In 2009, a group of Vermonters came together to begin an effort to address the reality of climate change, the risk to Vermont’s economy of continued dependence on fossil fuels, and the economic and technological opportunity presented by transitioning to a sustainable energy future. Recognizing that no single organization—non-profit, business, or government entity—had the power to enact rapid, large-scale systems change, the group embarked on a systems mapping process. This process involved over sixty thought and action leaders from all aspects of the energy sector and led to broad agreement among a diverse group of participants on an ambitious goal: Vermont must meet 80% of its 2030 (80% by 2030 has since been updated to 90% by 2050!) energy needs through renewable energy and increased efficiency.
EAN’s systems work started with a core team and, using a “concentric circles” approach, has continued to engage an increasingly wider circle of people at each point in the process. This approach has encouraged the development of effective working relationships and high levels of trust across sectors and organizations, and has ensured that divergent points of view will be heard and considered.
Through the mapping process, it became evident that focused, coordinated, cross-sector work in four high leverage areas (public engagement, capital mobilization, regulatory reform and technological innovation) can lead to transformative change in the energy system. It is our belief that coordinated, strategic projects that address all four of these leverage points will have a catalytic effect on transitioning Vermont’s energy system. This work will be most successful if there is a high level of coordination across energy sectors (heating, transportation, and electricity) and organizations in the business, government and non-profit arenas.
In 2011, EAN participants identified a number of these strategic projects that could be initiated immediately and have the greatest leverage effect on the energy system. These implementation projects will provide the opportunity for private, nonprofit and public entities to work together to achieve both their individual objectives and the larger energy system transformation. Participants also recognized the need for support in this collaborative effort and requested that EAN provide network coordination and facilitation. To meet this need, we have set up a “backbone” organizational structure that will provide on-going support in the form of network and project coordination, funding support, meeting facilitation, and development of shared metrics, so that we can collectively reach our common goals.