Read about our current projects below, or browse our archive of
Our campus sustainability plan project provides staff support to the VLS Campus Sustainability Committee. On November 26th, 2012 Vermont Law School President and Dean, Marc Mihaly signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. As a signatory of this commitment, Vermont Law School is now taking necessary steps to implement a comprehensive plan towards climate neutrality. To develop this plan, Dean Mihaly has established a Campus Sustainability Committee and retained the Institute for Energy and the Environment to assist the committee in developing the Law School’s first Campus Sustainability Plan. In addition to providing support to the committee an IEE faculty member and a student research associate are members of the committee, along with representatives from Buildings and Grounds, the Campus Greening Committee, and the Office for Institutional Advancement. The committee has developed procedures for the VLS Green Revolving Loan Fund and approved building efficiency, solar energy, and electric vehicle charging projects which are all at various stages of implementation.
In Fall 2014, the Institute for Energy and the Environment launched its new Energy Clinic, which introduces students to the practical aspects of real world energy projects. The clinic provides services to community groups including plain language description of project terms and conditions; assessment of any retail electric provisions; advice regarding ownership of environmental attributes; model terms and conditions for community net metering agreements; and assistance in retaining expert counsel or additional technical assistance. From the stage of project conceptualization to construction, students are responsible for drafting, reviewing, and explaining project related agreements, manuals, statutes, regulations, local ordinances, and tax codes to assist the development of community energy projects. The Energy Clinic represents a unique opportunity to participate in meaningful sustainable energy transactions. In 2015-16 the Energy Clinic teams are assisting clients on community solar development, anaerobic biodigesters to generate energy from farm and food waste, and low income access to solar ownership.
The Energy Security and Justice Program investigates how to provide ethical access to energy services and minimize the injustice of current patterns of energy production and use. It explores how to equitably provide available, affordable, reliable, efficient, environmentally benign, proactively governed and socially acceptable energy services to households and consumers. One track of the program focuses on lack of access to electricity and reliance on traditional biomass fuels for cooking in the developing world. Another track analyzes the moral implications of existing energy policies and proposals, with an emphasis on the production and distribution of negative energy externalities and the impacts of energy use on the environment and social welfare. Recently, the team co-authored the introductory chapter titled Energy, Poverty, and Development: A Global Review for a multi-volume book.
With a grant for the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative, the IEE SunShot Plug-and-Play team, in collaboration with Fraunhofer U.S.A.'s Center for Sustainable Energy and 12 other partners, is working to develop a cost effective market-ready plug-and-play residential rooftop solar system. While the average installed price of solar has more than halved since 2010 to $3/watt (W), the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative aims to halve that cost again, targeting $1.50/W installed cost for residential PV systems to make solar energy a truly viable option for the average American home. The SunShot Plug-and-Play project aims to make the $1.50/W target a reality within three years. Because it is designed to be easier and safer to install, much like plugging in an appliance, and will automatically connect to the local utility through smart microelectronic devices, the plug-and-play system is expected to dramatically reduce the installation, inspection, and permitting costs for small residential PV. The IEE SunShot Plug-and-Play team has conducted comprehensive research into the codes and standards (structural, electrical, and procedural) governing residential rooftop solar installations in the United States. It has identified various regulatory barriers to the Plug-and-Play concept, and continues to identify both technical and regulatory solutions to those barriers. The team will also help to develop a voluntary industry standard and advise the wider team on regulatory and policy concerns arising throughout the project.
The IEE's Biomass Energy Policy team has published two major reports recently. The most recent report, "On-Farm Biodiesel Production in Vermont: Legal and Regulatory Overview," reviews all Vermont state and federal regulations related to on-farm biodiesel production. Commissioned by the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, the report aims to inform farmers about the potential laws and regulations surrounding on-farm biodiesel production.
In another report, The Biomass Energy Policy Team evaluated the need for additional state and regional policies and standards to promote a sustainable market structure for woody biomass in Vermont. Considering literature and legislation from the United States, Canada, and Europe, the IEE team looked into the main concerns and obstacles to incentivizing the use of woody biomass. The following questions were addressed: What would a sustainable biomass market structure look like? How efficient are Vermont's legal, regulatory, and monitoring tools for evaluating and responding to the cumulative impacts on forests that an increase in the woody biomass market would create? What improvements should be made to the legal, regulatory, and monitoring tools in Vermont to provide a sustainable market?