Facilitating Stakeholder Engagement Around Vermont's Energy Policy

With the State of Vermont facing difficult choices around their electricity supply, CBI and Raab Associates design and facilitate a public engagement process, involving over 700 Vermonters in decision making about the state's energy future.

Background and Challenges

With contracts providing two-thirds of Vermont’s electric power set to expire in 2012, Vermont faced choices over its energy future involving cost, reliability, greenhouse gas emissions, and in-state versus out-of-state resources.

The State of Vermont asked CBI and Raab Associates to help design a public engagement process that would involve stakeholders from across the state in discussions about their energy future. The state sought to:

  • Educate the public about the energy supply challenges facing the state
  • Gather meaningful and informed public input about values and preferences of Vermonters regarding energy supply
  • Foster a broader base of public support for the various choices available to the state

The CBI/Raab Associates Approach

CBI and Raab Associates, Ltd. designs and facilitates five regional workshops which engaged citizens through expert panels, keypad polling, open comment sessions, and other methods.

CBI and Raab Associates led an expert stakeholder group — which included stakeholders from Vermont Public Interest Group (VPIRG), environmental groups, utilities, and government officials — to develop a written document of the state's energy options as well as detailed survey questions. CBI and Raab Associates then designed and facilitated five regional workshops in St. Johnsbury, South Burlington, Montpelier, Springfield, and Rutland.

The workshops included presentations on Vermont’s electricity system, future challenges, and potential options, all of which were developed and vetted by a team including CBI and Raab Associates, a Project Advisory Committee, and a Resource Panel. Participants took part in facilitated group discussions on what they believed were the most significant challenges and promising options for Vermont. Participants also engaged in a keypad polling exercise and responded to questions on a wide range of electricity related goals, issues, and priorities. The workshops concluded with a public comment period. In addition to the public workshops, the process also included a deliberative polling session and online conferences.

Results

CBI/Raab Associates' public input process engages over 700 citizens from across the state and results in a final report submitted to the state legislature.

The public input process led by CBI and Raab Associates engaged over 700 citizens from across the state to help determine Vermont's energy plan.

A final report, showing that minimizing air pollution, reducing emissions, and using renewable resources were stakeholders’ most important priorities, was submitted to the state legislature for consideration. A subsequent state decision to focus on hydropower versus nuclear power as a significant energy source reflected stakeholder interests.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons/PaulWilliams