Tuesday, November 14, 2023
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Advancing Equity in the Policymaking Process: Engaging Vermonters in Renewable Energy Policy
Session ID
B4 - Decarbonization and Renewable Energy Policies & Programs: Successes and Lessons Learned in Engaging Hard-to-Reach Communities

A just transition to a low carbon energy system will require ensuring all communities have a voice in determining the structure of policies supporting that transition. In Vermont, these considerations have been highlighted in the policy-making context in several ways, including the work of the Just Transitions Subcommittee of the Vermont Climate Council, the 2022 Comprehensive Energy Plan, and passage of Vermont’s first Environmental Justice law. Despite a recognition of the need to shift away from business-as-usual public engagement practices to those which are more innovative and inclusive, many state agencies are still working to discover what this looks like in practice while building trust and not overburdening communities historically left out of these discussions. This presentation will highlight efforts of one of those agencies, the Vermont Department of Public Service, to comprehensively engage with Vermonters on the topic of renewable electricity. The engagement effort, beginning in July 2022 and running through January 2024, aims to develop recommendations for revisions to Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard and supporting programs rooted in a better understanding of the needs of the state’s communities. Guided by a public engagement plan informed by public input, the Department will offer several different engagement opportunities over the course of 2023 including an educational webinar series, outreach to community-based organizations, statewide polling, and stakeholder-informed technical analyses. This presentation will discuss preliminary results of the various engagement efforts and how stakeholder involvement is informing the development of policy recommendations to the Vermont legislature. It will also share critical lessons learned and highlight the challenges faced by a state agency seeking to move beyond token public engagement around pre-formulated recommendations towards elevating citizen voices in the lifecycle of the policy development process.

Supporting Document 1