- Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D) last week signed House Bill 40, a new law designed to reset Vermont’s renewables programs and give utilities incentives to increase their use of renewables while cutting residential customers’ greenhouse gas emissions.
- The legislation creates mandates for 55% renewables by 2017 and 75% renewables by 2032 for electric utilities. The new, more demanding renewables standard is also expected to reduce complaints that some of Vermont’s power producers’ renewable energy credits (RECs) are counted twice, once for in-state credit and again when sold out of state.
- The new law promises to create an “energy transformation” by legalizing solar leasing and on-bill financing of home energy efficiency upgrades like high-efficiency pumps for space or water heating.
HB 40 was named RESET because it changes the target of the state’s policy. Instead of just driving the use of renewables, it now includes provisions for cutting emissions from home energy use and from the transportation sector, which combined account for over 75% of Vermont’s greenhouse gases.
The Vermont Public Service Department’s 2014 Total Energy Study was the basis for the new law’s standard and innovations. It’s most fundamental conclusions were that business as usual would not achieve the state’s renewables targets and emissions reductions goals but a RESET could achieve them without compromising the state’s economy.
Vermont’s previous renewables program allowed utilities to sell RECs and also count them toward a voluntary goal. A Vermont Law School group alleged Green Mountain Power, the state’s dominant electricity supplier, was misleading customers with the claim it was using renewables while it was, in fact, selling the RECs. Last year, both NextEra Energy and the Connecticut legislature stopped the purchase of Vermont RECs and the New England market for Vermont RECs has slowed significantly. Federal regulators subsequnetly instructed the utility to be more clear going forward.