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Push for green energy means bigger electric bills


In a state where natural resources are celebrated, lawmakers are asking folks at home to harvest them and make them Vermont’s main source of power.

“The future for Vermont and Vermonters is we’ll be more independent as individuals, communities and as a state,” said Robert Dostis of Green Mountain Power.

The energy bill, which passed the House 91-46 this week, puts Vermont on the path to be 75 percent reliant on renewables by the year 2032. Green Mountain Power supports the state’s renewable energy efforts but disagrees with what it means for ratepayers.

“We’re looking at a 1.8 percent impact in the early years and 20 years out it could be as high as 7 percent,” Dostis said.

For the average household with an energy bill of $75, that would mean in 20 years they’d be paying an extra $63 a year. The state predicts rates will only increase by 4 percent, which would be an extra $36 a year. For families that could mean cutting a few corners, but for businesses that difference is in the millions.

“What that means for the future in terms of jobs, wages and investments is very worrying,” said William Driscoll of Associated Industries of Vermont.

Driscoll says he’s disappointed with the lack of analysis the state has to offer for the cost of this plan, which he thinks could make more businesses leave the state.

“We’re already at a disadvantage in terms of holding onto jobs and attracting new investments. So for businesses, even a small increase in electricity costs would be a big concern, especially if they’re energy intensive,” Driscoll said.

Supporters of the bill say testimony on the House floor went by without debate.

“In two days, three roll call votes, not one question,” said Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier.

Klein says this either means people don’t understand the bill or don’t have a problem with it. The bill now moves to the Senate.

An important portion of this bill is establishing a renewable portfolio standard; essentially requiring utilities to have a certain portion of their energy come from renewables by benchmarks outlined by the state.

Vermont has been developing renewable energy since 2005 with a program called SPEED, but Vermont sold rights to the renewable energy projects to other states. Part of the RPS will require those projects to be retired so Vermont can claim some of those renewables for itself.