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Renewable energy overhaul set for Senate vote  

Credit:  John Herrick | May 11, 2015 | vtdigger.org ~~

A bill putting in place mandatory state renewable energy targets is set to arrive on the Senate floor in the final week of the legislative session.

The Senate Finance and Appropriation committees voted unanimously Monday to pass H.40, a bill that requires the state’s utilities to meet escalating renewable energy requirements beginning in 2017. The House passed the bill in March and has indicated it will support the Senate’s version.

The Renewable Energy Standard, or RES, would replace the state’s current renewable energy incentive program, known as SPEED.

The bill puts in place a new system for how utilities account for renewable electricity through the sale of renewable energy credits, or RECs. Connecticut has indicated it will not purchase Vermont RECs past 2017 because, under SPEED, utilities could count the same credits toward state goals that they also sell to Connecticut utilities. If other states took a similar position, utilities would face losing $50 million in revenue from REC sales, which would likely lead to a 6 percent statewide rate increase.

Under the bill, utilities will be required to build wind, solar and other renewable energy projects. They will also be required to reduce their customers’ fossil fuel use.

The Senate version of the bill removes a provision passed by the House that would cap the energy efficiency charge, which is used to pay for the state’s efficiency programs.

The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee intends to amend the bill with a provision putting in place statewide solar setback and local screening requirements. Renewable energy developers and towns described the siting provision as a compromise, even though towns, as represented by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, say they still have little to not say in how energy generation projects are built. Local bylaws do not apply to energy permits.

The Senate finance committee added a provision to require the Department of Public Service, which represents electric customers in utility matters, to report back to lawmakers on whether its public advocacy office is effective and independent.

Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, said he supports a similar version of the bill. The Department of Public Service, which represents the Shumlin administration, supports the bill.

Source:  John Herrick | May 11, 2015 | vtdigger.org

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