Vermont lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a bill designed to promote renewable energy and energy conservation efforts directed at heating fuels.
‘How do we maximize energy independence in the state of Vermont?’ said Rep. Robert Dostis, chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. ‘That is what this bill will help us achieve.’
The approval punctuated an 18-month journey that saw Gov. Jim Douglas veto a bill with many of the same provisions last year. In that legislation, Douglas didn’t like the fact that the energy conservation efforts would be paid for with a new tax on the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, or that the work would likely be directed to Efficiency Vermont, the statewide program that now implement electrical efficiency programs.
The financing scheme in the measure passed Thursday calls for using income headed to Vermont from two multistate energy programs to pay for the new conservation efforts:
–The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will allow Vermont to sell carbon credits because the power plants that produce its electricity are low in emissions.
–ISO-New England, the regional power dispatch manager, will make payments for the contributions Efficiency Vermont’s conservation efforts are making to meeting the region’s power demand.
The bill now goes to Douglas, who is expected to sign it into law.
‘It’s an excellent example of what can be accomplished in Montpelier when the Legislature gives reasonable consideration to the governor’s point of view,’ said Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs.
The bill contains a break on property taxes for wind power developers, calls for an expansion of ‘net metering,’ in which people who make power with solar or small wind generators can sell some of it back to their utility and sets a goal of producing 25 percent of the state’s energy from in-state, renewable sources by 2025.
It also takes other steps to promote energy independence.
But its centerpiece is a new effort to help Vermonters tighten up homes and other buildings. A study done for the state Department of Public Service determined that $480 million could be saved in Vermont over the next 10 years by adding insulation, replacing drafty windows and other ‘building shell’ improvements alone.
A key question during the long debate on the bill was who should lead the new efficiency effort.
Legislative Democrats, especially in the Senate, have pushed for that job to be given to Efficiency Vermont, which has won national recognition for its conservation efforts on the electricity front.
Douglas criticized this idea last year, saying he didn’t want to create or expand what he termed the bureaucracy devoted to the conservation efforts.
A compromise struck this session by the Senate appears to have satisfied all sides.
Efficiency Vermont will get the payments from ISO-New England and be able to begin right away devoting them to the heating efficiency programs.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative payments, meanwhile, will go to the Department of Public Service, so that it can look to hire other entities to manage the efficiency work.
28 February 2008
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