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Burlington, Vermont’s Largest City, Gets 100% of its Electricity from Renewable Sources

Church Street, Burlington. (Redjar/Flickr Creative Commons)

Church Street, Burlington. (Redjar/Flickr Creative Commons)

Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, has announced it now generates 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

The Burlington Electric Department (BED), a publicly owned utility, achieved this remarkable feat after purchasing the 7.4-megawatt Winooski One hydroelectric project on the city’s outskirts, the Associated Press reports.

Water, wind and biomass now provide BED customers with all of their net electricity needs. BED joins Washington Electric Cooperative, which provides power to around 11,000 customers in central and northern Vermont, as utilities generating 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

‘‘It shows that we’re able to do it, and we’re able to do it cost effectively in a way that makes Vermonters really positioned well for the future,’’ said Vermont Department of Public Services commissioner Christopher Recchia.

Vermont has set a goal of generating 90 percent of the state’s energy — including electricity, heating and transportation — from renewables by 2050. The state’s green energy efforts have inspired similar movements across America as public demand for a move away from environmentally harmful fossil fuels grows.

Burlington’s achievement is the result of a decade of planning.

‘‘The transition in thought from 2004 to 2008 was ‘We want to do this’ to ‘This actually makes economic sense for us to do this,’’’ BED power resources manager Ken Nolan told the AP.

Although the city claims to generate all of its electricity from renewables, there are still times — such as when winds are calm or the river is low — when it purchases electricity from more ‘traditional’ sources, including power generated from burning fossil fuels. But when conditions are optimal, BED generates more power than it uses, selling the surplus to other utility companies. The city sells more power than it buys, hence the ‘100 percent’ claim.

Burlington, a city of 42,300 on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, is known for its progressive politics and commitment to environmental protection and preservation.

Local residents expressed pride in their city’s achievement.

‘‘It definitely makes me feel better here at UVM to know that every time I turn on a light switch or fire up my computer or anything else, to know that it’s 100 percent renewable,” Taylor Ricketts, director of the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, told the AP.

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