Renewable energy powers entire American city

Global Business

Burlington, Vermont recently became the first city in the United States to use 100 percent renewable energy for its residents’ electricity needs.

Renewables often come at a premium but in Burlington electricity rates haven’t increased in years.

CGTN’s Karina Huber has more.

Burlington is a small municipality nestled in the green mountains of Vermont that abuts Lake Champlain.

With a population of 42,000, it’s a small town but one with big ambitions in sustainability.

In 2014, Burlington made history by becoming the first city in the U.S. to meet 100 percent of its electricity needs through renewables.

The town has a history of being environmentally conscious but its mayor said economics also drove the decision to go green.

“It’s actually made us financially stronger that we have achieved this goal. Our credit rating went up with our utility,” Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said. “We are isolated from the volatility of the fossil fuel markets.”

Forty-four percent of Burlington’s energy needs are met by a biomass facility that takes sustainably harvested wood chips from a 60-mile radius of the city and turns them into electricity.

Each day roughly 1800 tons of pine and timber are fed into a furnace that generates steam and ultimately power.

The facility was crucial to helping Burlington reach its goal. Hydro accounts for 35 percent of the city’s electricity generation. The rest is met by wind and solar.

Renewable energy is costlier than fossil fuels but people in Burlington haven’t seen a rate increase in nine years. The city’s utility company has managed that feat by selling renewable energy credits to other states.

Neale Lunderville, general manager of Burlington Electric, which is publicly owned and managed, said renewables are an investment into Vermont’s future.

“Vermont depends on having four distinct wonderful seasons to attract tourists and provide this awesome quality of life,” Lunderville said. “We believe that climate change will wreck that and that’s one of the reasons we’re working so hard to protect Vermont now and into the future.”

And can other cities replicate what Burlington has accomplished

“I think it will be difficult for other cities to get there as quickly as ours,“ Weinberger says, “but I do think that basic combination of political will and good, smart, technical people working on this goal is something that can and should be replicated everywhere.”

In the meantime, Burlington is on to its next green goal – to become a net zero energy city.

Kari Fulton discusses the global efforts to move to renewable energy sources

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke to Kari Fulton, environmental justice consultant, advocate and cultural historian. They discussed the global push for renewable energy in the era of Trump and his rallying call for fossil fuels.