How Vermont Has Promoted Local Renewable Energy: Episode 10 of Local Energy Rules Podcast
“A lot of the utilities don’t totally understand this new paradigm that’s coming.”
David Blittersdorf of AllEarth Renewables has been working to advance renewable energy in Vermont for years, and was instrumental in getting the state’s standard offer program (a feed-in tariff) passed in 2009. He’s adamant that the state should accelerate its standard offer in order to meet its ambitious 2050 goal of getting 90% of its energy from renewable sources. But some of the state’s utilities have balked and others don’t seem to grasp the pace that’s needed to reach the state’s targets.
A huge thanks and farewell to ILSR intern Wade Underwood, without whom this podcast would never have happened.
We Need Something That Will Actually Work
In 2008, many of the state’s advocates were asking “what can we do to move renewables,” but the policy framework was lacking. One of the utilities hosted a stakeholder discussion about “green zones,” but Dave’s response was that “we really need to do something that will actually work.” Inspired by a presentation from Paul Gipe on feed-in tariffs, Dave helped shift the stakeholder meeting to a discussion of a standard offer program for renewable energy. Two hours later, they got to agreement. Within months, they were at the legislature, with support from the state’s largest utility.
Solar Has Shone, Others Less So
The long-term, standardized contracts and state-based permitting have dramatically simplified the installation of new renewable energy projects, but it’s solar power (and not wind, hydro, or farm methane) that has fulfilled its portion of the initial 50 megawatt program. There were applications for 10 times the 12.5 megawatt capacity offered, because the standard offer contract of 30¢ per kilowatt-hour (at the height of solar’s worldwide price squeeze) was sweetened by state and federal tax credits.
Almost all the solar capacity is operational, but less than 8 megawatts of the remaining capacity in the program have started producing electricity.
Despite the success of the solar standard offer and support from utilities, the state has retrenched, with a commitment to just 7 megawatts per year in addition to the original program. That leaves the capacity under the program at a small fraction (0.5%) of total state electricity sales.
Photo credit: Sterling College