Vermont has an ambitious goal to power the state with 90% renewable energy sources by the year 2050 in all sectors: thermal, electric, and transportation. As the state continues to pursue this goal, job training within the renewable energy sector will need to develop, there will need to be a baseline educational system established within the school systems, and the Vermont public must understand this goal to support the efforts being made to achieve it. By utilizing means of public outreach and job training to create awareness of the goal and to increase Vermont’s overall “energy literacy,” the Vermont public is more likely to support renewable efforts going forward. While energy literacy can mean a vast knowledge of energy, policy, and industry, the focus of energy literacy for Vermonters should be on personal energy use, allowing them to take control of their usage and efficiency, and to benefit from incentives. The foundational understanding of energy allows Vermont residents to be able to represent their communities in the process of infrastructure development.
There is currently no requirement for primary school students to learn about energy, but school districts and teachers can choose to implement lesson plans within their curricula. There are numerous online resources for educators of grades kindergarten through high school such as the U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (http://bit.ly/EERE_EnergyLiteracy), the National Education Association (http://bit.ly/NEA_CleanEnergyEducation) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (http://bit.ly/NREL_EducationResources). These sites have lesson plans for each grade level catering to the learning abilities and relatable topics within their respective grades. These sites are also available to anyone who has access to the internet.
Interactive visual representations of individuals’ energy usage help consumers see how their actions can affect the local grid. National Grid, a large utility serving customers in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, provides a comparison of each customer’s monthly usage in comparison with their neighbors, as well as comparisons to efficient neighbors, which displays potential cost savings in terms that don’t require in-depth understanding of energy literacy (Building Performance Institute Inc.).
There are many examples of growing employment in the clean energy fields in other countries. Denmark’s growing wind development has created a lot of jobs within the country. More than 40% of the energy supply in Denmark comes from wind power. Their goal is to reach 50% by 2020 and 100% free of fossil fuels by 2050. There are 29,000 people employed in the industry by 2014 (Denmark). Germany’s renewable energy department has grown over time and so has its net employment. They have predicted that the gross employment in the renewable energy industry may increase to around 500 to 600 thousand people compared to more than 370 thousand today. In Germany, the renewable energy industry doubled its employment between 2004 and 2009 (Lehr, et al.). The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has a website dedicated to finding job training within the green energy industry in the United States (www.energy.gov/eere/education/find-trainings). They have connections and links to training and education for places all over the country (www.energy.gov/eere/education/teach-and-learn).
Creating jobs and initiating educational systems within the state boils down to integrating the plan with the public, and the communities to engage in harmonious efforts of completing the ambitious 90% by 2050 goal. As Vermont transitions towards this goal, it is projected that more distributed and locally generated grids will become prominent throughout the state. These “microgrids” will be powered by renewables that will have to be constructed in the communities. Communities will benefit from clean energy jobs, and the cleaner energy there is, the more jobs there will be, especially if microgrid designs that require ongoing maintenance and attention are embraced. Through community engagement with an energy literate public, Vermonters will be able to implement the most beneficial and appropriate technologies where they live.
Grace Olsen is a sophomore at Green Mountain College where she is pursuing a degree in Renewable Energy and Ecological Design. She is a resident of mid-coast Maine who has long been involved in community service, especially through trail clean ups and nature conservation.
This article is based on a presentation Grace Olsen delivered at the annual conference of Renewable Energy Vermont in October, 2018. References for further reading will be posted for this article when it appears at www.greenenergytimes.org.
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