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Vermont   Vermont Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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Last Updated: August 20, 2020

Overview

Vermont consumes the least amount of energy of any state.

Vermont’s forest-covered mountains and fast-running rivers are home to substantial renewable energy resources, but the state has no fossil energy reserves.1,2,3 Only about 80 miles across at its widest, the state lies between the shores of the Connecticut River on its eastern border with New Hampshire and Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley on its western border with New York. The mountains that run the length of Vermont, from Canada in the north to the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts in the south, occupy most of the state and have Vermont’s greatest wind resources.4,5,6 Rivers that descend from the mountains and those that border the state provide hydroelectric resources.7 Forests that cover almost four-fifths of Vermont support the state’s wood products industry, whose byproducts also fuel electricity generation and home heating.8,9,10 Almost one in six Vermont households use wood for their primary heating source.11

Vermont is the second-smallest state by population, after Wyoming, and the eighth-smallest state by area.12,13 More than one-fourth of Vermont’s residents live along Lake Champlain in the northwestern county that includes the city of Burlington.14 Most other Vermonters live in small towns and on farms. Based on the percent of its population that lives in rural census districts, Vermont is one of the two most rural states in the nation.15 Vermonters use less total energy than the residents of any other state in the nation, and their total energy consumption per capita is among the lowest one-fifth of states. However, Vermont residents consume more than three times as much energy as is produced in the state.16,17 The residential sector, with its high heating requirements during the state’s frigid winters, is the largest energy end-use consumer in the state and accounts for more than one-third of Vermont’s end-use consumption, even though one in six Vermont homes are occupied only seasonally.18,19 The transportation sector follows at slightly less than one-third of state energy consumption. The commercial sector uses one-fifth and the industrial sector consumes slightly more than one-eighth.20

Electricity

Hydropower accounts for almost three-fifths of Vermont’s in-state electricity generation.

Since the permanent shutdown of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station at the end of 2014, Vermont’s in-state electricity net generation has come almost entirely from renewable resources.21,22 The state’s electric utilities own little generating capacity, and the state relies primarily on international imports of electricity and generation from in-state independent power producers.23,24,25 The largest share of electricity consumed in Vermont is hydroelectric power generated in Canada.26 Vermont has lost much of its electricity generating capacity in the past decade. The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station alone accounted for half of the state’s generating capacity and contributed as much as four-fifths of the state’s net generation until 2015.27,28 By 2019, in-state generation provided only about two-fifths of the electricity consumed in Vermont, and almost three-fifths of that in-state net generation came from hydroelectric power.29 An additional one-fifth of Vermont’s in-state generation came from biomass, and most of the rest came from wind and solar energy. Solar energy’s contribution more than tripled between 2015 and 2019. In 2019, generation from solar energy nearly equaled that from wind. Natural gas and petroleum together accounted for a very minor amount of Vermont’s in-state generation.30 Vermont is one of only three states—Rhode Island and Massachusetts are the others—with no in-state utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) coal-fired electricity generation.31

In 1956, Vermont's electric utilities pooled their transmission systems to connect with hydroelectric generators in New York and Canada, creating the nation’s first statewide transmission-only company, the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO).32 In addition to operating the state’s transmission system, VELCO, a regulated utility, represents the state’s utilities in power pool matters with the New England regional transmission operator, Independent System Operator—New England (ISO-NE).33 Vermont is the only New England state that has chosen not to restructure its electricity industry to allow retail competition. The state has 1 investor-owned distribution utility, 14 municipal utilities, and 2 rural electric cooperatives.34

Vermont uses less electricity per person than four-fifths of the states, in part because only about 1 in 20 Vermont households use electricity as their primary home heating source.35,36 In 1999, Vermont created an Energy Efficiency Utility Program to provide energy efficiency services to residential and business energy consumers.37 Vermont is also a member of the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), established to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power generation. Proceeds from the sale of RGGI carbon allowances help fund energy efficiency programs.38 Vermont has the lowest carbon dioxide emissions of any state.39

Renewable energy

Renewable resources provided 99.9% of Vermont’s electricity generation in 2019, the largest share for any state.

