MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday he remained committed to meeting the state's long-term goal of getting 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050 and to help accomplish that goal he created a commission to advise him on the best way to do it.
He asked the 21-member commission to report back to him with an action plan by July 31, 2018, but he also wants the commission to present him with three top ideas by the end of the year so the Vermont Legislature could act upon them during the 2018 legislative session.
"Goals are an important driver of public policy, but we need a plan that propels us toward accomplishing those goals and this is a serious challenge that I lay on these 21 people," Scott said during an event at his office where he introduced some of the commission members.
The commission is made up of a combination of state officials, environmentalists, the construction and energy industry, manufacturing, forest products and others.
Even though the Trump Administration has withdrawn the country from the Paris climate agreement, Scott said he had joined with 13 other governors and he committed the state to meeting its share of the emissions reductions.
"Climate change has proven to be a disruptive force on Vermonters and our economy," Scott said. "The question we have to answer today is whether we're going to let the impacts of a changing climate threaten our people and our economy, or are we going to harness the innovative minds of Vermonters to lead a growing climate change economy."
Scott said there are about 19,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector in Vermont, up 29 percent in three years.
He said all sectors of the Vermont economy would need to change to meet the goal, but he doesn't want anyone to be "unduly burdened."
In recent years, Vermont has seen a dramatic growth in renewable energy production and the jobs needed to make the projects a reality. Before he left office in January, former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, said Vermont had the highest per capita number of people working in clean energy jobs in the country. He said the state also had 12 times more solar panels than when he took office and 25 times the wind power.
Still, renewable energy projects, be they ridge-top industrial wind turbines or fields full of solar panels, can generate fierce opposition from neighbors.