You are here

Robert Miller Commentary: Climate economy is an important opportunity

Printer-friendly versionPDF version
2017-08-18

As seen in vtdigger.org: https://vtdigger.org/2017/08/16/robert-miller-climate-economy-important-...

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Robert Miller, of Shelburne, who is CEO of VSECU and a former commissioner of the Vermont Department of Economic Development. He serves on the boards of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, Capstone Community Action and the Energy Action Network. He is on the advisory board of UVM’s Grossman School of Business Sustainable Innovation MBA program, and is a member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values and the Community Development Institutions Advisory Council of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank.

Despite growing uncertainty about our national climate policy, we can be proud that the Green Mountain State is widely recognized as a leader in green initiatives. Across the state, there is a shared commitment to environmental protection and carbon reduction. It goes without saying that Vermonters would buck any effort to shy away from our environmental responsibilities, but what’s truly unique about our great state is how we’re going about it: by tackling multi-generational and global climate challenges to create opportunity and prosperity and grow our economy.

In fact, the Union of Concerned Scientists recently ranked Vermont second in the nation as a clean energy winner in their Clean Energy Momentum: Ranking State Progress. The biggest reason behind that ranking? Jobs. Vermont leads the nation for its percentage of employees engaged in clean energy jobs. One in every 16 workers in Vermont, or approximately 10,000 of our friends and neighbors, are employed in the clean energy sector at least part time. The number has grown 29 percent in the last four years — just one indicator that clean energy initiatives are good for our economy and job creation, in addition to being good for our planet.

Clean energy benefits us economically in other ways as well. Business leaders, policy makers and others in our state are taking strides to increase availability of renewable sources of energy right here in our state. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, from 2011 to 2016, “Vermont installed 59.2 megawatts of commercial-scale solar photovoltaic capacity,” with almost half — 26.8 megawatts — in 2016 alone. These are the solar panels you may see on buildings, as standalone systems, or as field arrays.

All kinds of businesses, from start-ups to large, established entities, are promoting innovative ideas to grow our climate economy while putting clean energy in reach of more Vermonters. Our organization — VSECU, a member-owned cooperative and not-for-profit credit union — is one of them. We offer low-interest loans for all sorts of projects that increase efficiency and reduce energy use under a program called “VGreen.”

When Vermonters have the knowledge and tools to make their homes more efficient, they’ll need less energy, which will save them money. VGreen also offers lower rates to borrowers purchasing electric vehicles. Pair this effort with local power company initiatives, like public quick-charging stations, and it’s no wonder that Vermont gets top scores for our adoption of electric vehicles. We even help members finance the purchase of traditional and power-assisted bikes. If it’s energy efficient, we offer financing for it.

Next month, I will join other Vermonters in welcoming leading innovators from across the country for “Catalysts of the Climate Economy (cc:econ),” a three-day national innovation summit at the University of Vermont that brings together entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders who are actively engaged in solving the challenges our planet faces due to climate change. I am proud to be among participants who know that attending to our generation’s responsibility for the environment can result in economic benefits for everyone.

VSECU is an enthusiastic sponsor because this summit is all about bringing us together to empower possibilities for greater social, financial and environmental prosperity. We will hear from national and local leaders sharing their experience and their ideas for leveraging the climate economy; we will hear pitches from energy entrepreneurs and learn about the latest clean energy advancements; and we will explore and tour some of the great places in Vermont where energy innovation is happening. I encourage anyone who has an interest in these topics to learn more and consider attending.

It is fitting that cc:econ is produced by the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD), an organization that brings Vermonters together across political lines and organizational boundaries to create a better future for our state. I’m certain that the spirit evident in the success of VCRD’s work will be contagious enough to spread throughout the attendees of this national summit. Climate change is a real and serious issue globally. I’m proud to live in a place where we are meeting this challenge head-on by applying the ingenuity and skill we are known for and growing our economy in the process.

To find out more about the conference, visit https://www.ccecon17.com.