Released a day before Rutland proclaimed itself the solar capital of New England, a new report prepared for the Vermont Department of Public Service indicates that Vermont's clean energy economy is surging.
Statistics compiled in the 2015 Vermont Clean Energy Industry Report show a 9.8 percent expansion in employment in the clean energy workforce over the past two years, with 6.2 percent occurring last year. There are 16,231 green energy jobs in Vermont and about 1,000 more are expected to be added in the next six months.
Department of Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia says they knew instinctively that clean and renewable energy being developed in the state was helping the economy, but needed specific data. “It’s approaching 5 percent of our workforce in clean energy jobs. And of course this does span the gamut of things from efficiency to contractors to solar developers and wind developers and instrumentation and insulators. It’s quite a range of people that are potentially working in it. It also tends to be a younger group of entrepreneurs who are coming in and starting businesses and trying to build businesses in this field.”
The report cites key barriers to further growth as insufficient incentive programs and customer perception of cost. But Renewable Energy Vermont Executive Director Gabrielle Stebbins says there are ways to make clean energy installation easy. “The hardest part is that a lot of these types of investments are longer term investments. And what we see again and again and again is if it’s possible to provide a mechanism so that the customer actually takes the energy savings and pays for it over the 20 years instead of all right up front the first year, we see fantastic cash flow right away.”
Carnot Communications owner Meredith Angwin, who has worked in the power industry, is unimpressed by the report. “It’s making a positive statement and I think it’s more positive than is really warranted. When you begin looking deeply into it, it doesn’t look as good as these statements say.”
Vermont Public Interest Research Group Climate And Energy Program Director Ben Walsh says the report underscores how vital efficiency and renewable energy are to the state. “The goal that the state has is 90 percent renewable by 2050 across all sectors. You look at this report and you see we’re moving incredibly rapidly. That’s why we’re seeing things like that 20 percent growth in solar jobs. The flip side of that is we’re still only about 2 percent solar in this state and in the single digits in wind. We have so much more room for growth.”