Return of the Thermal Utility – a Tax on Electricity

February 24, 2020

By John McClaughry

A push is on in Montpelier to create the thermal utility so long sought by VPIRG. Unlike the version of 13 years ago, this version doesn’t set up a new, special utility to absorb government money and spend it on improvements in some peoples’ transportation and housing. This time it’s expanding the mandate of Efficiency Vermont, financed by your electricity payment, that since 2000 has subsidized home energy efficiency.

Four years ago I said this about that idea: “[Republican] “Gov. Douglas vetoed a “thermal utility” in 2007 but Gov. Shumlin re-launched the idea in 2012. Small pieces of that bill were enacted, but not the big taxing and spending parts of it.”

“Under this year’s version, electric ratepayers will be taxed indefinitely to support not only electrical efficiency, but also thermal and transportation efficiency. Its backers say “Vermonters will benefit”, by which they mean the Vermonters who pocket the program benefits, not the Vermonters who pay for them through their electric bills. This is just one more surreptitious way to transfer money from the pockets of ordinary Vermonters into the much smaller class of efficiency program winners, most of whom ought to be paying for their own energy savings out of their own savings.”

Look, I’m all for improving energy efficiency in housing, electricity usage, and transportation. You’ll save money. So use your savings to pay for the efficiency, not my power bill.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John de Bruin February 24, 2020 at 10:42 pm

When will these people realize you can only “milk” the Golden Goose for so long before you kill it? There is nothing about this program which benefits Vermonters.


Mike March 1, 2020 at 8:54 pm

As I’ve been saying right along, if the Dems and company in Montpelier so much as get a sniff of an excuse to pile on another, they become ecstatic and jump for joy. Here’s a classic reason to limit the legislative session to two weeks. If they can’t get the peoples’ work done in that period of time they shouldn’t be thrre.


Ray Thomas March 1, 2020 at 10:35 pm

Efficiency Vt already gets a 7.5% regressive tax on Vermonters electrical bills. They use this money very inefficiently, it should be reduced not augmented! The only effective way to implement energy efficient programs is by using tax credits for those who avail themselves of the energy improvements.


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