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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

With An Eye On Emissions, Burlington Electric Offers Rebates For Electric Vehicles

An electric vehicle being charged.
Taylor Dobbs
VPR File
An electric vehicle charges outside Burlington Electric headquarters. The utility is offering a $1,200 rebate to customers who purchase a new electric car and register it in Burlington.

The Burlington Electric Department is offering to help their customers upgrade to electric vehicles, by contributing $1,200 to the cost of each new car.Darren Springer, the manager of strategy and innovation for Burlington Electric, said the program is part of wider efforts to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s part of our effort to reduce emissions and help meet Vermont’s renewable energy standard, which for the first time, really in the nation, is pushing utilities to help reduce fossil fuel use in the heating and transportation sectors,” Springer said.

Springer noted that the Vermont Electric Cooperativealso offers incentives for customers who buy electric vehicles, though Burlington’s program is specifically for electric-only vehicle purchases; plug-in hybrids do not qualify.

Springer said that the $1,200 offer from Burlington Electric can be used along with federal tax incentives of up to $7,500.

Springer said the pair of incentives could make electric cars a plausible alternative for individuals or businesses shopping for a new car.

“If you’re able to go out and look at that vehicle and if it’s priced in the high-$30,000 range, you take the federal tax incentive off of that of up to $7,500 and you take the $1,200 rebate, and you might be able to get that vehicle in the high-$20,000s range,” Springer said. “So you can start to look at getting an electric vehicle after incentives at a price that’s comparable to a conventional fossil fuel vehicle.”

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation is a major component of the state’s efforts to address global climate change. The state’s goal calls for a 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2050. According to the state’s 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan, transportation emissions make up 47 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state. By that math, it’s not possible for the state to reach its goals unless greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are significantly curtailed.

Burlington Electric’s program is designed to speed up those reductions by getting Burlington Electric customers fueling their vehicles using Burlington Electric’s power, which comes from renewable sources.

Springer says Burlington Electric is also hoping to work with car dealers to make the $1,200 rebate something that happens automatically when a customer buys a new electric vehicle, rather than something that requires separate paperwork.

“Some of them may be able to work with us to actually take that [$1,200] right off the top for the customer when they purchase,” Springer said.

In the meantime, Burlington Electric customers can usea form on the company’s website to apply for the incentive. The requirements are that the vehicle have a price of less than $50,000 and be registered in Burlington. Renters and homeowners alike qualify for the program, Springer said.

Springer said Burlington Electric has budgeted to fund at least 40 vehicles in the first year of the four-year program plan. During that four-year window, Springer said, the utility hopes to help pay for 240 electric vehicles.

“And there’s an emissions benefit for each vehicle of roughly about three-and-a-half tons of carbon emissions per year, so we can begin to make a dent in the transportation sector, which is one of the toughest sectors to reduce emissions,” Springer said.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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