for heating. An additional 800 BED customers depend on fuel oil, propane, or other unregulated fuels for heating—which tend to be more costly and emit more greenhouse gas emissions. Finding cost-effective applications is important to BED to maintain its status as a trusted advisor for delivering utility savings, so 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. 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. Cold-climate heat pumps are also becoming a popular option in multifamily new construction. So far, BED has provided incentives for over 250 cold-climate heat pumps combined with building insulation, with demand across Burlington residents for clean heating and cooling options continuing to rise.