Vermont Utilities Answer to Climate Change — Profit From Discounting Electrical Vehicles

“Green Mountain Power, the largest utility in Vermont, is promoting another aggressive clean energy offer to its customers — a $10,000 rebate on the purchase of a new 2017 Nissan LEAF.” Clean Technica.

“Burlington Electric is committed to building a sustainable energy future that reduces carbon emissions and supports a growing economy and a thriving community. Our EV incentive program is an important component of our efforts to drive our strategic net zero vision in the transportation sector.” Burlington Electric General Manager.


As citizens concerned about climate change, we often focus on the negative impacts of industry — which in the case of fossil fuels are presently many, varied, and growing. But we should be clear that a beneficial path forward exists for numerous clean energy industries in their ability to promote positive change through sustainability-focused technological innovation and expanding renewable energy access.

(In Vermont, tailpipe emissions account for about 50 percent of all harmful emissions in the state. Meanwhile, Vermont’s electricity grid is one of the cleanest in the nation. As a result, both utilities and government are providing incentives for increased electrical vehicle adoption as a means of shifting to cleaner renewable based electricity production and non-tailpipe-emitting electrical vehicles. Worth noting that EVs have no tailpipe emissions period — not just in Vermont. Image source: Drive Electric Vermont.)

This summer, Green Mountain Power announced its promotion of Nissan’s $10,000 dollar rebate program for Burlington-sold Nissan Leaf electrical vehicles (EVs) through September. Meanwhile, Burlington Electric, a municipal utility, is promoting similar incentives for new electrical vehicle purchases. To date, these are some of the most significant rebates for an electrical vehicle promoted by utilities and automakers — even eclipsing the Federal Government’s $7,500 tax incentive for EV purchases. Such aggressive rebates provide some clues as to where the utility industry may be headed in the near term as the number of electrical vehicles available on market continues to grow, as utilities take the opportunity to expand their demand base, and as various states ramp up their drives for cleaner air and net-zero emissions.

Clean Energy Transition Following in the Footsteps of the Information Age

Though not an exact allegory, we can find a number of corollaries between the presently emerging clean energy revolution, and the information revolution that has been ongoing for multiple decades now. Historically, those promoting the advancing information age did so, not just out of a desire to make money, but from a liberating drive to connect far-flung people and information sources. A process that many hoped would fuel the expansion of access to knowledge, speed innovation, spread democracy, socially leverage the power of thinking machines by creating equal access, and promote problem-solving on a mass scale.

(Green Mountain Power and other utilities are offering incentives for electrical vehicle purchases. Such incentives represent a decent opportunity for these companies to grow while also promoting responses to climate change. Image source: Nissan.)

This wave of technological innovation spreading information and growing social networking systems often relied on incentives for mass adoption which involved free or greatly reduced cost to access. This model drove waves of customers to new websites and services — taking a long view in which monetization and profit-making often occurred after a large number of subscribers was achieved. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and many other platforms and services used this model to great effect.

And while the information age probably produced at least as many new problems as it solved, it appears far more likely that a transition to a renewable energy based society will generate far flung and much broader overall benefits. Energy independence, increasingly clean air and water, improved pulmonary health, and net zero carbon emissions are all in the offing. For in the age of rapid energy transition, mass manufacturing processes are enabling rapidly falling prices for clean energy, electrical vehicles and related energy storage systems. An event that has created a paradigm-shift-type opportunity for utility-based renewable energy innovators like Vermont’s Green Mountain Power.

Utility-Driven Electrical Vehicle Incentives

This summer, Green Mountain Power, which supplies 71 percent of Vermont’s electricity primarily from renewable and non-carbon based energy sources, announced that it would promote a $10,000 Nissan rebate off the purchase price of a Nissan Leaf EVs to its Burlington customers. Burlington Electric is providing a similar promotion with added incentives. The base price of a Leaf is about $30,000. Add in the rebate, an additional $1,200 incentive from Burlington Electric, and a $7,500 tax credit from the U.S. government and a number of Vermonters will be able to purchase the 107 mile range EV (soon to be 200 + mile range) for around $11,000 dollars.

