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Voices / Letters from readers

Lawmakers ignore the very apparent problems of relying more on electricity

As I write this on a Tuesday, thousands of homes in Vermont are still without power from a storm that started the previous Thursday evening.

Pre-storm, Green Mountain Power notified customers that wet snow would be coming and they would be out in force to limit disruptions and fix downed lines.

At one point, according to their website, 163 of Vermont’s 251 towns had outages. People were (and are, as I write this) without heat and water and dealing with food spoiled in fridges and freezers.

Such widespread, long-term outages seem to happen at least once per winter and negatively impact people’s lives in fundamental ways.

The push to change home heating systems to electric-igniting pellet stoves and electric heat pumps is incomprehensible when the electric power in the state is so unreliable when it’s needed most — in the middle of a storm.

The Legislature has renamed the “clean heat standard” to the “affordable heat standard,” but even if the proposal were clean or affordable (rather than relying on coal-powered electricity and raising the price for people who continue to heat with fossil fuels), homes dependent on electricity for heat are going to be in peril at every long-term outage.

Something that would make people’s quality of life better would instead be to increase weatherization in the old homes that most moderate income people live in.

Raise the income limit for households to get free weatherization so that more working people who can’t afford or justify a big weatherization loan can get the benefits of insulation and air sealing at no cost. Their homes will be more comfortable and increase in value, and their energy usage will decrease — and they could keep their existing heating systems, putting less demand on our unreliable grid.

In the course of writing this letter, I learned that there was an earthquake in California, with the result of lost lives and 71,000 people having no power with no restoration date predicted. California and Vermont have both made a pledge not to allow any new combustion-engine vehicles to be sold in the state after 2035.

There’s no plan to improve electric supply or reliability. The electric grid is going to face more and more demand, and it will continue to be unreliable. If you go all-electric and the power goes out, you’ll have no heat, no water, and no way to leave your desolate, freezing house.

Vermont used to be known as a place where people had common sense. I don’t know what has caused our lawmakers to ignore the very apparent problems of relying more on electricity; it’s like an Emperor’s new clothes situation and we’re going to be in big trouble if this push to electrify everything continues.

Erica Walch
Newfane

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Originally published in The Commons issue #697 (Wednesday, January 11, 2023). This story appeared on page C3.

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