Legislative Report by Betty Nuovo: state refines its energy priorities

One of the chief goals of the Vermont Legislature over the years has been to cut energy consumption through greater efficiency and to develop renewable energy resources. We continue to work towards these goals. The following is a report of accomplishments, programs and work in progress.
State Energy Policy
The energy policy of the state is to assure that Vermont can meet its energy needs in a way that is adequate, reliable, secure, affordable, sustainable, efficient, environmentally sound and encourages the state’s economic vitality. Nuclear energy is not considered renewable.
Vermont’s Public Service Department (PSD) has had several Comprehensive Energy Plans, the last of which was 2011. These plans describe what the state has been doing and will continue to do to develop the necessary energy for the state. Vermont aims to have 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. Vermonters have reduced their electric consumption by more than 2 percent for several years and made 6,700 homes energy efficient between 2008 and 2011 and continue to do so.
The Natural Resources and Energy Committee, of which I am a member, has held many hearings and received testimony through the years on a variety of different energy matters — net metering, speed, standard offer, conservation, efficiency, renewables, implementation, education, regulation and how to help towns with energy conservation. We have also studied wind, solar, biomass, hydro-electric, methane, thermal, fuel cells, transmission, public health and safety issues, environmental issues, utility rates and costs and much more. The Legislature, after study, has come up with several workable plans to solve these problems, in the last few years.
Net Metering
Net metering is the electricity produced by generated and used by a customer and the unused electricity that is fed back to the electric company who then credits or debits the difference between the two at the end of the year. Net metering projects can use wind, methane or hydro, but mostly use solar. The House Natural Resources and Energy committee has been studying this issue again this year, and has changed net metering from the present cap at 4 percent, which is too low, to 15 percent. That will allow for many more projects and more electrical output. This now has to pass the House, the Senate and later the governor.
SPEED (Sustainable Priced Energy Enterprise Development) is a project that will develop renewable and efficient energy projects for state markets. These entities would enter into long-term contracts to produce the energy. These contracts would be in addition to what an electric companies are required by state law to produce in renewables. The price set for this long-term renewable energy would be set by the PSB.
Standard Offer
Working under the SPEED program, the Pubic Service Board shall issue financial offers to interested entities for renewable energy plants that meet certain requirements. They must be new plants located in Vermont with a plant capacity of 2.2 megawatts or less with a cap of 50 mw.
Last year the Natural Resources Committee worked on cutting greenhouse emissions by requiring new buildings, commercial and residential, to follow state energy standards for commercial, residential and mixed-use buildings. This bill passed the House, Senate and was signed by the governor. The law further authorizes the PSD to achieve greater energy savings by having a working group that is charged with developing a consistent format for energy rating tools over the years.
If you have any comments or suggestions please contact me at [email protected].

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