Energy: Pricing for renewables, fracking, big wind
Two energy bills introduced in the Senate and the House would establish a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in Vermont for the first time.
House Bill 468, introduced by Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, and Senate Bill 170, introduced by Sen. Virginia Lyons, D-Chittenden, would both create mandatory standards for utilities to buy set amounts of renewable energy. They would also revise the standard offer component of the state’s Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) Program.
Currently, the state encourages small-scale, in-state renewable energy projects by guaranteeing a set rate for energy from certain projects with a capacity of 2.2 megawatts or less. The current standard offer, however, has a cap of 50 megawatts. Klein’s legislation would lift this cap altogether, and Lyons’ would raise it to 100 megawatts. Lyons’ bill also proposes achieving net-zero carbon emissions from energy consumed in Vermont by 2025.
Both bills also distinguish between existing renewable energy and new renewable energy, with new renewables separated into tiers. They also both ratchet up the amount of renewable energy utilities must buy as time goes on. Where large-scale hydroelectric energy fits in will likely be at the forefront of the debate.
One energy source Vermont may not be exploring in state is natural gas obtained through hydraulic fracturing. Bills introduced in the House by Klein and Rep. Peter Peltz, D-Woodbury, as well as a bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, would prohibit the practice in the state. The legislation is most likely a preemptive measure, given limited prospects for natural gas extraction in Vermont.
Galbraith will serve up a more controversial bill this session regarding commercial projects on state lands. The bill drew the most media attention for its proposal to outlaw construction for commercial purpose on lands managed by the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). While the bill paints a broad brush, its primary target appears to be industrial-scale wind projects on state land. A 2004 ANR policy statement prohibits large-scale renewable energy projects (i.e., wind farms) on state lands. The draft Comprehensive Energy Plan issued by the state recommended that ANR consider rescinding this policy. The final plan backed off slightly to say the agency should consider “revising and clarifying” its policy. Galbraith’s bill would essentially codify the 2004 policy. It would also require that towns that would be “visually or otherwise affected” by wind projects approve projects before the Public Service Board can issue a certificate of public good.
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