The fourth section of H. 446 revisits the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program (SPEED), created by the Vermont legislature in 2005. The purpose of this program is to is to promote the development of in-state energy sources which use renewable fuels, and gives incentives so that Vermont utilities will include “increasing amounts of SPEED resources in their power supply portfolios.” The bill sets the standard offer price that utilities must pay renewable energy generators with a capacity of 2.2 megawatts (MW) or less, based on the type of renewable source used to generate the energy. The standard offers or rates will be available until the cumulative generating capacity of all renewable sources in the state reaches or exceeds 50 MW. This is the “first statewide standard offer program in the country allowing farms, business owners, and municipalities to be better positioned to install solar, wind, small hydro, farm methane or combined heat and power projects. A standard offer provides financial certainty to developers who build the renewable energy projects that Vermonters want, thereby jump-starting construction of up to 50 megawatts of clean renewable power.”
This bill also includes:
- Clarification that thermal energy fits within the purview of the CEDF.
- Regulatory incentives ensuring utilities can recover permitting costs for renewable energy.
- Requirement that Agency of Natural Resources reconsider its policy prohibiting wind on State lands.
- Improvements to residential and commercial building standards.
- Pilot community renewable energy projects in Montpelier and Randolph.
- Clean energy assessment districts that would allow towns, cities, and incorporated villages to use municipal bonds to finance residential renewable energy or energy efficiency projects.
- Limitations on the power of municipalities and deeds to prohibit residential installation of renewable energy and energy efficiency devices, such as solar panels, residential wind turbines and clothes lines.
Two other energy-related bills that were enacted into law at the end of the legislative session are H. 152: An Act Relating to Encouraging Biomass Energy Production, and S. 18: An Act Relating to Limiting the Power of Municipalities or Deeds to Prohibit the Installation of Solar Collectors, Clotheslines, or Other Energy Devices Based on Renewable Resources. H. 152 establishes a biomass energy development working group that will enhance the growth and development of Vermont’s biomass industry while maintaining forest health. This working group will include 15 representatives from the legislature, state government, the biomass energy resource center, the forest products industry, environmental organizations, utilities, a university, a consulting forester and a member of the Vermont Woodlands Association. The group will analyze the current biomass industry and make recommendations for operations in Vermont.
S. 18, also referred to as the “Right to Dry” bill, states that no municipality shall prohibit solar collectors, clothes lines or other energy devices based on renewable sources, with some exceptions. An advocacy group that is campaigning throughout the U.S.—Project Laundry List—considers the passage of this bill a big victory for people that want to save energy by drying clothes on an outdoor clothes line. The organization states on their website that they are “making air-drying laundry acceptable and desirable as a simple and effective way to save energy.” I am all for it, and never thought it very fair that condo and neighborhood associations could ban outdoor clothes drying.
The Vermont legislature had a tough session this year, but in terms of energy efficiency, the bills that were passed will put us on a faster track to developing a future more dependent on renewable sources of energy.