Vermont institutions pool resources to win funding for clean energy innovations - Energy News Network

Vermont institutions pool resources to win funding for clean energy innovations – Energy News Network

A new consortium in Vermont aims to take advantage of the state’s small size and collaborative culture to make it a national model for clean energy innovation.

The Vermont Clean and Resilient Energy Consortium will seek federal grants to fund any number of projects related to clean energy delivery, renewable energy, decarbonization, and energy resilience.

“We’re kind of an interesting lab for some of this because of our small size,” said Julia S Moore, secretary of the Vermont Agency for Natural Resources, who is a member of the consortium. “We have the opportunity to build these networks which I think will be difficult in larger jurisdictions.”

Kirk Dombrowski, University of Vermont vice president for research, said the consortium met after it began “cold calling” with heads of utility and energy companies, heads of government agencies, and energy-related nonprofits.

“I have a new grant writing shop here at the university, and we work with a consulting firm and lobbyists in Washington that can give us a lot of good intelligence about research and programming opportunities coming out of federal agencies,” Dombrowski said. “So I put this value proposition before them – we have a lot more infrastructure than we have in the past to handle some of these partnerships.”

The Federation is operated by a Steering Committee made up of one person from each of the 20 member organizations. Dombrowski said that members who want to get into a project have to bear some of the cost.

“If the Department of Energy says, there’s a chance, say, energy sheds, we’ll take it to the consortium and say, Who wants that?” He said.

The emergence of the consortium comes as Vermont is advancing with ambition Climate Agenda. The state’s Greenhouse Solutions Act, passed in 2020, set legally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26% below 2005 levels by 2025; 40% below 1990 levels by 2030; and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The Climate Action Plan adopted last December identifies more than 200 priority actions aimed at moving the country towards achieving these goals.

Chase Whiting, a staff attorney at Vermont’s Conservation Law Foundation, said binding obligations of the law put Vermont in a good place for energy innovation by “creating a sense of urgency.” He said working together through a consortium to help solve the many challenges ahead is perfectly in line with Vermont’s culture.

“Vermonters have a really long tradition of rolling up their sleeves and interacting with community members to solve problems that affect the entire community,” Whiting said. “The style of town meeting in government is not a relic here.”

innovation feature

The facilities in Vermont have already shown a willingness to innovate. Time magazine his name recently Green Mountain Power is one of the most influential companies in the country to pilot a renewable energy micro-grid designed to power the rural town of Banton in the event of a major blackout. Vermont Electric Cooperative is more than halfway to achieving its goal of being 100% renewable energy by 2030, and offers incentives to customers to install battery storage systems and electric vehicle chargers.

“We innovate in a way that is completely in line with what our 34,000 members are asking for,” said Rebecca Town, CEO of the cooperative.

Fairmont also has an innovative advantage in that it adopts more than 90% of smart meters and digital meters that allow utilities and customers to track and manage the flow of electricity. These counters provide a live data stream for real statewide consumption, which may benefit researchers in a number of ways.

said Professor Jeff Marshall, associate dean for research at the University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.

“How do you deal with a grid where 80% of your energy is from intermittent renewable sources, such as wind and solar?” He said.

They expect to take advantage of years of accumulated smart meter data, and put that along with weather flow data (wind, snowfall, etc.) “to try to figure out what kind of intermittent periods we might have in the state, and how we can deal with something like this,” Marshall said. .

Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, better known as VEIC, which advises on energy efficiency in 25 states and is responsible for Vermont’s Efficiency, is also a member of the consortium. CEO Rebecca Foster said the nonprofit can quickly transfer successes in Vermont to other states, as it is already doing with Vermont’s highly successful heat pump certification program.

“That’s what we’d like to see more of – using Vermont as a living laboratory to demonstrate methods that will be needed,” Foster said.

A divisive start

However, the consortium’s first official initiative raised some eyebrows. Vermont Gas Systems, a natural gas supplier, and GlobalFoundries, a semiconductor manufacturer, are partnering with the university on a green hydrogen pilot project at the manufacturer’s Essex Junction facility.

Thomas Murray, Vermont Gas’s vice president of decarbonization technology, said the project involves running electricity from renewable sources through an electrolyzer that extracts hydrogen from water, then transfers that hydrogen to the plant’s boilers.

“Those boilers run on natural gas today,” he said. “This will mix 2% to 5% green hydrogen in a few boilers.”

The project aims to reduce the facility’s significant carbon footprint, and Murray hopes to develop a sustainable business model.

Extracting hydrogen through electrolysis takes a lot of energy, said Whiting, of the Conservation Law Foundation. If the state had a surplus of renewable energy, he said, that might make sense, as green hydrogen could serve as a storehouse for that surplus.

“But we don’t have that — we don’t have enough renewable energy,” Whiting said. “So using the renewable energy we have in an energy-intensive process of hydrogen production means we’ll use less clean energy to power heat pumps and electric vehicles, and use more dirty electricity to electrify our buildings.”

Vermont Gas will fund the $6 million project, but plans to apply for some of the $8 million in funding from the Department of Energy. Clean Hydrogen Hub Programpart of a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Dombrovsky admitted that the initiative has skeptics. But he said, “We’re in the business of answering questions. I think that’s why Vermont Gas and GlobalFoundries are reaching out — can you help us see if this is any good? The critics may be right, or they may be wrong. That’s what we want to find out.” .

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