Library filed under Energy Policy from Vermont
Lawmakers will take up a new policy for siting energy generation projects in Vermont, but not as part of the state’s new renewable energy program, said Rep. Tony Klein, chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
If the state doesn’t set new rules for renewable energy generation, ratepayers could face a $50 million increase in electricity rates, a roughly 6 percent rate hike statewide. In Burlington, rates could go up as much as 20 percent. Officials also say SPEED will not satisfy the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Springer said the administration is trying to preserve some aspects of the Vermont SPEED program, which allows utilities here to sell renewable "credits" that out of state companies buy to meet their states green energy mandates. Those sales have amounted to about $50 million a year, money the utilities say has helped reduce rates. If those sales dry up, ratepayers could pay the price.
Vermont policy to promote renewable energy is at a turning point. The Legislature will soon debate whether the state should adopt a set standard for the amount of renewable energy utilities here must use. At stake in the debate is how - and how much - Vermonters will pay for renewable energy.
The Legislature next session will decide whether electric utilities should be required to sell renewable energy to customers, rekindling a debate over the price Vermont consumers will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. ...Under the state’s current voluntary goal, utilities are allowed to sell renewable power credits out of state to reduce electric rates.
What about renewables? For many reasons, renewable build-out is not happening very quickly. As of last year, less than 10 percent of Vermont’s in-state electricity generation was by renewables, not counting hydro. Also, renewables are generally paired with natural gas (gas-fired plants are turned on when the wind dies down or the sun sets). So renewables are not going to be much help right now.
Parenteau and the petitioners don’t deny that GMP has constructed significant renewable energy projects. But they say the utility is selling so-called “credits” for that green power to high-paying customers out of state – mainly utilities in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The stuff Vermonters are paying for? Parenteau says it’s the dirty “brown” energy produced by coal, gas and nuclear plants elsewhere on the New England grid.
Vermont citizens filed this petition with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate deceptive trade practices of Green Mountain Power (GMP), a Vermont utility. The complaint focuses on GMP marketing of renewable energy to Vermont consumers. The petition was filed by the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School.
"Would I favor wind development on ridge tops in Windham? Absolutely not," he said. "Our ridgelines have very important purposes -- for environmental matters, for health matters, for water-quality matters. They’ve always been considered to be an important part of our infrastructure in the state."
“What were they thinking?” when New England’s state energy planners backed building 25-cent-per-kilowatt-hour wind projects while opposing reliable, existing, low-cost generators like Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
A combination of factors — the end of federal stimulus money, uncertain reauthorization of federal incentives, difficulties in connecting to the grid, competition with solar and local opposition — have shelved at least two projects and left three others lying dormant.
Building more electricity transmission into New England isn't about an "energy crisis." It's about economics, jobs, corporate profit, failure to make the small fixes that add up, failure to do detailed analysis, failure to resist stampede crisis mentality, and lots of other things.
“When an energy producer says they are clean or green, you should be skeptical,” said Kevin Jones, deputy director of the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School. He noted the proliferation of large-scale solar projects in the state. The energy generated from these projects are not used by Vermonters, but are sold to out-of-state electricity producers in the form of renewable energy credits.
“The states and NESCOE are deliberately working out the details of this plan in secret, consistent with the view of one of NESCOE’s staffers that the plan should be ‘formulated behind closed doors’ because the ‘court of public opinion can be fickle and recalcitrant,’ ” Courchesne wrote, quoting an email from a NESCOE staff member to Executive Director Heather Hunt.
Developers are pitching plans, and are now offering states handsome “benefits packages” in seeking their support. In addition, states could earn millions from new property or infrastructure taxes, the leasing of existing right-of-ways and financial returns on public investment in the lines. But these assurances aren’t enough, according to Kerrick Johnson, vice president of Vermont Electric Power Co., or VELCO.
One of the nation’s top renewable energy suppliers said it will no longer trade Vermont’s renewable energy credits that are also counted toward the state’s clean energy target. “It is a fundamental principle of all renewable energy market sales that the environmental characteristics associated with the electric energy generated cannot be counted or claimed twice,” NextEra Energy said.
The state's transmission utility told lawmakers they should prepare for a regional transmission build-out that will bring renewable power from the Canada to southern New England markets seeking to meet higher renewable energy targets.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee proposed several amendments, including what some say was a moratorium on wind - a debate that began after Green Mountain Power constructed a 21-turbine wind project in Lowell, which the town supports. "We should not be destroying our ridgelines and dividing our communities for and economic development program that the surrounding communities don't want," said Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham.
The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee heard testimony Thursday on legislation to give property owners and local planners a stronger voice in the state’s energy project review process. The bill is partly a response to local recoil over industrial-scale energy projects. Environmental advocates say the policy could undermine the state’s renewable energy goals by blocking future development.
Wind projects have been mired by noise complaints and pushback from environmental conservationists in recent years. But Tuesday’s committee meeting raised the issue of property depreciation resulting from noise pollution. “I think it is a serious question that Sen. Galbraith is asking, because there have been property assessments reduced in Vermont because of these projects. And if that affects the education statewide property tax, then we are all paying for this. And most of us really don’t want to be."