When he was in Vermont, President Obama called for a "doubling
down" in support of clean energy. Prior to taking the stage,
he was introduced by Jeanne Morrissey, the head of a local
contracting company. One of the last times Morrissey spoke in
public she stood heartfelt before a field of solar trackers,
fighting back tears as she explained how the project provided her
workers employment, enabling them to feed their families during
tough economic times.
As Vermonters-citizens of a state that was just ranked No.1 in the
country for "green jobs" by the Department of Labor-we've really
got something to be proud of.
But Vermont's growing renewable energy industry is creating far
more than just traditional "green jobs." For example, when a solar
tracker, manufactured by Vermont company AllEarth Renewables, is
installed (whether it's just one or 300) an entire chain of
activity is triggered: metal work at NSA Industries in St.
Johnsbury and Northeast Precision in Lyndonville, components from
Milton, cable assemblies from Rutland County, electrical boards
from Grennon's Solder Works in Bristol.
Companies like Sunward, a Vergennes solar hot water manufacturer,
also triggers an entirely different chain reaction of local job
In an era where our economy seems to be offshoring virtually
everything, Vermont clean energy complanies are moving toward
local. AllEarth Renewables recently on-shored circuit board
assembly from Taiwan to Image-Tek in Springfield,
And that's just on the manufacturing side. Vermont installers
are also hard at work.
Producing renewable, local energy with technologies manufactured
literally in our backyard is in the best of Vermont
I think back to the idle sawmill that once churned away in my
hometown of Calais. In its day, it was using clean, local
energy to produce the products people needed. That's possible again
in the 21st Century.
Vermont was largely bypassed by the industrial revolution. We've
struggled to keep up with the internet and wireless revolutions. We
cannot afford to be left out of the clean technology
But each and every state is competing for its own slice of the
renewable energy pie. And, frankly, we've seen firsthand the many
states fighting more aggressively than Vermont to develop renewable
energy markets. If we don't get our pro-growth policies right, we
risk being left behind.
Here's an example: last year Vermont's groSolar sold its
residential business to SolarCity, another national company. After
the sale SolarCity made clear it had no intention to do business in
Vermont based on our solar market, taking potential jobs
Our policies need to be right or this clean energy revolution will
pass us by.
So what can Governor Shumlin and legislators do this session?
• Fully fund the successful Clean Energy Development Fund
(CEDF). Kavet, Rockler & Associates found that every $1
invested by the CEDF results in $4 in private capital investment.
It must be fully funded or the many small solar energy, community
wind, and solar hot water installation businesses around the state
will face a market that yo-yo's unpredictably, stifling jobs, local
manufacturing, and the ability of many Vermonters to afford
• Expand Vermont's Standard Offer program for distributed
renewable energy projects. We should encourage renewable energy
development in areas near energy-users like IBM or Green Mountain
Coffee where new energy generation nearby will avoid wasting
ratepayer dollars on unnecessary transmission upgrades.
• Provide predictable and fair property taxation for
renewable projects because if done right, new investors will fund
more projects and property tax revenues will grow.
• Continue to improve Vermont's popular net metering program
enabling towns like Hinesburg, businesses like Concept II, and
homeowners, farms, and non-profits to produce their own renewable
energy- investing locally, creating good jobs, and securing their
future energy costs. Vermont utilities have demonstrated that
solar net metering benefits all utility customers.
We've got a choice. Vermont can manufacture clean technologies
installed by local workers producing the renewable energy we need
for decades right here. Or, we can let the industry of the
21st Century pass us by. Let's choose wisely.
Andrew Savage of Burlington is on the executive management team of
AllEarth Renewables and is former Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep.