Category Archives: Energy

Connecticut utility officials endorse Vermont renewable bill

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Backers of a renewable energy bill making its way through the Vermont Legislature say a draft ruling from regulators in Connecticut effectively endorses the Vermont legislation.

The Vermont bill would end a program that critics have said has allowed double-counting of the state’s renewable energy efforts: once when they meet Vermont state goals, and again when renewable energy credits are sold to Connecticut utilities.

A bill given final passage in the House on Tuesday and headed to the Senate would end that practice but still allow the sale of renewable energy credits not claimed by Vermont utilities out of state.

A draft ruling Wednesday from the Connecticut Utilities Regulatory Authority says the Vermont bill likely would make a potential legal squabble between the two states unnecessary.

Podcast: Capitol Beat 2-2-15

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Vermont Press Bureau reporter Josh O’Gorman and bureau chief Neal Goswami talk education, health care and exfoliating.

Release: Sanders’ solar bill blocked by GOP

Senate Republicans today shot down a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to help install up to 10 million solar power systems for homes and businesses in the coming decade.

Rebates for solar systems would have been authorized by a Sanders amendment to a Keystone XL oil pipeline bill now before the Senate.

“The scientific community tells us very clearly if we’re going to reverse climate change and the great dangers it poses for the planet we must move aggressively to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” Sanders said.

His amendment called for a 15 percent rebate to homeowners and businesses that install solar power. The new solar power generated would have been enough to replace one-fifth of the nation’s dirty, coal-fired power plants. The measure also would create new jobs.

“So if you’re interested in reversing the dangers of climate change and creating jobs, I would urge you to support this amendment,” Sanders said. The amendment got 40 votes. It needed 60 to pass.

Sanders’ proposal was supported by Vermont’s Green Mountain Power, a leading proponent of solar and other renewable sources of energy. “Green Mountain Power is finding new ways to help Vermonters save money and be more comfortable, while moving to cleaner local sources of energy,” said Mary Powell, the utility president. “We appreciate the efforts of leaders like Sen. Sanders and others who recognize the importance of ongoing investments in renewable energy.”

Video: Public hearing on gas prices

Release: GMP praises Sanders’ solar amendment

Green Mountain Power today issued the following statement from Mary Powell, President and CEO, in support of Senator Sander’s Rooftop Solar Amendment:

 “Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s Energy Company of the Future, supports Senator Bernie Sanders’s amendment for its economic and environmental value. The proposal will support installation of solar power systems on top of 10 million homes and businesses within the next decade.  This plan aligns with GMP’s mission to deliver low-cost, low-carbon, and highly reliable power, which is critical to our energy future.

 “GMP is partnering with customers to accelerate the pace of change here in Vermont. We are finding new ways to help Vermonters save money and be more comfortable, while moving to cleaner local sources of energy – exemplified by our Energy Homes of the Future ‘e-Homes’ in Rutland and our goal to make Rutland the Energy City of the Future. Generating energy through microgrids empowers our customers to make more choices about how and when they use energy.  We are also partnering with NRG Energy Inc. to bring innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable energy solutions for Vermonters.

“While some national utilities and national utility organizations are reaching out to GMP to join in opposition to fight innovative clean energy solutions like this solar proposal from Senator Sanders, we are moving full steam ahead with our efforts to find new ways to benefit customers. We want to transform the distribution grid from a 100-year-old electric delivery model to a new system designed to create efficiencies and distributed energy solutions through renewable technologies and energy storage. This is the future, and we are so excited to be a part of how Vermont is leading the way.

“We appreciate the efforts of leaders like Senator Sanders and others who recognize the importance of ongoing investments in renewable energy.”

Release: Public Service Department issues energy comparison

The Vermont Public Service Department has released its benchmarking comparison of electric energy efficiency program performance in Vermont with performance of programs in eight other states. The evaluation shows that Vermont’s electric energy efficiency programs save more energy than comparable programs, with costs that are very similar to their peers.

 “I am gratified but not surprised that Vermont’s Energy Efficiency Utilities show greater benefits for dollars spent than systems in other states” said Chris Recchia, Commissioner of Vermont Public Service Department. “Vermont is a national leader in energy efficiency and this report highlights the success of our programs” Recchia added.

 The Department’s benchmarking analysis compares reported program savings and costs for program years 2011 and 2012. The analysis includes results for energy savings as well as for peak demand; peak demand savings reduce the need to build new electric generators or power lines.

 “Benchmarking is an appropriate tool to ensure Vermont’s programs compare well to programs in other jurisdictions. We are pleased to see Vermont’s Energy Efficiency Utilities perform so well compared to their peers” said Asa Hopkins, Director of Energy Policy and Planning in the Department.