Vermont has the largest share of in-state electricity net generation from renewable resources—99.9% in 2019—of any state.40 More than half of Vermont’s in-state net generation comes from nearly 50 hydroelectric plants at dams around the state.41 Biomass, almost entirely from wood and wood waste, is used to produce nearly one-fifth of the electricity generated in Vermont.42 In addition to the almost one-sixth of Vermont households that rely on wood for heat, more than one-third of Vermont school children attend facilities heated by wood products.43,44 Vermont’s biomass resources also provide feedstock to the state’s one wood pellet manufacturing plant, which has a production capacity of 16,000 tons per year.45

Vermont also obtains renewable-sourced electricity from wind and solar energy. In 2019, Vermont’s five utility-scale wind farms contributed about one-sixth of the state’s net generation.46,47 Two of Vermont's commercial wind farms are on mountain crests near the state’s southern border. The others are spread across northern Vermont. The state also hosts a number of municipal and other small-scale (less than 1 megawatt) wind facilities.48,49 In 2019, utility-scale solar facilities accounted for more than 7% of Vermont’s in-state electricity net generation, and customer-sited, small-scale generating facilities accounted for an additional 7%.50 By the end of April 2020, Vermont had about 245 megawatts of solar capacity installed at large- and small-scale sites across the state.51 The state’s largest solar farm, with almost 20 megawatts of generating capacity, began operating in December 2018, and additional solar projects are in development.52,53

Vermont encourages small-scale, customer-sited renewable generation through many state programs and financial incentives. The state’s Clean Energy Development Fund assists small-scale and community projects that use environmentally sustainable electric generation and combined-heat-and-power technologies.54 Vermont has a feed-in tariff for small renewable energy facilities, called the Standard Offer, which guarantees small renewable facilities a specific price for their power for periods ranging from 10 to 25 years.55 The state also allows net metering of small, customer-sited renewable facilities. In January 2017, Vermont eliminated the cap on how much of an electricity supplier’s peak demand could be net-metered.56

Vermont was the only New England state without a mandatory renewable portfolio standard until 2015 when it adopted the nation’s first integrated renewable energy standard (RES).57 The RES was designed to increase renewable energy development while reducing the state’s total energy use and costs. Vermont’s average electricity retail prices are the eighth-highest in the nation.58,59 The Vermont RES requires electric utilities to supply renewable-sourced power and also help consumers reduce their total fossil fuel use. The RES also requires that all retail electricity suppliers in the state obtain 75% of their annual electricity retail sales from eligible renewable sources by 2032, including 10% from new, in-state, renewable generation at customer-sited facilities smaller than 5 megawatts.60 Vermont’s end-use sector goals for 2025 include powering 67% of electricity generation, 30% of end-use building energy, and 10% of transportation fuels with renewable resources. Overall, the state’s goals for 2050 include obtaining 90% of all energy from renewable resources and reducing per capita energy use by more than one-third.61

Petroleum

Petroleum, consumed primarily in the transportation sector and for home heating, accounts for more than half of Vermont’s energy use.

Vermont has no crude oil reserves or production, nor does it have any petroleum refineries.62,63 However, more than half of the energy consumed in the state is petroleum-based.64 There are no petroleum product pipelines in the state, but there is a petroleum product terminal in the Burlington area.65 Refined products are brought in by rail and truck from neighboring states and Canada.66 One crude oil pipeline crosses Vermont. The World War II-era Portland-Montreal Pipeline was built to carry crude oil from tanker docks at Portland, Maine, to refineries in Montreal, Canada. However, the only remaining Montreal refinery is now supplied with crude oil from western Canada. Oil shipments that move across Vermont from Portland have almost stopped.67 A proposal to reverse the flow in that pipeline and bring crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to Portland for export has encountered opposition in Vermont and other states that the pipeline crosses because of environmental concerns.68,69

Per capita petroleum consumption in Vermont is above the national average, but the Vermont comprehensive energy plan has a stated goal of eliminating most petroleum use.70 Like almost all other states, Vermont’s transportation sector accounts for the largest share of state petroleum consumption. That sector uses more than half but less than three-fifths of the state’s total.71 To reduce petroleum use, Vermont aims to have 10% of its transportation energy needs fueled by renewable sources by 2025 and 80% by 2050. State strategies include increased use of alternative-fueled vehicles and land-use planning that reduces the need for automobiles. To help meet those goals, nearly 700 public electric vehicle charging stations were installed statewide by mid-2020.72,73 Because the entire state meets federal air quality standards, the statewide use of conventional motor gasoline without ethanol is allowed in Vermont. However, almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with at least 10% ethanol.74,75,76

