Rutland taking leadership in Vermont’s climate economy

By Mayor Christopher Louras

On Aug. 26 I co-hosted (with the Vermont Council on Rural Development) a regional public forum at the Paramount Theatre on Advancing Vermont’s Climate Change Economy.

The City of Rutland has garnered statewide and, in numerous instances, national recognition for embracing solar development as a tool to promote itself as a hub of renewable energy innovation. However, what is less understood is the fact that, in addition to striving to be the “Solar Capital of New England,” we are also fast becoming a leader in the development and modeling of emerging energy-based technologies across the entire energy sector. And the most exciting component of the city’s transformation as it relates to technological adoption is the current and future impact on our local economy.

Rutland, as a microcosm of the State of Vermont as a whole, demonstrates how renewables and the energy sector it supports can be used to transform a local economy mired in a mid-20th century brand of economic development into a dynamic 21-first century model that will act as an engine for jobs and growth. Working with our partners at Green Mountain Power, NRG, and a long list of state and local businesses such as Same Sun of Vermont, we have not only reinvented our downtown as a commercial destination, but grown scores of jobs and brought nearly 20 businesses into the local community. These ventures diversify our economy, strengthen our workforce, and have a definitive multiplier effect on the dollars that are generated and recirculate locally.

Beyond highlighting the economic significance and value of sustainable energy initiatives, Rutland is also bridging the divide between the two competing philosophies designed to confront climate change: mitigation and adaptation.

In short, mitigation-based solutions for climate change assert that we must solely focus on carbon emissions reduction to reverse greenhouse effects. While adaptation-based solutions recognize that we will be coping with and managing the “on-the-ground-effects” of climate change (specifically changing weather patterns that result in storms of greater intensity that occur more often) for the foreseeable future and must allocate resources to adapt to these changes. These two competing philosophies, and their associated strategic solutions, very often are at odds due to finite resources and/or intransient belief structures.

But in Rutland we are focused on both mitigation (through the deployment of renewable generation, predominantly solar) and adaptation (through distributed generation that incorporates microgrids and other forms of resiliency), and we are showing the way for other communities to follow using available technologies and acting as a laboratory for emerging technologies.

These are the real and tangible benefits to embracing Vermont’s climate change economy. Our community has profited from the economic opportunities associated with innovative and creative solutions required to address climate change, and we can and must continue to lead the state, and support the state as it leads the nation, in developing models of energy generation and distribution that build our economy.

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Christopher Louras is the mayor of Rutland, Vermont

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