(At 7 percent of electricity from solar, 15 percent from wind, and a significant amount of hydro-electric generation access, Vermont has one of the highest penetration rates for renewable energy. Adding EVs to the grid is an excellent way to further reduce Vermont’s overall carbon emissions. Image source: US Wind Energy Association.)

Why does this make good business sense for utilities like Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric? Because for each customer that purchases a Leaf, utilities like Green Mountain and Burlington are locking in a considerable amount of increased electrical power demand while also spurring a larger shift that is beneficial to its business. The present Nissan Leaf has a 30 kWh battery pack that might average about 5-15 kWh per day of recharge electricity — increasing home and EV charging station consumption for Green Mountain power customers by 15-50 percent. And more often than not, owners of all-electric vehicles that do not require inconvenient gas station refills, annoying oil changes and who considerably reduce overall travel carbon emissions when connected to Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric’s renewable grid will tend to remain EV owners — resulting in a considerable increase in electricity demand.

The push by Burlington Electric and Green Mountain has also been promoted by local clean power coordinators:

“Mobile sources, primarily motor vehicles, are the largest cause of air pollutants in Vermont, making up 46 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Abby Bleything, Vermont Clean Cities Coordinator. “Burlington Electric’s partnership with Freedom Nissan, allowing customers to purchase a Leaf at $10,000 below MSRP, will help increase the number of zero-emission vehicles on the road, thereby taking a critical step towards reducing our state’s air pollution and dependence on petroleum.”

Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric aren’t the only utilities to offer and promote incentives for electrical vehicle adoption. Southern California Edison, which serves 14 million customers, offers a $450 dollar clean fuel rebate. Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric, serving 5.2 million, also provides a $500 rebate for EV purchases. But this is small change compared to the $10,000 rebates offered for Nissan Leaf EVs in Kansas last year and in Hawaii this year. Burlington Electric began offering a $1,200 EV rebate in May of 2017. It has since upped the ante by promoting a limited $10,000 Burlington Leaf incentive. With utilities, communities, and governments all looking to benefit from EV purchases, it appears that this emerging trend for power company based incentives and promotions has just gotten started.



Burlington Electric to Promote $10,000 Rebate on Leaf

Drive Electric Vermont

Green Mountain Power

PG&E Clean Fuel Rebate

Southern California Edison Clean Fuel Rewards

US Wind Energy Association

Hat tip to GingerBaker

Hat tip to Chris Burns of Burlington Electric

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    • The fire situation in BC has just gone from bad to worse.

      Nearly 50,000 are now under evacuation orders. One large fire is approaching 100K hectares at 0 percent containment. And the fire alert level is now at 5 for the province — the highest alert level.

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  2. nsalito1960

     /  July 18, 2017

    Looove my Leaf. No tailpipe, no muffler, no catalytic converter, no air filters, no oil filters, no oil changes, no gas tank. Sitting at stoplights next to rumbling combustion vehicles is a recurring reminder that I made a good decision.

    Personal downsides: No moonroof, and it’s actually *bigger* than I want.

    • +1.

      As noted by islandraider below, it’s a lot easier to get a Leaf these days with lease retirements and Nissan looking forward to its 200 mile range Leaf in 2018. Gives a lot of backspace for the eco-bargain hunter.

  3. I wish I lived in Vermont, instead I’m stuck in Maine – the most regressive state in New England for renewable energy support thanks to the “Veto King” gov. LePage.

  4. Shawn Redmond

     /  July 18, 2017

    This is an impressive move. However I believe personal transport ownership has to die along with the I.C.E.

    • As a practical matter, it probably won’t happen without a much larger response. And I honestly don’t think we should be in the business of telling people they can’t own cars. That’s three steps too far. We should be focused on shrinking the negative externality footprints of these systems as swiftly as possible. And shifting away from fossil fuels is a huge leap in that respect.

      That said, the EV mated with automation and shared driving has the ability to considerably reduce car ownership rates and the size of vehicle fleets per capita. My wife and I have long been a 1 vehicle household. It’s amazing how much less of a financial and administrative headache this is. An EV on top of it all makes it much more sustainable.