The residential sector, where about three in five Vermont households rely on fuel oil, kerosene, or propane to heat their homes, accounts for about one-fourth of Vermont’s petroleum consumption.77,78 The high use of fuel oil makes the state particularly vulnerable to distillate fuel oil shortages and price spikes during the winter months. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve—created in 2000 to respond to heating fuel supply disruptions in Vermont and in the region—holds 1 million barrels of ultra-low sulfur heating oil at three storage sites located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey.79 Vermont’s commercial and industrial sectors together account for about one-fifth of the petroleum used in the state. Only a small amount of petroleum is consumed by the electric power sector.80

Natural gas

Vermont has no natural gas reserves and no natural gas production.81,82 Vermont’s single natural gas utility receives its supply from a small-capacity pipeline that brings natural gas south from Canada. The utility distributes natural gas in three counties in the Burlington area.83 That region is the only area of the state with access to natural gas. However, as much of the state’s population lives in the Greater Burlington area, almost one in five Vermont households rely on natural gas for their primary home heating fuel.84 Expanding access to natural gas in the rest of the state has been considered when the cost of fuel oil has risen, and a major expansion into Addison County, south of Burlington, was completed in 2017.85 Vermont is the nation’s second-smallest natural gas consumer, and the second-smallest natural gas consumer per capita, among the states. Only Hawaii uses less natural gas.86

Coal

Vermont has no coal reserves or coal mining.87 The state also does not have any operating coal-fired power plants.88 Vermont is part of the six-state Independent System Operator-New England (ISO-NE) regional grid, which receives a decreasing share of its power from coal-fired power plants, but ISO-NE, and Vermont, remain dependent on out-of-state coal-fired facilities during periods of peak electricity demand.89,90

