University of Vermont

Green Dorm

1st Energy Action Seminar- Asa Hopkins

by Lisa Watts Natkin, Curriculum & Community Connections Graduate Assistant

The Energy Action Seminar began on September 9th with Asa Hopkins of the Vermont Public Service Department, as it’s first speaker.  The Energy Action Seminar occurs weekly on Monday nights at 4:05- 5:20 in room 413 in the Waterman building.  Sponsored by the Clean Energy Fund and the Environmental Program, the Energy Action Seminar is a weekly seminar series exploring strategies for Vermont to meet its goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050. 

In front of a packed room (100 attendees), Mr. Hopkins outlined the most recent version of Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan.  By law a new energy plan needs to be created every 5 years. Transportation is the largest sector of energy use (35%).  An easy estimation for energy usage is dividing it into thirds; a third for transportation, mostly gasoline, a third for residential use and a third for commercial and industrial sectors.

Currently, 23% of our energy is renewable.  In addition to changing our energy sources, we need to reduce our energy usage by half by 2050 to make it possible to reach our goals.  There are four key benefits for reaching this goal: 1) to foster economic security and independence, 2) to safeguard our environment, 3) to drive innovation and job creation, and 4) to increase community involvement and investment. 

Education, policy initiatives, funding alternatives and technological innovations are important solution strategies.  It is challenging to determine which mix of renewable energy sources best match the energy needs of Vermonters.  After that determination, the targeted policies, infrastructure creations and incentive programs need to be funded to encourage change.

The audience questioned Mr. Hopkins about the most efficient types of policies and infrastructures for meeting Vermont’s goal.  Mr. Hopkin shared the possibility of helping private businesses install electric car charging stations.  This practice is beneficial to the business as it encourages drivers to visit the business while their cars are charging.  Electric car battery technology needs improvement before widespread use of electric cars makes sense for most Vermonters.  The crowd also discussed the following behavior changes to help reduce energy consumption: biking, turning down heat and using public transportation were mentioned.