    • Shawn Redmond

       /  July 18, 2017

      I would much rather see everyone with a power wall and no personal motorized transport. We have to use less, much less of everything. Simply trading one form of energy for another and then carrying on as if that changes everything is madness. Expanding renewable options does not equal expanding economies. This growth for growths sake is untenable. A discussion on how to contract and then run a steady state economy at a level the planet can manage on its own is paramount. Elon’s vision for renewables and his push for them is both visionary and enviable but, is he moving about the globe in a wooden sailing ship with canvas sails? Mining giants the world over are tripping over themselves to produce the supply of lithium that is going to be required to meet this demand.
      Tesla is expecting to produce 500,000 cars per year by 2020. With an assumed average capacity of 65 kilowatt-hours per vehicle (taking into account both the smaller battery of the expected Model S and the larger batteries like those in the P85 and P85D), 500,000 65-kilowatt-hour batteries per year would require, at about 10 kilograms of lithium per battery, 5 million kilograms (5,000 metric tons) of refined lithium per year.

      We have a long long way to go before anything we do in the western world is anywhere close to “sustainable”. And then there is this:
      Children as young as seven are working in perilous conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to mine cobalt that ends up in smartphones, cars and computers sold to millions across the world, by household brands including Apple, Microsoft and Vodafone, according to a new investigation by Amnesty International.

      The human rights group claims to have traced cobalt used in lithium batteries sold to 16 multinational brands to mines where young children and adults are being paid a dollar a day, working in life-threatening conditions and subjected to violence, extortion and intimidation.

      More than half the world’s supply of cobalt comes from the DRC, with 20% of cobalt exported coming from artisanal mines in the southern part of the country. In 2012, Unicef estimated that there were 40,000 children working in all the mines across the south, many involved in mining cobalt.

      • From Limits to Growth author Donna Meadows:

        “Sustainability does not mean zero growth. Rather, a sustainable society would be interested in qualitative development, not physical expansion. It would use material growth as a considered tool, not a perpetual mandate. Neither for nor against growth, it would begin to discriminate among kinds of growth and purposes for growth. It would ask what the growth is for, and who would benefit, and what it would cost, and how long it would last, and whether the growth could be accommodated by the sources and sinks of the earth.

        A sustainable society would also not paralyze into permanence the current inequitable patterns of distribution. For both practical and moral reasons, a sustainable society must provide sufficiency and security for all. A sustainable society would not be a society of despon- dency and stagnation, unemployment and bankruptcy that current systems experience when their growth is interrupted. A deliberate transition of sustainability would take place slowly enough, and with enough forewarning, so that people and businesses could find their places in the new economy.

        A sustainable world would also not be a rigid one, with population or production or anything else held pathologically constant. One of the strangest assumptions of present-day mental models is the idea that a world of moderation must be one of strict, centralized government control. A sustainable world would need rules, laws, standards, bound- aries, social agreements and social constraints, of course, but rules for sustainability would be put into place not to destroy freedoms, but to create freedoms or protect them.

        Some people think that a sustainable society would have to stop using nonrenewable resources. But that is an over-rigid interpretation of what it means to be sustainable. Certainly a sustainable society would use nonrenewable gifts from the earth’s crust more thoughtfully and efficiently.”

        Inserting corrupted growth related perfect world ideological arguments and concerns that clearly mistake sustainability leaders intentions and goals runs considerably counter to our goal of solving issues related to AGW. In addition, a mis-characterization of solutions to the challenges posed by harmful versions of growth like growth in fossil fuel emissions and burning is not helpful.

        There are a number of issues you’ve conflated here — unintentionally doing a general disservice to the overall need to address AGW as a means of improving sustainability.

