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Lawmakers to hold hearing on energy plan

(Host) It’s been 13 years since Vermont last approved a Comprehensive Energy Plan. Now, lawmakers and the Department of Public Service are in the process of updating the state’s energy goals… and strategies for achieving them.

VPR’s Samantha Fields has more.

(Fields) The purpose of the Comprehensive Energy Plan is to set goals and recommend specific strategies for all of the state’s energy sectors.

(Lyons) “Everything from transportation to land use to new alternative sources of fuels, both for electricity for home heating, for business processing. It’s a huge task.”

(Fields) Senator Virginia Lyons is the Chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

She says the need for an updated plan is critical. But she says there has been movement on energy planning in other areas of state government in the years since it was last updated.

(Lyons) “The legislature has been extremely active in passing laws and putting in place some of the goals and strategies we’d like to have implemented.”

(Fields) Public Service Commissioner Elizabeth Miller agrees that progress has been made.

(Miller) “So it’s not that nothing has occurred. It’s that we have to take a look at the last 14 years or so and take that into account as we move forward and look at Vermont’s energy future.”

(Fields) But Miller says the administration believes a comprehensive plan is what’s needed. The plan will address issues that are likely to come up in the future, such as how to prepare the transmission grid for electric cars, or how to reduce home heating costs.

(Miller) “The governor’s been very clear that not having an updated plan has been an impediment to planning. Both at the legislature and frankly in the state agencies as well. And in fairness, to developers and to citizens of Vermont.”

(Fields) The Governor has requested a final version be on his desk by mid October.

And Miller says the Natural Resources and Energy Committee and the Department of Public Service are moving quickly to make that happen.

(Miller) “We also anticipate that the plan that comes out in October may indeed do exactly as the statute requests, which is make recommendations for further action.”

(Fields) One thing the Comprehensive Energy Plan will NOT do is make any determinations about specific projects like Vermont Yankee or Lowell Wind. But Senator Lyons says it will look at how environmental concerns and energy issues intersect.

(Lyons) “One of the things that may come out of this comprehensive plan is a way to balance those competing environmental issues. The need for renewable electric energy at the same time that we’re protecting our ridgelines.”

(Fields) Both Miller and Lyons say that soliciting public comment will be crucial to the process of updating the energy plan.

For VPR News, I’m Samantha Fields.

(Host) There will be a public hearing on the energy plan tonight at 6 p.m. at the State House. More hearings will follow later this spring and summer.