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Bill would lock state into Shumlin energy goals

Legislators are seeking to write into law the previous governor’s goal of getting 90 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2050.

The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee is considering S.51, sponsored by committee Chair Chris Bray, D-Addison. It mirrors some of the more prominent goals in the state’s 2011 and 2016 comprehensive energy plans, which were written under the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin. The 90 percent renewable energy goal is among them.

Critics of the goal – who say it impinges on the free market – have complained that state leaders are pursuing an agenda legislators never endorsed.

The Senate bill would set a number of benchmarks for carbon dioxide emissions along the way to 2050.

By the year 2025, Vermont would need to reduce its total energy consumption to 15 percent below the level in 2015.

The state used 139.9 trillion British thermal units in 2014, the last year these statistics are available, according to the Energy Information Administration.

By 2025 a quarter of the energy used in Vermont must come from renewable sources, according to existing state law.

Under the legislation being considered, Vermont would have to get 40 percent of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2035.

By the year 2050, in addition to supplying 90 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources, the bill would also require that the state’s total energy usage be no more than two-thirds of the amount used in 2015.

Future state comprehensive energy plans, long-range transportation system plans, and forestry and agriculture plans would have to support the pollution reduction goals in the bill.

The committee received an initial briefing on the bill Friday. It has not yet taken testimony.