        1. An ideological based drive for zero vehicle ownership is not likely to produce positive reactions or results. However, providing opportunities, options and incentives that lower vehicle ownership rates is far more likely to produce positive results. Mating these options with an energy transition is very helpful. It’s looking at things more systemically, and more quality of life based that’s more helpful, in other words. Austerity-based arguments like — ‘no-one should own a vehicle’ is basically going to leave you in the 1 percent category where some people may agree, but few people are actually able to go along with such a view and a much larger majority of people react in a highly negative fashion. In other words, you shoot yourself in the foot while painting yourself into a corner at the same time. Putting yourself in a position to lose and make zero progress by operating under the worst possible communication as it relates to sustainability and the climate crisis. In other words, this is losing ground to fight on. Similar kinds of thinking in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is what got us Trump and what has produced a very unhelpful resistance to the Paris climate summit. In other words we need to accept that progress is movement in the right direction. That any movement in that direction is positive. And that continued progress involves figuring out how to practically bring as many people along in accelerating that movement as possible — not basically alienating as many people as possible by talking about perceived perfect ends from a singular ideological standpoint.
        2. Your particular form of growth argument is too vague and too hyper-focused on negatives and challenges presently associated with every production chain. In addition, it fails to address systemic growth issues in a way that is generally effective. For example, growth in renewables has no where near the externality and harm-based footprint of growth in fossil fuel burning. Switching fossil fuels to renewables is a major net positive that reduces harm and increases sustainability across all sectors regardless of base rates of economic growth.
        3. Working conditions are an issue that need to be addressed. But this is not an issue directly related to climate change. In other words, this is a social justice issue related to long term equality and sustainability, but not one that directly links to the climate crisis. Conflating the two is a bit disengenuous in that it serves to act as a wedge issue and prevent the kinds of changes that are broadly helpful. Futhermore, you imply that those of us promoting renewable energy are not concerned about working conditions. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
        4. Sustainability experts are not saying that ‘all growth = bad.’ What they’re saying is that there are limits to growth and some forms of growth are unsustainable. Killing off all growth basically kills off your economic basis for existence. Attempting to do that is very destructive and highly counter-productive.
        5. Absolute value peak resource related arguments often fail due to a number of factors. The primary issue is that once resources are constrained, prices rise. As a result increased exploration, substitution and efficiency results in combined increases in supply and competition for market outside the resource chain. With lithium, there’s considerable global supply and a number additional resource pools that have not yet been tapped. So applying an imaginary absolute boundary limit is not an accurate assessment. In addition, batteries based on other materials wait in the wings. So it’s not as if there’s no substitute for lithium — just that lithium is the most easily scaled resource at this time. In any case, expanding battery production will drive higher materials prices and produce tightness in the supply chain. This will drive more interest in lithium and various other battery materials related production.

        Challenges to lithuim crunch already emerging:

        Challenges to cobalt crunch already in the wings:

        Battery tech is progressing pretty rapidly with other options emergent:

        I think you’ve drifted a bit off the ideological cliff without looking at base numbers here Shawn. A renewable based economy both produces less energy consumption, opens up net zero carbon emissions, and provides the option for economic growth in certain segments while avoiding economy-crushing austerity. I know this is enough to make some ideological heads explode. But we’ve got to think in different ways if we’re going to deal with this problem while still holding economies and societies together. Renewables overall footprint is orders of magnitude less than fossil fuels. And in confronting the climate crisis, our first focus should be the shift away from FF burning as AGW is our immediate problem. Conflating it with other valid concerns that we all share and implying that we don’t isn’t helpful really.

        So my question here is why are you throwing rocks in a road we need to take to move forward?

        • +1. Reminds me of a debate I got into some years ago when I publicized an blog post someone wrote entitled “What would Jesus drive?” (not an SUV). A friend who lives in NYC was very incensed because he owns a bike and bikes everywhere (and presumably, that is what Jesus would actually do). I think everyone here has good intentions, but Step 1 is getting the damn SUVs off the road. MHO.

        • Jeremy in Wales

           /  July 18, 2017

          Younger adults on both sides of the Atlantic are less likely to obtain a driving license than even a decade ago:

          There are many reasons, insurance costs, parking problems etc but the current trend is fewer cars per 100,000 of the population (at least in the UK).
          Combine that with electric cars (and self driving) with a life of a million miles and automotive manufactures are thinking of a different model from personal ownership. Produce fewer vehicles but lease for individual journeys or period of use, reduce the vehicles lying around for hours on end doing nothing.
          You will not get rid of personal ownership but in cities it makes sense not to be handicapped with a vehicle.

