While the search for Australia’s first Zero Net Energy Town – and the blueprint to build it by – continues, a US project to transform the Vermont city of Rutland into a renewable energy example for the rest of America has just been announced.
The joint effort to establish Rutland as “the Energy City of the Future,” and position Vermont as “a leader in the movement toward cost-effective sustainable energy solutions,” is being driven by no less than NRG Energy – America’s largest independent electricity producer – alongside Vermont utility Green Mountain Power Corp.
The involvement of NRG should not be downplayed. It has a generation portfolio of more than 50GW – about the same as Australia’s entire main grid – yet it sees the future in encouraging its consumers to generate and store their own electricity, and to enjoy a whole heap of consumer devices from electric vehicles to portable power packs.
The general plan is to develop products and services that will make it easier for Vermonters to generate and use renewable energy. And it will begin with the development of a “micro-grid” that will provide solar energy to the city of Rutland starting next year, Green Mountain Power president and CEO Mary Powell said on Tuesday at a press conference.
Other green energy product offerings and services from the new project will include: personal energy management; portable power packs; electric vehicle infrastructure; community solar deals; and micro generation technology.
The overarching goal, however, is to shift away from the large, centralised power grid in favor of more efficient ways of producing and delivering electricity to the company’s 265,000 residential and business customers, Powell said.
This will mean leveraging NRG’s microgrid capabilities to transform the distribution grid from a 100-year-old electric delivery model to a market-based platform designed to create efficiencies and distributed energy solutions through renewable technologies and energy storage.
“This partnership is a really big deal for our customers and for Vermont,” said Powell. “Our partner NRG Energy is a cutting edge leader in green energy solutions, and they see in Vermont the same potential that we at GMP have recognised for years.
“Our customers consistently tell us they want tools to save money and move to renewable energy sources, and we can show the rest of the country how to get there. This is what our energy future looks like.”
“Through this partnership, we hope to demonstrate that investing in a 21st century energy eco-system that is more sustainable, resilient, affordable and individually empowering for the people of Vermont is more sensible than pouring more investment into the creaky old grid infrastructure from the 20th century,” said David Crane, President and CEO of NRG.
“In the course of so doing, we will also prove that the concepts of ‘electric utility’, ‘renewables’ and ‘personal choice’ are not mutually exclusive.”