Efficiency Vermont’s new director: Fee is a ‘societal benefit charge,’ not a tax

When Karen Glitman was appointed director of Efficiency Vermont last month, she received kudos from advocates of green energy and electric transportation, as well as from energy cap-and-traders.

The Burlington resident brings plenty of experience to the new job. She was a former state representative and also served as director of strategy, policy and public affairs for the Vermont Energy Investment Corp. She also was deputy secretary at the Agency of Transportation.

EUPHEMISTICALLY SPEAKING: Karen Glitman, director of Efficiency Vermont, said that her organization’s statewide ratepayer fee is a “societal benefit charge.”

But Glitman’s role has shifted — she now runs a state-sponsored efficiency utility company appointed by the Vermont Public Service Board and sustained by fees on ratepayers’ electric bills. The company, which exists to reduce the energy used by Vermonters, has an annual budget of about $50 million.

The cozy public-private partnership is a touchy subject, as Vermont residents have no choice but to pay fees to the company.

On Thursday, while appearing on WDEV’s “Common Sense Radio” program, Glitman was confronted by a caller who questioned the fairness of a statewide mandatory ratepayer fee.

“The $14 or $15 a month that I have to pay on my electricity bill for Efficiency Vermont is a tax … on the electricity that we buy. I have to pay that tax whether I want to or not, if I want my electricity. If I don’t pay this tax my electricity will be shut off,” the caller from Woodbury said.

“It’s a tax, and you can’t say otherwise. They’ve extrapolated this now to fuel used to heat your house; it’ll be on our gas if it isn’t already,” he added.

Glitman replied and disagreed that the Efficiency Vermont fee is a hidden tax.

“We all pay into this. … The notion of thinking about this as a societal benefit charge would be helpful,” she said. “Seventeen years ago when it was put in place, (the fee) was called an EEC, or energy efficiency charge. … It’s calculated by a regulatory process to meet various energy reduction targets — how much electricity the utitlity board wants to see saved, et cetera.”

Glitman said the fee has helped Efficiency Vermont reduce electricity consumption in the state, which in turn reduces the need to purchase more out-of-state power or build new power plants and substations.

Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Torti, also a guest on the program, jumped to Glitman’s defense.

“We hear this (complaint) in many different places … in communities from people who never had children,” Torti began. “They wonder, ‘Why do I have to pay tax for their education?’ That is for the common good — an educated population is good for a number of reasons, so everybody pays.”

Torti continued his comparison, this time with transportation.

“Everybody pays for the roads. And in that ‘den of iniquity,’ Burlington, where many people choose not to have cars … they pay taxes to improve the roads even though they are not using the roads or contributing to the demise of the roads,” he said. “Vermont made a decision that using less energy is in the public interest; because of that, we should all pay this, whether a fee, a tax or a service charge.”

Torti’s comments drew program host Bill Sayre off the sidelines and into the debate.

“Well, that’s your liberal side coming out, Tom,” Sayre quipped in response.

“There are philosophical differences here. There is a segment of our population — of which I am one — where you have the individual, volunteer approach; then there are decisions in Montpelier … and the idea of being forced into paying something. It’s an anathema.”

Throughout the show Glitman touted many of the organization’s initiatives, including the championing of more electric vehicles, and argued that greater energy efficiency benefits everyone.

The caller from Woodbury disagreed, illustrating that Glitman may get a mixed reception in her new role depending on whether Vermonters view her as an efficiency director or a tax collector.

“I used to drive 600 miles a day, so your electric cars are worthless to me as they are to most Vermonters,” the caller said. “If you’re a city dweller like you folks up in Burlington, which runs the state, you may get by with 230 miles (on a vehicle’s battery charge).

“But why, if Vermont Efficiency has saved us so much money on electricity, is Global Foundries in Essex Junction complaining about its electric bill? If the rate is 15 percent lower, why is Global Foundry complaining? I predict the company will eventually leave Vermont; it’s just not affordable (doing business here).”

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

15 thoughts on “Efficiency Vermont’s new director: Fee is a ‘societal benefit charge,’ not a tax

  1. EFFICIENCY VERMONT SHOULD BE CLOSED DOWN

    The Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board created Efficiency Vermont in 1999. The following year, it began offering services to help reduce energy costs for Vermonters and protect the environment.

    Prior to 2000, those services were delivered by Vermont’s 20-plus electric utilities, and the cost was built into the overall utility rates. The city of Burlington, which has a long-standing and successful efficiency program, continues to receive energy efficiency services from Burlington Electric Department.

    With the creation of EV, all Vermonters gained access to a consistent, comprehensive set of services. Since then, Vermont has been able to achieve ambitious energy targets, which has reduced its system-wide electricity costs.

    In 2008, Efficiency Vermont received authorization to offer thermal efficiency services to all Vermonters to help them reduce their use of fossil fuels, improve their comfort, and save on heating costs. EV has formed partnerships with Vermont Gas Systems, the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, and Vermont contractors to deliver thermal efficiency services.

    EV receives its financing from a state mandated surcharge on monthly electric bills. This surcharge started small, but has been getting bigger, as the EV budget grew at about 11% per year, compounded.

