FAQs

Who owns the Burlington Electric Department?If you’re a Burlington resident, you do! The Burlington Electric Department is a municipally owned electric utility, and as such is a department of the City of Burlington. Our customers are also our owners, and with their overwhelming support, BED is proudly at the forefront of the green energy revolution.
Where does BED get its power?Burlington is the first city in the U.S. to source 100% of its power from safe, reliable, and affordable renewable generation. BED owns and operates several local renewable energy facilities. We also purchase renewable energy through contracts with NextEra Energy Power Marketing, Sheffield Wind, Georgia Mountain Community Wind, the New York Power Authority, a combination of small hydroelectric and solar projects from Vermont Electric Power Producers Inc., and a number of solar projects with local developers.

For more information, including charts and a detailed breakdown of where we source our energy, check out our Where We Get Our Power web page.
How has BED evolved since it began operations in 1905?We have come so far. BED started in 1905 providing power through coal-fired steam generators. In 1977, BED drew worldwide attention for replacing its aging coal generator with a generator that burned wood, leading to the creation in 1984 of the J.C. McNeil Wood-Powered Electric Generating Facility.  Until 2002, BED continued to receive a third of its energy from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power facility, and more recently BED purchased almost half of its energy needs under market contracts based on natural gas and oil.  It was not until 2004 that BED decided to make a concerted move toward renewable energy.

Together, with our overwhelmingly supportive customers, we have grown and changed in many ways while maintaining our focus on supplying affordable and reliable energy. We replaced the old 4kV distribution system with more efficient 13kV technology, established a dedicated Energy Efficiency Services team, built Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, modernized our electric delivery system with Smart Grid technology, and implemented Energy Engage, giving our customers more choice and empowerment.

Burlington can be proud today to be on the leading edge of energy innovation. Our 20,000 customers are using less energy than they did in 1989 and BED has met the energy needs of a growing local economy over the last 20 years through efficiency! Look back at BED’s history here.
What prompted the city to launch this transformation process fifteen years ago?
Well, we’d like to say our intentions were purely altruistic – to reduce our carbon footprint – but the switch to renewables was initially driven by economic concerns. To our surprise, our financial analysis indicated that the cheapest long term financial investment with the least amount of risk was to move in this direction.
How has BED successfully moved to using renewables while other utilities are still relying on fossil fuels?It started with the (true) premise that anything a fossil fuel can do, a renewable energy source can do better and cheaper. BED turned the traditional energy utility model on its head. We use renewables first. That model saves BED, and its customers, a whole lot of money. And now we’ve reached our goal of sourcing 100% of our power from renewable generation. That’s a ground-breaking achievement and has given BED worldwide attention as a leader in green energy. While most New England utilities continue to rely on fossil fuels and are aiming to source just 20% of their power from renewables by 2020, BED expects that our ongoing use of renewables will save Burlington $20 million over the next two decades.
What’s a REC, and why does BED buy and sell RECs?A REC is a “Renewable Energy Certificate”. RECs serve as the “currency” for renewable energy markets and as a way for governments to meet environmental goals for renewable energy generation. To combat climate change it is necessary to reduce the need for fossil fuel-based generation sources. RECs help create incentive toward the use of renewable power sourced from wind, water, wood and solar.

So how does it work? Power is generated from a renewable energy source, let’s use wind as an example. That wind power is sent to an electricity grid, mixing with all kinds of generation sources. Once it’s in the grid, it’s impossible to extract the actual physical electricity associated with that wind. But it is possible to tag the benefits associated with it. That’s what a REC is, the ownership of the attributes and benefits of the renewable electricity, not the electricity itself.

How much energy is required to produce a REC? There is one REC created for every Megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy produced by a renewable resource.

