Burlington, a town of 42,000 in Vermont, recently bought the Winooski One 7.4 MW hydro plant and now claims to be 100% renewable. Well, maybe. While I applaud them for moving towards renewables, their logic is claiming to be 100% renewable is overblown and misleading.
Over time Burlington will indeed produce more renewable energy than it uses. It sells the excess into the market. Plus, it sells renewable energy credits to southern New England utilities, and buys back cheaper credits. So, somehow, to some, this means the city is 100% renewable even though it sometimes buys fossil fuel energy. Bzzt. Sorry, that does not compute.
Sandy Levine, of the Vermont office of the Conservation Law Foundation, commended Vermont utilities for seeking renewable sources of power but questioned the credit trading.
“They are selling the renewable energy credits to customers in other states. Those customers have the renewable and clean energy benefits of that power,” Levine said. “Simply using accounting measures to make claims about clean energy doesn’t get us there.”