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Monday, June 29, 2015

One Utility Bucks the Trend


Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power
Imagine an electric utility that packages energy makeovers for its residential customers, who can obtain substantial savings from air-source heat pumps and solar electric systems which are paid for under a lease.  Imagine an electric utility that builds a microgrid powered exclusively by solar energy and battery storage, with no fossil fuels. Imagine an electric utility that is deploying digital technology to shave peak usage and passing those savings to its customers. Imagine an electric utility that is doing all those things while reducing energy rates and meeting corporate revenue targets.

That company is Green Mountain Power, an investor-owned electric utility in Vermont serving roughly the same number of customers as Madison Gas & Electric. At the same time most power companies are striving to slow down innovation, thwart conservation through restructured rates and charges, limit customer choices, and, in the case of We Energies, tax customers for using solar energy, Green Mountain Power is bucking the trend and embracing innovation and customer choice. You can read about its efforts to adapt to a changing world in a must-read article written by Bill McKibben in the June 29th issue of The New Yorker.

“A challenge in the utility culture is precisely that it’s built on guarantees,” says Green Mountain CEO Mary Powell. “Innovation happens when there are no guarantees.”  Imagine another U.S. utility CEO saying anything like that in public.

One aspect of Green Mountain Power not noted in McKibben’s article is that it is the only electric utility that a certified benefit corporation, or B-corporation.  As explained in Wikipedia, a benefit corporation or B-corporation is a “type of for-profit corporate entity, legislated in 28 U.S. states, that includes positive impact on society and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals. B corps differ from traditional corporations in purpose, accountability, and transparency, but not in taxation.”

Why did Green Mountain Power elect to become a B Corp? Here’s what they said: "We became a B Corp to demonstrate our deep commitment to creating positive change in the community and the environment through our work to make clean energy more affordable and reliable. We embrace the mission to 'do good' in all things we do, put customers first, and seek to make Vermont and the world a healthier place to live. We are very honored to be the first utility to receive the distinguished B Corp certification."


Mary Powell will be a featured speaker at RENEW Wisconsin’s 5th
annual Energy Policy Summit, set for Thursday, January 21st in Madison. Come to the summit and learn how she and Green Mountain Power are redefining success in the electric power industry.

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