Why do we need to buy and sell RECs? We buy and sell RECs to reduce our carbon footprint by supporting renewable energy development and to keep costs low and stable for our customers. The power BED owns or contracts to buy has the highest environmental benefit, and high value RECs associated with it. This creates excellent financial income for BED. With those financial gains and by purchasing RECs from generators that have a lower value, BED keeps rates down for Burlington. The flexibility and advantages of RECs also allow BED to continually add to and improve our locally produced green power supply and protect the environment. Check out our Where We Get Our Power web page.
What are the renewable energy sources that supply the city of Burlington today?Wood:
At the McNeil Generating Station in Burlington’s Intervale, we generate power by burning sustainably-harvested biomass (wood chips and scrap wood). BED is the operator and 50 percent owner.

Water:
The BED-owned and operated Winooski One Hydroelectric Facility, located on the Winooski River between Burlington and Winooski, uses water to provide energy. We also have a contract for energy with several small hydroelectric facilities in Maine, and will begin receiving hydroelectricity from Hydro-Quebec in November, 2015. Additionally, BED receives 6.08% of the output from 15 hydro facilities in Vermont, assigned to us by Vermont Electric Power Producers Inc.

Wind:
We have contracts for energy from two wind farms in Vermont, Sheffield Wind and Georgia Mountain Community Wind, and for one being constructed in Maine.

Solar:
We have nearly 2 megawatts of solar projects with local developers spread throughout the city, including a 500 kW solar array on the roof of the Burlington International Airport parking garage that began commercial operations in January 2015. 
What can I do to lower my rates and be more energy efficient?BED Customers can lower their costs by becoming more energy efficient. By scheduling a free onsite energy efficiency audit you will learn how you can save money by:
  • Replacing your appliances with new energy efficient ones. Cash incentives are available to help to make the switch.
  • Weatherizing your home.
  • Preventing “phantom load” from a TV, DVR, or Satellite Box.

Our Energy Efficiency Services team is dedicated to helping our customers conserve energy. Check out Ways to Be More Energy Efficient on our web site, or contact our Energy Services team (e-mail us or 865-7342).

I’m considering renovating my home, or maybe constructing a new one. Can BED help guide me toward the best efficiency choices?Why, yes! BED’s Residential New Construction Program is designed to help the home builder, developer and homeowner take advantage of the highest-efficiency equipment available. By participating in this program, customers enjoy energy savings and lower operating expenses while the community benefits from a clean, low-cost power supply.

This service aims to improve the efficiency of all new homes and buildings undergoing substantial renovation. This includes single-family homes, multi-family homes and low-income multi-family projects.  It addresses all of the uses that impact your electric bill: space heating, water heating, central cooling (if applicable), ventilation, major appliances and lighting for high-use areas. Check out the Construction & Renovation Projects web page.
I have a business in Burlington. Can BED help guide me toward efficiency too?It would be our pleasure! Our Energy Services staff helps local businesses reduce their consumption and is routinely used as a trusted partner in making energy decisions. BED has worked with hundreds of business owners to implement efficiency projects that save energy, enhance facilities, and improve competitiveness. In 2014 alone, we helped customers save $1,331,000! E-mail us or 865-7342 for more information.
Why do some environmentalists believe that your energy is not as green as you claim?While there is no unanimous consensus on what being “renewable” means, we are proud to source 100% of our power from wood, water, wind and solar. Every type of power generation is subject to some opposition, and people will debate the relative merits of different fuel types for many years to come. 

BED makes decisions on its power supply based upon a number of considerations including cost, renewability, predictability & reliability, diversity, and other economic and environmental impacts.

Regardless of how someone might define the term “renewable”, BED is confident that Burlington is much better served by the power portfolio BED has built around wind, hydro, solar, and biomass than it would be by the one based on using nuclear, natural gas, coal, and oil- both from a cost and an environmental standpoint.

 

How can I be informed of what’s going on at BED?We’re always looking to engage with our customers. Check out the Home Page of our website, highlighting our latest news and contact information. Or follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t be a stranger, we’re here to answer all your questions and keep you in the loop. Call Customer Service at 865-7300 for more information.