Mayor Miro Weinberger has proposed a new kind of carbon tax for Vermont’s largest city. The Building Electrification and Carbon Price Ordinance Policy would require anyone who builds new in Burlington to go with electric heat or else pay a hefty fee to use oil or gas. How hefty? According to this memo from the city of Burlington, a new hotel that wants to heat with utility gas will pay an estimated $200,000. And that’s just for the first decade of operation. If the hotel decides to keep the heat on for more than ten years, the owner will have to pay again.

While called a "permit fee,” the Building Electrification and Carbon Price Ordinance Policy is essentially a de facto ban on oil and gas burners by making their installation prohibitively expensive.

The proposal will now be reviewed by the Burlington Planning Commission. It will only take effect if approved by a majority on the Burlington City Council.

How do you figure out what the heating permit will cost if you want to use oil or gas?

The fee to install an oilheat or gas burner in a new building is based on anticipated consumption over a ten year period multiplied by a carbon price of $100 per ton. Using the chart below, you can see the carbon cost per unit. For instance, if a new building wanted to use oilheat and was anticipated to use 1000 gallons a year, the cost of the carbon permit to install an oilheat burner would be $10,200 (1000 gallons x 10 years x $1.02 per gallon = $10,200). Similarly, if a new building that wanted to use propane, the cost of a propane burner permit would be $5700 (1000 gallons x 10 years x $0.57 = $5700).

What happens to the permit fees?

The fees will go to Burlington’s Green Revolving Fund which pays for weatherization and renewable energy projects in city owned buildings.

What about BioHeat or biodiesel blended heating oil?

Under the draft proposal, if the building owner presents a contract or binding commitment of at least ten years to purchase a renewable fuel blend for the building, the portion of fuel use that is renewable will not count toward the carbon price calculation. So if you want to use a B-50 blend of oilheat, the cost of a Burlington heating permit would be cut in half.

What about wood heat?

Wood heat is considered renewable so would not have to pay a heating permit fee.

Would this apply to equipment upgrades in buildings already using oil or gas heating equipment?

Not as drafted. Only new construction and major retrofits.

How many oil and propane customers are left in Burlington?

Not many. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, about 12% (less than 2000) of the homes in Burlington use delivered fuels.

How is Burlington’s electricity produced?

Mostly wind, water and wood, with the largest slice coming from the biomass burning McNeil Generating Station. See chart below.

Who owns the McNeil Generating Station?

The City of Burlington is the majority owner.

Who sells electricity in the city of Burlington?

The Burlington Electric Department.

Who owns Burlington Electric Department?

The City of Burlington.