 Burlington Electric Department (“BED”) provides electric energy efficiency services in Burlington. Vermont Energy Investment Corporation provides electric energy efficiency service to the rest of the state as Efficiency Vermont (“EVT”).  Both energy efficiency service providers are referred to as Energy Efficiency Utilities (“EEUs”). The evaluation compared program performance for both EVT and BED to that of twenty-seven other energy efficiency service providers spanning eight jurisdictions (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland and Minnesota).

 Conclusions of the evaluation include the following highlights:

  • EVT’s and BED’s energy efficiency programs have higher energy savings compared to most of the organizations benchmarked. EVT’s programs saved about 2.4% of utility electric sales per year, while BED’s programs saved about 1.9%. The median savings for the benchmarked organizations is 1.7% of sales.
  • EVT’s first year cost of saved energy is slightly less than the median for the organizations benchmarked in this analysis while BED’s is just above the median.
  • EVT’s and BED’s energy efficiency programs have the second and third highest peak demand savings compared to the rest of the benchmarked organizations. EVT’s and BED’s programs each saved about 1.3% of retail peak demand per year, while the median savings for the group of compared organizations is less 1.0% of retail peak demand.
  • EVT’s cost of peak demand savings is less than the median for the organizations benchmarked while BED’s cost of peak demand savings is above the median.

Every three years the Department assesses the EEUs’ performance relative to other entities conducting similar efficiency efforts in other jurisdictions. Such comparisons normalize for program maturity, funding, demographics and other important variables. Benchmarking is also considered in the Overall Performance Assessment conducted by the Vermont Public Service Board every six years. This a review process that considers the effectiveness of Vermont’s EEUs and determines whether it is in the best interest of Vermont ratepayers to solicit competitive bids for delivery of efficiency services, or to re-appoint the incumbent providers.

A copy of the full Benchmarking report is available at:  http://publicservice.vermont.gov/topics/energy_efficiency/eeu_evaluation#Benchmarking

State solar installations go online

MONTPELIER – Construction has been completed on three solar projects at state correctional facilities in St. Johnsbury, St. Albans and Windsor — the first projects to go online in the largest public solar initiative in the history of Vermont, according to the Shumlin administration.

The 500kW projects are part of an initiative to provide solar power to state government facilities, including all of the state’s correctional facilities, several state office buildings and the pavilion building that houses several state offices, including the offices of Gov. Peter Shumlin.

The three recently-completed projects utilize the state’s group net metering law and will provide power to 12 state facilities. The total initiative is expected to provide energy for a total of 19 state buildings. Construction of the remaining projects will continue through this year.

“Vermont is at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution in America, and this is just one more example of how we are leading the way,” Shumlin said in a statement. “We will continue to invest in energy innovation going forward because it creates jobs, saves money for Vermonters and helps ensure a more livable planet for future generations.”

The solar initiative will produce more than 7 million kilowatt hours of energy in total for state buildings each year and provide over $2.5 million in taxpayer savings over 20 years with no cost and no risk to the state, according to the administration. The projects were developed by SolarSense, a provider of renewable energy across the U.S.

Michael Obuchowski, commissioner of the Department of Buildings and General Services, also hailed the new solar installations.

“Let the sun shine on Vermont, where its captured renewable energy will power state buildings and save the taxpayers’ money while protecting the environment,” Obuchowski said.

The three completed projects all used Vermont-made AllEarth Solar Trackers, which follow the sun throughout the day to maximize energy production. The trackers are manufactured in Williston by AllEarth Renewables.

Construction of the projects began in September 2014 and were installed using local workers.

Podcast: Capitol Beat with the Governor 1-9-15

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Gov. Peter Shumlin sits down with Vermont Press Bureau Chief Neal Goswami for the first Capitol Beat with the Governor podcast of the legislative session.

After being re-elected to a third term by lawmakers on Thursday, Gov. Peter Shumlin delivered his inaugural address amid protests over his decision to shelve a universal, publicly financed health care system because of its cost. Listen to this week’s episode to hear the governor address all of it.

Gov. Peter Shumlin records the Capitol Beat podcast on Friday.

Gov. Peter Shumlin records the Capitol Beat podcast on Friday.

 

Natural gas pipeline protesters arrested

MONTPELIER – Police arrested 64 people protesting the proposed natural gas pipeline Monday night after some refused to leave the office of Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Several hundred people gathered on the Statehouse lawn Monday afternoon to protest the expansion of Vermont Gas’ pipeline into Addison County, and while some stayed outside, others entered the nearby Pavilion Building, which houses Shumlin’s office.

According to a statement from state police, protesters “proceeded upstairs without authorization and occupied the lobby of the Governor’s office on the fifth floor. Other protestors remained on the first floor of the building, near the elevators.”

According to reports, the protesters wanted Shumlin to withdraw his support for the next stage of the gas pipeline, which will extend into Addison County, beneath Lake Champlain and to the International Paper plant in Fort Ticonderoga, N.Y.