    EV, which has a staff of about 200 employees, spends about 45% of its budget on expenses, which is an inefficient way to do energy efficiency. See the Andrew Rudin URL, which shows the Efficiency Vermont way of doing EE is not efficient at all, despite their self-serving reports.

    In 2014, EV budget $45.9 million, about $18.9 million was spent on various expenses, $22.9 million on subsidies for participants, and $4.1 million on other activities.

    In 2015, EV budget $52.2 million, about $19.6 million was spent on various expenses, $23.6 million on subsidies for participants, and $9.0 million on other activities.

    EV should be closed down, which would eliminate about $56.2 million of EV surcharges on 2016 electric bills of already-struggling households and businesses. EV budgets totaled about $643 million for the 1992 – 2017 period.

    • Addition:

      Below is my article on the Efficiency Vermont issue.

      The EV cozy public-private partnership is just another liberal-Democrat-inspired boondoggle to curry favor with various constituencies.

      After 20 years, the EV surcharge on electric bill should end.

      EV should become a private consulting firm that competes with other such firms, instead of unfairly taking away their business.

      No wonder Vermont has such a low business friendliness rating.

      http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/efficiency-vermont

      • Agree completely. I asked my local state reps to rid us of this pain several years ago. Cynthia Browning, with a Masters in Economics , went to bat but struck out against the Progressive jauggernaut. She’s a fighter and gets it.

  2. Who does she think she’s kidding? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a TAX! Tired of all this feel good double talk.

  3. Maybe the state of Vermont should stop raiding other sources to fund education.
    Then and only would we have a true sense of the “cost of doing business”
    I called the same show to ask for the savings that have occurred since the inception of EEV.
    What I got for an answer was classic obfuscate and deflection.
    In short a claim of 15% savings with respect to electricity,adjusted for variances in economic growth which has not occurred in at least 10 years does not justify 50,000,000.00 in expenditures!

  4. “…which in turn reduces the need to purchase more out-of-state power or build new power plants and substations.”
    If the Green MT Power company is owned by a Canadian holding company, and we have signed multiple contracts to purchase HYDO QUEBEC power, then what is this talk about “out of state power” insinuating coal of oil fired plants? More new power will be necessary if we are to grow so the possibility of more substations could very well be necessary too.
    False narratives meant to confuse and obfuscate the masses.

  5. EEVT ran a big advertising campaign several years back insisting that the “curly bulbs” were the way to go. How much was spent on bulbs, that we cannot dispose of when they are dead? They even subsidized these and now the LED bulbs instead of letting the market decide a fair price.
    The EEFee is just that, a tax, which goes up each year to accommodate pay raises for EEVT employees.
    If it was meant to promote efficiency then it should be faded out as one becomes more efficient.

    This thinking is killing our lifestyle and retirement hopes of remaining in VT by a slowly bleeding us with “thousand paper cuts”.

    • I don’t believe it is a thousand cuts it has been picking up steam and forcing hard working Vermonter’s out of state. I have only lived in VT for forty years. But I moved here because I loved the state, not to bring ideas from other states and make it like ______ you fill in the blank. People are leaving the state due to affordability. A very sad state of affairs.

  6. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck; then it is a tax. Where in the hell did all these nuts come from?

    • Liberalville, an ever growing suburb of Progressive Town in the County Socialism right next to Communist.

  7. I cannot support this operation until their books, including salaries paid to top executives, are opened to the public. The idea of subjecting all users to this tax and then handing the money over to a private operation to do with it as they please is so blatantly unAmerican as to make me ill. These backwards thinking “progressives” are destroying America with their “for the greater good” philosophy. The funny part to me is that it is always that same group that screams to the heavens about how conservatives want to control everything you do. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!!!!!!

  8. Reminds me of scenes from the Princess Bride:

    “Inconceivable!” (insert “Taxes”)
    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    or maybe even more appropriately:

    “I’ll tell you the truth and its up to you to live with it.”

  9. A company with a budget of fifty million with the purpose of reducing energy at a higher cost to the consumer who would almost certainly rather have more energy even if they have to pay less for it? I think I don’t understand something – no, anything – about this. Why does having less energy at greater cost benefit the consumer? Plus it costing fifty million to achieve that? If they wanted to use less energy, they could just do it. Turn of the AC. And what’s the “efficiency” part mean if the cost is higher?

  10. Tom Tori is wrong when he says people without cars in Burlington pay tax for the roads and they don’t use them. There food, heating fuel and products they buy are brought to Burlington by vehicles that use the roads. So unless they want to build a wall around Burlington area and become self sufficient, by growing there own food and making there own products and clothing they are using the roads. The $15.00 on electric bills is a tax. If I put in wind and solar but remain hooked to the grid do I still pay the tax every month? Even if I generate more than I use? It is just the start of the “Carbon Tax” the left says we need to save with no thought on what it does to the people that need to heat their homes or drive a distance to work. When will VT learn and elect some conservatives?

    • I don’t know about Vermont, but most states fund roads off motor fuel taxes so the roads are paid for by the people who use them – except electric vehicle users, who don’t buy motor fuels.

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