BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 20

CASE STUDY: BURLINGTON'S NET ZERO JOURNEY

GOING ALL THE WAY:
WHAT IT WILL REALLY
TAKE TO ACHIEVE
NET ZERO ENERGY IN
BURLINGTON, VT
BY MIKE CROWLEY

T

he City of Burlington, VT, is the first U.S.
city to establish an energy efficiency
utility (EEU), and the first to source
100 percent of its electricity from
renewables. It's now renewed its efforts
with the recent announcement of a net zero energy
goal through its existing Climate Action Plan
platform, first proposed by its municipal electric
utility, Burlington Electric Department (BED). An
impressive list of players have stepped up to this
challenge, including a coalition of designers, builders,
renewable and energy efficiency experts and
financiers. But there are some key challenges that
they must overcome. Burlington is a college town,
and most of its residents are college students who
rent apartments in an aging building stock. The city
is growing quickly, with many major developments
in the works. This article will chronicle Burlington's
net zero strategy and distill transferable lessons
learned. What does it really take to radically
change an industry to achieve net zero, especially
in a place with older buildings and increasing
weather extremes?
ACHIEVING A FLAT ENERGY PROFILE
In 1987 the Burlington Electric Department (BED)
was at a crossroads. Many of their energy generation
contracts were up for renewal, and they were faced
with a hard choice: invest in their own generation
sources or renew expensive contracts with electric
generators. The Electric Commission looked to
recommendations from the Rocky Mountain
Institute: instead of building more generation,
why not invest in energy efficiency programs
that bring down demand? That idea set BED on a
long journey, resulting in a 2016 energy demand
that was 4 percent lower than in 1989, despite
significant growth.
It started in earnest in 1990, when voters passed
an $11M municipal bond that established BED as the

20 * BUILDINGENERGY VOL. 36 NO. 2 | FALL 2017

nation's first energy efficiency utility (EEU). Instead
of using bond money to invest in new generation,
the funds were directed to efficiency programs
designed to generate extra capacity by reducing the
city's overall electricity demand. Chris Burns, BED's
Director of Energy Services said that investment not
only yielded a 2:1 savings ratio relative to contracting
for power, it also ensured that money stayed local,
resulting in a "multiplier effect." The investment
enabled BED to build in-house energy efficiency
expertise that now resides in Burns' Energy
Services Team.
The bond inspired the state legislature to enact a
statewide energy efficiency charge; a small charge
on all electricity bills that is reinvested in energy
efficiency. This charge, combined with the initial
bond, enabled BED to invest $29M and leverage an
additional $32M in energy efficiency investments
from its customers over the last 27 years.
These investments have effectively flattened
Burlington's electricity load, saving an average of
$10M per year.
BED's success gave Burlington the confidence
to make a major greenhouse gas reduction
commitment through its first Climate Action Plan in
2000. The plan, updated in 2016, commits the city
to radically transforming its energy use away from
fossil fuels in buildings and transportation.
A key pillar of the city's carbon reduction strategy
is what Burns calls "strategic electrification:"
efficiently using electricity not just to power
buildings, but also cars, busses and even bicycles.
From a carbon reduction viewpoint, this strategy
makes sense; in 2015, Burlington became the first
city in the country to source 100 percent of its
electricity from renewable sources.
A CHALLENGING RESIDENTIAL MARKET
Burlington is a college town. That means that
of the ten thousand apartments in Burlington,



BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017

From the Executive Director: A strategic plan for emerging professionals.
From the Board Chair: Taking flight into new territory.
What is Strategic Electrification? Simply Put, It’s an Energy Transformation: A core pathway to deep carbon reduction.
Better Steam Heat: Generating steam system upgrades in New York City.
Going All the Way:What it will really take to achieve net zero energy in Burlington, VT.
Are You Forging the Weakest Link?: A deeper dive into how the quest for resilience alters the design process.
Air Quality in Your Bedroom: Nighttime Carbon Dioxide Levels in the Bedrooms of 22 Vermont Homes: Can occupants of leaky houses breathe easy in their sleep?
Inclusive Diversity Key to Sustainability: Opinion: Sustainability planning must embrace diversity.
BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines: An interview with Jonathan Orpin.
High Performance Walls: Discover an alternative to traditional insulation methods that can reach superior insulation performance with thinner walls.
SAF®– A Solar Faade to Stay?: A technical overview of the newest attachment systems in the low-energy construction market.
NESEA Green Pages: This premier resource for sustainability professionals in the Northeast and beyond is just a few pages away. To have your business listed in next year’s Green Pages and become a NESEA business member today, visit nesea.org/join.
Index to Advertisers
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Intro
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - cover1
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - cover2
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 3
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 4
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 5
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - From the Executive Director: A strategic plan for emerging professionals.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 7
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - From the Board Chair: Taking flight into new territory.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 9
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - What is Strategic Electrification? Simply Put, It’s an Energy Transformation: A core pathway to deep carbon reduction.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 11
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 12
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 13
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 14
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 15
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Better Steam Heat: Generating steam system upgrades in New York City.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 17
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 18
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 19
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - INSERT1
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - INSERT2
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Going All the Way:What it will really take to achieve net zero energy in Burlington, VT.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 21
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 22
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 23
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Are You Forging the Weakest Link?: A deeper dive into how the quest for resilience alters the design process.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 25
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 26
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 27
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 28
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 29
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Air Quality in Your Bedroom: Nighttime Carbon Dioxide Levels in the Bedrooms of 22 Vermont Homes: Can occupants of leaky houses breathe easy in their sleep?
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 31
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 32
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 33
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Inclusive Diversity Key to Sustainability: Opinion: Sustainability planning must embrace diversity.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 35
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines: An interview with Jonathan Orpin.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 37
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - High Performance Walls: Discover an alternative to traditional insulation methods that can reach superior insulation performance with thinner walls.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 39
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 40
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 41
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - SAF®– A Solar Faade to Stay?: A technical overview of the newest attachment systems in the low-energy construction market.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 43
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 44
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 45
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 46
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 47
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - NESEA Green Pages: This premier resource for sustainability professionals in the Northeast and beyond is just a few pages away. To have your business listed in next year’s Green Pages and become a NESEA business member today, visit nesea.org/join.
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 49
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 50
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - INSERT3
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - INSERT4
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 51
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 52
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 53
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 54
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 55
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 56
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 57
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 58
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 59
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 60
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 61
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 62
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 63
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 64
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 65
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 66
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 67
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 68
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 69
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 70
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 71
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 72
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 73
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 74
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 75
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 76
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - Index to Advertisers
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - 78
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - cover3
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - cover4
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert1
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert2
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert3
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert4
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert5
BUILDING ENERGY - Fall 2017 - outsert6
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ENEB/ENEB0118
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ENEB/ENEB0217
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ENEB/ENEB0117
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ENEB/ENEB0216
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ENEB/ENEB0116
https://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/ENEB/ENEB0215
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com