While the Pavilion is open until 5 p.m., police gave protesters until 6:30 p.m. To vacate the building. At 7 p.m., police began escorting protestors outside, where they received a citation for misdemeanor unlawful trespass, which carries a maximum penalty of three months in prison and a $500 fine.

According to police, the arrests occurred “without incident.”

In a statement, Shumlin addressed the incident.

“Peaceful protest is a right deeply embedded in our democracy. I support the right of all sides to be heard, and appreciate the protester’s decision to act respectfully with state staff and law enforcement tonight,” Shumlin said. “While I agree that climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing our state, nation, and world, I disagree with the protester’s position on the natural gas pipeline, which I believe will help hasten our state’s transition away from dirtier fuel oil and help our economy.”

josh.ogorman@rutlandherald.com

Klein ready to contemplate partial deregulation of electric utilities

State Rep. Tony Klein

State Rep. Tony Klein

The chairman of the House’s top energy committee says it might be time to bring competition back to Vermont’s electricity market.

Rep. Tony Klein, an East Montpelier Democrat, said Tuesday that he’ll entertain a proposal to partially deregulate the state’s utility market, and allow the state’s largest corporate consumers of electricity to negotiate with power dealers outside their service territory.

The proposal comes as large electricity customers bemoan the cost of power than can account for as much as 20 percent of their operating expenses.

“I want to talk about creating a program, a model program, where some of the larger industries can benefit from a deregulated power market for some of their power needs,” Klein said while attending an annual meeting of the Associated Industries of Vermont. “It would be a big deal, but it’s something to think about, because the world is changing.”

Klein said he’s discussed the idea with the Department of Public Service and the Agency of Commerce.

Under the proposal, still in conceptual form, industrial customers would continue to pay the transmission-infrastructure fees assessed by the public utility in whose service territory they reside. But Klein says customers would be able to broker deals for the power flowing through those lines with whatever entity offered the lowest price.

For more on this story, check out tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.

Joint committee meeting to review energy projects

MONTPELIER — Suggestions for a new process for how to permit and site wind turbines and other electrical generation projects will be the topic when the House and Senate committees on natural resources and energy hold a joint hearing in Montpelier on Sept. 25.
The hearing is part of a review of how the state’s permit process balances state, local and other interests when it comes to wind, solar and other power projects. That review began with a siting policy commission report stemming from an executive order by Gov. Peter Shumlin last fall.
The joint committees will hear from several parties, including the siting commission’s director and several representatives of state agencies involved in the permit process. The meeting will start at 9:30 a.m. in Room 10 of the Statehouse. Time for public comment is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. For more information go to http://bit.ly/19b0EvY.

Rep. Margaret Cheney named to seat on Public Service Board

Rep. Margaret Cheney, a Democratic legislator from Norwich and the wife of Congressman Peter Welch will serve as the next member of the Public Service Board.

Gov. Peter Shumlin this afternoon announced the appointment of Rep. Margaret Cheney to the three-person panel responsible for vetting utility rates, and approving or denying infrastructure projects related to issues including energy, telecommunications, cable television and water service.

Cheney, a four-term legislator who serves as vice-chairwoman of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, will resign her elected post and assume her seat on the board by Oct. 1.

“Margaret brings a critical combination of expertise in policy and public engagement. Her track record as a former journalist, school board chair, teacher, legislator, and vice-chair of a key energy committee is impressive,” Shumlin said in a written statement announcing her appointment. “Her commitment to civic involvement and her familiarity with Vermont energy policy make her a perfect addition to the Board. She also has a keen sense of fairness and is a pleasure to work with. I am very glad that she has agreed to join the Board and help guide Vermont’s energy and telecommunications future.”

 

Cheney said her experience in the Legislature has helped her to understand the real-world impacts of decisions made by the PSB.

“The Public Service Board plays a critical role in matters of great importance to Vermonters – the cost of electricity, the provision of telecommunication service, and the siting of energy projects, among others,” Cheney in a statement. “As a legislator, I have heard how strongly-felt many of these issues are to Vermonters, and I know how important it is for the Public Service Board to safeguard the public good. I am humbled to be joining the Board and I am honored to take on this responsibility.”

Cheney replaces the outgoing David Coen, who was first appointed to the board by Gov. Howard Dean in 1995, and reappointed by Govs. Dean and Jim Douglas. Coen, by law, will continue working on existing cases until they are resolved.

According to an administration release, Cheney was the managing editor of The Washingtonian magazine in Washington, D.C., for 11 years. More recently, according to the release, she served as a faculty member at Sharon Academy, where she taught courses related to energy and the environment, as well as Spanish. She was a member of the Norwich School Board from 1998 to 2007, according to the release, and a graduate of Harvard University.