        • This is a positive trend. I think a lot of forward looking businesses are trying to modify for leases, ride shares etc. Overall, it’s good for sustainability. Add in the move toward more biking, electric bikes, and smaller modes of transport, and you’ve got some relatively positive news. A shame we can’t also get more support for public transport in the U.S. That appears to be an uphill battle still.

        • Ed

           /  July 19, 2017

          RS: this could form the basis of an outstanding post.

          It reminds of a (mildly humorous) management joke:
          Q: how do you change an organization
          A: you either change the people you have, or change them by getting new people!

          Getting new people is fast, but does not scale to thousands, let alone billions. However, to change the people you have is very slow, because you have to do it one story at a time

  5. bostonblorp

     /  July 18, 2017

    Definitely a positive development. A carbon tax would go a long way to pushing EV adoption nationally. I read the Chevy Bolt has temporarily suspended production due to low demand. There has a been significant YoY sag in car sales as well so hopefully that combined with perhaps dislike of this specific model is the reason and not consumer rejection of EV.

    • I’d call this a combination of factors. First, GM dealerships have a pretty bad record for selling EVs into the market. Second, GM has a pretty bad record advertising for EVs. Third, the US market as a whole has been down for 3-4 months now and GM is seeing an inventory build across all model lines. Fifth, despite this overall trend, June EV sales were up year on year.

      I think it’s more an issue that GM is struggling with traditional market problems and that it is dealing with legacy prejudices against EVs in its sales chain. The manufacturer is a largely ICE based seller. Its Volt and Bolt offerings, though excellent vehicles, are more to compete with Tesla and prevent that all electric automaker from gobbling up too much market share, as a strategic consideration.

      GM is therefore conservatively positioned in a dynamic and rapidly changing marketplace to protect ICE market share. There is more than a little incentive for it to sand bag its own EV sales to produce negative press for EVs in general and has done so in the past. Furthermore, the Bolt has zero infrastructure related support from GM. No charging networks — nada. Add to that fact that GM dealers are telling customers that the federal incentive for EVs aren’t available or that the Bolt isn’t available for sale and it’s not too hard to figure out why the Bolt isn’t selling at rates high enough to match production (although nearly 8,000 have sold so far this year). See comments below this related article:

      The same thing happened to the Volt in the first year. GM went on to grudgingly promote the car — which is actually an excellent vehicle despite GM doing everything it could to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  6. This is very confusing. Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric are two completely different companies. Burlington Electric serves only Burlington, VT. GMP serves many towns, but absolutely does not cover Burlington.

    Am I to understand that *both* GMP and BE are offering a $10K rebate, or is something amiss with the reportage?

    • Good point. I’ll dig into this a bit more.

      On the phone with Burlington Electric right now. It appears that both they and Green Mountain have rebate promotion programs in place with similar rates. Hence the confusion. Will be posting an update.

    • Steve Piper

       /  July 18, 2017

      It’s really a promotion driven through the retailer, Freedom Nissan of Burlington. They have partnered with both GMP and Burlington Electric to promote the rebate, but the rebate is only available on the Leafs purchased at Freedom Nissan (e.g., rather than any Leaf purchased in Vermont). Current model Leafs are being aggressively discounted ahead of release of the new versions that will have a range of 200+ miles and compete more directly with Tesla Model 3.

      • Yep. That’s basically what I’ve gotten from the folks at GMP and BE. Updating and thanks for the clarification and questions from everyone.

  7. OK – Looks like *both* GMP and BE are offering the same $10K deal with Nissan. Nissan provides a $10K discount. BE will also kick in a $1200.00 EV rebate of their own. 🙂

  8. islandraider

     /  July 18, 2017

    For what it is worth, there are LOTS of used Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) coming off lease right now. Market is pretty flooded. For anywhere from $6000 up, you can get a solid, all electric car that drives well & can comfortably do highway speeds. We recently picked up a 3013 with only 30K miles for around $8k. It still has a range around 80 miles per charge. These cars are nearly maintenance free. Washer fluid, tire pressure… that’s about it. Fun to drive, too! If you can live with the range (& I think most of us can), it is a great & affordable car!

