Despite the recent growth in solar and wind projects, residents of Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont receive 0% of their energy from solar and wind sources.
That is according to a new report from the Energy Clinic at the Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) at Vermont Law School.
Various programs in Vermont like net metering and SPEED have sought to promote renewable energy development in Vermont, particularly from solar and wind resources. While these programs have resulted in the development of significant in-state renewable resources, renewable energy certificates (REC) have been sold from the vast majority of large scale wind and solar resources to utilities out of state.
The report contends that it is a direct consequence of REC sales that Vermont gets 0% of its electricity from wind and solar and that if Green Mountain Power did not sell its wind RECs, its customers would receive 9% of their electricity from wind – rather than the 0% they are receiving today.
The report also reveals how greenhouse gas emissions in Vermont’s electric sector have approximately doubled over the last decade, despite the rapid development of solar and wind generating facilities in the state. The State of Vermont’s policies covering REC are responsible for this paradox, according to the report.
“The sale of RECs out of state resulting from Vermont’s past and current energy policies has contributed to a near doubling in greenhouse gas emissions from Vermont’s electric sector,” said report co-author Heather Huebner, community solar team leader for the Energy Clinic. “This startling outcome from a policy meant to boost clean, renewable energy is proof of why it is so important to better understand RECs, and to get the policies that guide them right.”
The Vermont SPEED program, the dominant state renewable energy policy, was designed to increase development of renewable energy in the state, but has instead resulted in an increase in Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions by incentivizing out-of-state REC sales.
Newly proposed net metering rules by the Public Service Board discourage Vermont net metering customers from retaining and retiring the RECs associated with their solar projects and will likely lead to reduced solar development in Vermont. Vermont net metering customers who retain and retire their RECs can legally “go solar” and reduce their own carbon footprint.
“As explained in the report, retaining and retiring the RECs is the only way that Vermonters can go solar,” said report co-author Aaron Kelly, a Master of Energy Regulation and Law (MERL) student at VLS and Energy Clinic community solar team member.
The Vermont Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy is currently considering how to address RECs in future energy policies. The report recommends changes to Vermont’s net metering and utility policies as they concern RECs. For example, prohibiting the out of state sale of RECs from net metering projects given that Vermont pays a premium for this power and should claim the renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction benefits; allowing Vermont net metering customers to retain and retire RECs from home and community solar arrays without financial penalty; and modifying Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard to phase in retirement of RECs from Vermont utility SPEED resources.
“To meet Vermont’s ambitious renewable energy goals, we have to be able to count the solar and wind projects developed here in the state. The sale of RECs out of state makes that impossible,” said Professor Kevin B. Jones, deputy director of the IEE and Energy Clinic. “Any policy that allows for such sales makes it harder and harder to achieve these legislated goals. And, in the meantime, more and more of the state’s best solar and wind sites are being developed to meet the RPS [renewable portfolio standard] goals in Massachusetts and Connecticut.”
For more: see the report
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