 

Cheney’s a salary will be $86,000, and her six-year term will expire in 2019.

Sanders’ opposition notwithstanding, testimony on wind moratorium begins

Undaunted by the public recriminations issued by Sen. Bernard Sanders Monday, proponents of a moratorium on mountaintop wind began taking testimony Tuesday on a bill  that would halt new development for three years.

The bill suffered a tongue-lashing in Sanders’ Burlington office. It found a more hospitable host in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources today, where three of the committee’s five members – including chairman Bob Hartwell – have signed on as co-sponsors.

First up to testify on the record was Paul Burns, the same wind-energy advocate who had hours earlier suggested that supporting the moratorium was tantamount to rejecting the science behind climate change.

The senators didn’t appreciate his tone.

“Do you believe it’s possible to believe in the science of climate change and yet disagree with you on the construction of new wind farms on Vermont’s mountaintops?” Sen. Peter Galbraith asked the head of VPIRG.

“That’s an interesting question,” Burns replied, suggesting it’s difficult to know which is worse – not believing in climate change and opposing wind because you think it’s unnecessary, or believing global warming is real and fighting against wind anyway.

Galbraith said it’s possible for one to appreciate fully the dangers of climate change, but to believe that the solutions to the global crisis don’t lie on the top of Vermont’s mountains.

Burns said that if climate-change believers want to shun the “most renewable” energy source available in Vermont, then it’s incumbent on them to identify an alternative.

“So far I have not seen any convincing evidence that opponents of wind have come up with a plan to provide for the state’s energy needs with an alternative to wind,” Burns said. “It’s conceivable somebody could come up with fusion technology, but I haven’t seen it yet senator.”

Galbraith told Burns to consider adopting a more civil tone as the debate progresses. A public conversation about wind is one worth having, Galbraith said. And people on his side ought not be demonized by people like Burns as global-warming deniers.

“I guess there are at least three flat-earthers here in this committee, in your view,” Galbraith said. “I wouldn’t characterize your position in an extreme way … And you owe to be respectful to people on the other side and not characterize them in such an extreme way.”

Supporters of the three-year ban, however, are beginning to seem less attached to the moratorium than they are to revising the regulatory process used to approve or deny wind projects. Included in the moratorium bill is a provision that would shift oversight of wind development from the Public Service Board to Act 250. Supporters of wind oppose that move – likely because the PSB’s ability to take into account “public good” gives a huge check in the ‘plus’ column to projects that general megawatts of electricity for use by public utilities.

“Leave the moratorium out of it for a second – let’s pretend the bill is an Act 250 bill,” Hartwell said. “What is wrong with putting (wind projects) in Act 250? We’re not talking about killing off wind. We’re talking about process.”

Supporters of the wind moratorium might have suffered a public attack from Sanders Monday. But the troops might be rallying elsewhere. The Lamoille County Democratic Party is drafting a resolution in support of the moratorium that could come up for a vote at the group’s next monthly meeting.

Republicans struggle for passing grades in VPIRG test

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group has unveiled its legislator report card for the 2011/2012 legislative biennium and, as per usual, most of the A’s are going to D’s.

With a few exceptions, House and Senate Democrats outperformed their Republican counterparts in a test based on 10 floor votes chosen by the nonprofit advocacy group. VPIRG leaders also says it’s a nonpartisan organization, though more than a few Republicans that would argue the point.

The issues range from single-payer health care and a moratorium on fracking to the national popular vote and an expansion of the bottle-bill.

VPIRG counts more than 20,000 “members and supporters” across the state, according to executive director Paul Burns.

“We believe the scorecard can be a useful tool for our members and others to see how their legislators voted on a number of critical state issues,” Burns said in a written statement.

It’s probably worth noting that Republican candidate for governor Randy Brock scored worse in VPRIG’s test than all but one person in the 180-member Legislature. Brock’s score of 20 percent – he got points for supporting the use of green cleaning products in schools and a moratorium on fracking – was second only to the 13-percent grade given to Rep. Tom Burditt, a West Rutland Republican.

Check out the scorecard here: http://www.vpirg.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/2012-Scorecard-Final.pdf

Senate approves “nuclear option” for merger

The Senate has just pushed the button on the nuclear option, approving in a voice vote an amendment that will prevent utilities from recouping in rates the $21 million they must repay to CVPS customers before any merger can go through.

It’s a move that utility executives have warned could kill the $702 million merger deal between CVPS and GMP. And the Shumlin administration – which has warned legislators against meddling in regulatory affairs – just shipped a press release unloading on the body.

“This matter is now in the hands of the (Public Service) Board. The Senate’s action today interferes with an open PSB docket, undermines the credibility of the regulatory process, and is an extreme overreach of legislative jurisdiction,” Shumlin said in a written statement. Continue reading