Endnotes

1 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Geospatial Data Science, Forest Residues in the United States, accessed June 24, 2019.
2 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, The National Hydropower Map (June 2018).
3 Institute for Energy Research, Vermont, accessed July 1, 2020.
4 NETSTATE, Vermont, The Geography of Vermont, updated February 25, 2016.
5 Sanford, D. Gregory, and Charles Thomas Morrissey, Vermont, Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed July 1, 2020.
6 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Vermont, accessed July 1, 2020.
7 Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation, Hydroelectric Power, accessed July 1, 2020.
8 Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Overview of Vermont's Forests, accessed July 1, 2020.
9 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B), 2019 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3.1, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
10 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Vermont, Wood and wood-derived fuels, Annual, 2001–19.
11 U.S. Census Bureau, Data, Vermont, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
12 U.S. Census Bureau, National Population Totals and Components of Change: 2010–19, Table 1, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019.
13 U.S. Census Bureau, Vermont, accessed July 1, 2020.
14 U.S. Census Bureau, County Population Totals: 2010-2019, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Counties in Vermont: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019.
15 Vermont Tax Structure Commission, Population Changes and Vermont State Revenue (December 6, 2019), p. 12.
16 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table P3, Energy Production and Consumption Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2018.
17 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Rankings: Total Energy Consumed per Capita, 2018.
18 Dupigny-Giroux, Lesley-Ann, “Oh, the Maple Sweetness of Vermont’s Climate,” Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, CoCoRaHS State Climates Series, accessed July 1, 2020.
19 U.S. Census Bureau, Data, Vermont, Table B25002, Occupancy Status, 2018, and Vermont Table B25004, Vacancy Status, 2018, American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
20 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F33, Total Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2018.
21 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, updated November 19, 2019.
22 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Vermont, Fuel Type-Check all, Annual, 2001–19.
23 Vermont Department of Public Service, Electric, Vermont Electric Utilities, accessed July 1, 2020.
24 U.S. EIA, Vermont Electricity Profile 2018, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2018.
25 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2020), Table 1.3.B.
26 Vermont Department of Public Service, 2016 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, p. 381.
27 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, Annual Data, 1990–2018, Existing Nameplate and Net Summer Capacity by Energy Source, Producer Type and State (EIA-860).
28 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Vermont, All fuels (utility-scale), Nuclear, Annual 2001–19.
29 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Retail sales of electricity, Vermont, End-Use Sector, All sectors, Annual 2001–19.
30 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Vermont, Fuel Type-Check all, Annual, 2001–19.
31 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2020), Table 1.3.B.
32 Vermont Electric Power Company, About Vermont Electric Power Company, accessed July 2, 2020.
33 Vermont Electric Power Company, Who's who in Vermont's electric system, accessed July 2, 2020.
34 Vermont Department of Public Service, Electric, Vermont Electric Utilities, accessed July 2, 2020.
35 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C17, Electricity Retail Sales per Capita, Ranked by State, 2018.
36 U.S. Census Bureau, Data, Vermont, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
37 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Efficiency Vermont, updated March 21, 2017.
38 Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Elements of RGGI, accessed July 2, 2020.
39 U.S. EIA, Rankings: Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2017.
40 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2020), Tables 1.3.B, 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.17.B.
41 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B), 2019 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3.1, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
42 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Vermont, Fuel Type-Check all, Annual, 2001–19.
43 U.S. Census Bureau, Data, Vermont, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
44 Vermont Department of Public Service, 2016 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, p. 324.
45 U.S. EIA, Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report (June 17, 2020), Table 1, Densified biomass fuel manufacturing facilities in the United States by state, region, and capacity, March 2020.
46 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B), 2019 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3.1, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
47 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Vermont, Fuel Type-Check all, Annual, 2001–19.
48 U.S. EIA, Vermont Profile Overview, Wind Power Plant Map Layer with Wind Turbine Layer visible, accessed July 4, 2020.
49 Vermont Department of Public Service, 2016 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, p. 309.
50 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, Vermont, Fuel Type-Check all, Annual, 2001–19.
51 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (June 2020), Tables 6.2.B.
52 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B), 2019 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3.1, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only) and (Proposed).
53 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (June 2020), Table 6.5.
54 Vermont Department of Public Service, Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF), accessed July 11, 2020.
55 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Vermont, Standard Offer Program, updated May 19, 2016.
56 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Vermont, Net Metering, updated July 2, 2018.
57 National Conference of State Legislatures, State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals (April 17, 2020).
58 Vermont Department of Public Service, 2016 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, Cover Letter, p. 1.
59 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2020), Table 5.6.B.
60 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Vermont, Renewable Energy Standard, updated June 27, 2018.
61 Vermont Department of Public Service, 2016 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, Executive Summary, p. 2.
62 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, Estimated Production and Proved Reserves as of 12/31, Annual, 2013–18.
63 U.S. EIA, Refinery Capacity Report (June 2020), Table 1, Number and Capacity of Operable Petroleum Refineries by PAD District and State as of January 1, 2020.
64 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C1, Energy Consumption Overview: Estimates by Energy Source and End-Use Sector, 2018.
65 U.S. EIA, Vermont Profile Overview, Petroleum Product Pipeline Map Layer and Petroleum Product Terminal Map Layer, accessed July 13, 2020.
66 Global Companies, LLC, Global Burlington VT, accessed July 13, 2020.
67 Canada Energy Regulator, Pipeline Profiles: Montreal, Pipeline System and Throughput and Capacity, updated September 2018.
68 Bouchard, Kelley, “Federal appeals court asks Maine’s top judges to rule on South Portland pipeline case,” Portland Press Herald (January 15, 2020).
69 Herrick, John, “13 Vermont Towns Oppose Reversal of Portland-Montreal Oil Pipeline,” VT Digger (March 5, 2014).
70 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C15, Petroleum Consumption, Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2018.
71 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2018.
72 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Vermont Transportation Data for Alternative Fuels and Vehicles, accessed July 13, 2020.
73 Vermont Department of Public Service, 2016 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, Executive Summary, p. 9.
74 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Standards, Gasoline Programs, Reformulated gasoline, Reid vapor pressure, Winter oxygenates, accessed July 14, 2020.
75 American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Gasoline Requirements Map, updated January 2018.
76 “Almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol,” Today in Energy (May 4, 2016).
77 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2018.
78 U.S. Census Bureau, Data, Vermont, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
79 U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve, History, accessed July 14, 2020.
80 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2018.
81 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, Dry Natural Gas, Annual, 2013–18.
82 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2014–19.
83 Vermont Public Service Commission, Natural Gas, accessed July 14, 2020.
84 U.S. Census Bureau, Data, Vermont, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2018 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates.
85 Parent, Beth, “Vermont Gas Completes 41-Mile Expansion, Begins Serving Customers in Addison County,” Vermont Gas Press Release (April 12, 2017).
86 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C16, Natural Gas Consumption, Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2018.
87 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2018 (October 2019), Tables 1, 15.
88 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data with previous form data (EIA-860A/860B), 2019 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3.1, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
89 ISO New England, Power Plant Retirements, accessed July 14, 2020.
90 ISO New England, New England Power Grid 2018-2019 Profile (January 2019).