  9. climatehawk1

     /  July 18, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

    Very weird legend on the graphic from Drive Electric Vermont, as EVs have no tailpipe emissions anywhere, not just in Vermont. What’s meant has to be total emissions from powering the car, including emissions from the power plant that generates the electricity.

    The promo tipped us over the line–we picked up our new Leaf on Saturday. Very nice car, and it gives us two EVs.

    • It is a bit odd. Will clarify in the caption.

      Are you in Vermont? Pls give a shout out to Bill McKibben for me, then ;).

      Spoke to Chris at Burlington Electric and they are also 100% renewable in their base power generation, though they do occasionally purchase electricity from other sources. Looks to me like an EV buy in Vermont will have a very positive outsized impact on carbon emissions due to both zero tailpipe emissions and high renewable penetration in the grid there.

  10. wharf rat

     /  July 18, 2017

    California Lawmakers Extend Cap-and-Trade to 2030, with Republican Support

    California lawmakers voted Monday night to extend the state’s signature program for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, furthering California’s leadership on climate change. The bipartisan vote provides what many supporters hope will become a model for tackling global warming as the Trump administration works to unravel federal regulations.

    California’s cap-and-trade program—the only one of its kind in the country and the second largest in the world—is the centerpiece of the state’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It was established by a 2006 law and launched in January 2013 to run through 2020, but its fate beyond that was uncertain until now.

    Monday’s vote extended the cap-and-trade program through 2030, but with a few changes that turned some environmental groups against the legislation. Among them, it allows big polluters to continue buying permits to emit more greenhouse gases and it bars some separate regulations on refineries.

    The bill passed the Senate 28-12 and was approved 55-21 in the Assembly, earning the supermajority it needed to pass. It now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature….

  11. Troutbum52

     /  July 19, 2017

    Mary Powell, the CEO for Green Mountain Power was just in Traverse City, MI for the MI Clean Energy Conference and she was a show stopper. She talked about how utilities need to change and hoe GMP was changing. She announced that GMP will sell Tesla Powerwall 2 to its customers for $15.00 per month in exchange for connecting the Powerwalls to the smart grid so when demand surges, they can use all the walls to offset peak demand. She’s running the most innovative utility in America. A large number of us were thinking of nominating her for a Presidential run in 2020!!

    • So something to consider with regards to GMP —

      In my research for the article I found that the company is primarily a power distributor. It owns miles and miles of powerlines and cables, but it doesn’t own much generation capacity. It instead buys renewable energy from nearby markets, for the most part. If it had access to a distributed network of Tesla power wall battery storage systems, it could store power when rates were low and sell it back when rates were high.

      Add in the fact that solar energy on rooftops in Green Mountain’s network also provide a distributed source of generation, then the fit matches up very nicely when solar produces an excesss that drives rates down and that distributed battery systems like the Powerwall can then store.

      It looks to me like GMP is looking at the potential opportunities coming from an energy transition very strategically. That its views are quite progressive and advanced in this regard and that it is likely to be well ahead of the curve as energy systems change.

  12. A thought, perhaps, for folks thinking about this Leaf deal:

    We are thinking very hard about getting a new Leaf with this deal. (Before this, our “strategy” was to wait for the new Leaf to come out, and then buy an years-used old model Leaf, because we don’t pay $7500.00 a year in taxes, and can not make full use of the Federal Tax rebate)

    A strategy for us, and perhaps others, who want the $7500.00 Fed tax rebate but do not pay that much in taxes – we have IRA’s and a pension account. If we were to take enough of that money out into a checking account, enough tax would be due to recoup that $7500.00 tax rebate. After all, taxes will have to be paid on that money, eventually, right?

    Sort of like spending the taxes on your own car instead of just into general revenues.


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