Renewable Power for Vermont: A Good Thing At The Right Time

Diana Chace

At a time when both carbon emissions and fuel prices continue to rise, Vermont is poised to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and increase the use of renewable power – a good thing at the right time.

The legislature is considering a bill that would create a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), requiring that each electric utility acquire a percentage of its electricity from renewable sources. This is an important step in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions and climate change; CLF has testified that the bill needs to be strong and ambitious.

There’s no doubt the climate needs this bill. Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continue to shoot up, and global temperatures are rising. A warming global climate has led to increased evaporation, causing droughts and floods around the world. In his testimony before the committee considering the RPS bill, climate activist Bill McKibben described the rising worldwide occurrence of extreme weather events. Among these was Tropical Storm Irene, which devastated parts of Vermont at the end of last summer. McKibben urged the committee to act now, through measures such as an RPS, before our climate crisis gets worse.

The current version of the Vermont bill would require that by 2025 all electric utilities in Vermont get 30% of their power from renewable power plants commissioned after 2012. Whatever renewable sources are already generating power now (in 2012) would not count towards the 30% standard.

Currently Vermont only has voluntary goals for utilities to acquire a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources. A fundamental flaw of the existing program is that it allows utilities to sell renewable energy credits (RECs) from Vermont renewable projects to utilities in other states, yet still count that power as renewable in Vermont. This means that the renewable attributes of the power are counted twice. The bill currently in the legislature would correct this problem.

By enacting this bill, Vermont would not be alone. Twenty-nine other states already have an RPS, including all the other New England states, and other states as disparate as Texas and Hawaii. Their requirements vary widely. Maine has an ongoing 30% RPS; New Hampshire requires 23.8% by 2025; and Rhode Island requires 16% by 2020. Details of the requirements vary, but Vermont’s proposed program compares well with other states in the region.

Vermont needs a strong renewable standard. CLF continues to push for strong measures to tackle climate change and reduce pollution.

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