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[Episode #187] – Transition in Vermont, Part 2

This is Part 2 of the first series in a new format we are piloting for the Energy Transition Show. Instead of exploring a particular topic with one guest who has a non-commercial perspective, as most of our shows so far have done, this new format aims to tell the stories about how the energy transition is proceeding in some of the places Chris visits in his travels. Through interviews with multiple local experts, including those who are working in the energy sector, we hope this new format will help to demonstrate how the unique challenges and opportunities in every place will determine its particular path through the energy transition.

We are kicking off this new show format with some stories about Vermont for a simple reason: When it comes to the energy transition, Vermont stands out as a place that punches way above its weight. It has innovated numerous policies and mechanisms to reduce its energy consumption and carbon emissions that have been emulated by other US states. And it continues to serve as a model to the rest of the country for effective energy transition strategies.

You’ll learn more about all of these accomplishments, as well as what makes Vermont such an exemplar in the energy transition, in this two-part miniseries based on interviews with eight local experts.

Part 1 was in Episode #186, in which we discussed the supply side of Vermont’s energy picture. In this second part, we look at the demand side.

Interviews with guests featured in this episode were recorded from October 11-15, 2021.

Guest #1:

Darren Springer was appointed and confirmed as General Manager of Burlington Electric Department in October 2018, and since that time Burlington Electric Department developed and published its Net Zero Energy Roadmap, which the Smart Electric Power Alliance termed the “first US Net Zero 2030 plan.” During Darren’s tenure, Burlington has been named the top northeastern city per capita for solar in 2019 and 2020 by Environment America, and launched dozens of new strategic electrification incentive programs and initiatives to help Burlington Electric Department customers switch from fossil fuel to clean electric technologies in the heating and transportation sectors. Formerly Darren served as Chief of Staff to Governor Peter Shumlin, Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Public Service Department, Senior Policy Advisor for Energy & Environment and Chief Counsel to U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders, and as Program Director for Energy & Transportation at the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.

On Twitter: @BurlingtonElec

On the Web: Darren’s page at Burlington Electric

Guest #2:

Johanna Miller is the Energy & Climate Program Director for the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC). Johanna also serves as the coordinator of the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN), the statewide network of 120+ town energy committees and the partners who support them. In 2020, Johanna was appointed to the 23-member Vermont Climate Council, which is charged with crafting a plan to meet the climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act. Before that, in 2017, Johanna was appointed as a member of Governor Phil Scott’s Climate Action Commission, and she also serves on the board of the Clean Energy Development Fund, the Vermont Energy Education Program board, and the Vermont System Planning Committee. Prior to joining VNRC in 2005, Johanna spent five years working as an organizer and policy expert for a statewide environmental policy and advocacy organization in Michigan.

On the web: Johanna’s profile at VNRC

Guest #3:

John Dillon is a longtime print and broadcast journalist who covered Vermont for almost four decades, specializing in energy, agriculture and environmental issues. Dillon’s work has also appeared on NPR, in the Boston Globe, and in various regional publications. He retired from Vermont Public Radio in 2021.

On Twitter: @JDillonVT

On the Web: John’s profile at VPR

Guest #4:

Josh Castonguay is VP and Chief Innovation Officer at Green Mountain Power. Josh is a creative problem solver who leads Green Mountain Power’s pioneering innovation team which delivers results for Vermonters by accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels with programs that reduce costs for customers while boosting resiliency and strengthening the grid. He’s led award-winning initiatives including home energy storage programs, the nation’s first 100% renewable distribution circuit microgrid, and leveraging electric vehicles and other flexible resources to reduce peak energy costs for GMP customers. Josh is an electrical engineer and proud graduate of the University of Maine. He lives in Vermont with his wife and two children.

On the Web:

Guest #5:

Kerrick Johnson is the Chief Innovation and Communications Officer at Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO). He conceives and accelerates development of initiatives that deliver value to the company, its customer/owners and Vermont. Kerrick also advances the Company’s trusted partner mission though print, digital and social media, as well as community engagement and advocacy work. He previously served as a Co-Founder and Chief Ecosystem Officer for Utopus Insights, a New York-based energy analytics company formed by IBM, Boston Consulting Group and VELCO that was acquired in 2018 by Vestas Wind Systems A/S.

On the Web: Kerrick’s page at VELCO

Guest #6:

Dr. Paul Hines is VP, Power Systems at EnergyHub, where he leads the Data Science and Power Systems Intelligence (DataPSI) team, which develops and maintains advanced control, prediction, analysis and machine learning algorithms used in EnergyHub’s DERMS. Paul joined EnergyHub in 2021 through he acquisition of Packetized Energy, a distributed energy software startup, where he was co-founder and CEO. From 2007-2021, Paul was a professor in electrical engineering and director of the energy systems laboratory at the University of Vermont, leading research on energy reliability, resilience and distributed technology and policy. Formerly he worked in power systems engineering roles at the US National Energy Technology Laboratory, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Alstom ESCA, and Black and Veatch.

On Twitter: @paulhinesenergy

On the Web:  Paul’s LinkedIn profile | Paul’s faculty page at UVM

Guest #7:

Richard Cowart is a Principal at the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP). He launched and directed RAP’s Europe program from 2009-2018. He served for a decade on the Executive Committee of the International Energy Agency’s demand-side management program, and was appointed to three terms as chair of the Electricity Advisory Committee of the United States Department of Energy. A highly-experienced regulator, Mr. Cowart served as commissioner and chair of the Vermont Public Service Board from 1986 to 1999. He was elected president of the New England Conference of Public Utility Commissioners and chair of the U.S. Regulators’ Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment.

Mr. Cowart has worked closely with industry as a member of the Board of the Electric Power Research Institute, and now serves on the Environmental Advisory Committee of the New York Independent System Operator and is the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.

Mr. Cowart was previously assistant professor and director of the Program in Planning and Law at the University of California (UC), Berkeley (1980-85), and executive officer and general counsel of the Vermont Environmental Board (1978-80).

On the Web:  Richard’s profile at RAP

Guest #8:

Dr. Richard Watts is the founder of the Center for Community News, Co-Director of the Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program at the University of Vermont and coordinator of the Community News Service – a state-wide, multi-outlet academic-news partnership with a mission to provide content to community news outlets and give students applied learning experiences. Richard has a master’s degree in journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University and a Ph.D. related to media studies from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and has worked as a reporter, campaign manager, policy analyst and researcher.

On the Web:  Richard’s faculty page at UVM

Recording date: October 11, 2021

Air date: December 7, 2022

Geek rating: 4