Setting big goals and standards for cutting greenhouse gases or increasing renewable energy is one thing. Putting in place the nuts and bolts to actually make it happen is another. A recent Vermont Public Service Board order implements the renewable energy standard that was put in place by legislation (Act 56) in 2015.
The order spells out how utilities are to both meet the requirement to procure renewable energy (55% by 2017 and 75% by 2032 with an increasing portion from smaller-scale generation) and the requirement for utilities to more broadly reduce fossil fuel consumption.
The legislation was groundbreaking when it passed. It set high, but achievable, standards for utilities to provide low carbon electricity to their customers, while supporting the continued development of smaller-scale renewable energy projects.
At the same time it included utilities as partners with customers to reduce fossil fuel use more broadly – for example, in homes through weatherization and for transportation, through more options for electric vehicles or biofuels for cars and buses. This multi-pronged approach builds on Vermont’s many past successes in making sure Vermonters have greater access to cleaner and lower cost energy solutions.
Global warming presents the biggest environmental challenge of our generation and tackling it demands innovation. The path forward in Vermont provides a clear roadmap. It sets standards needed make sure our regulatory system is up to the task of putting the needed innovations in place.
Specifically the order clarifies how renewable energy supplies will be accounted for (pp 6–14) and what energy supplies will meet the requirements for the smaller scale requirement (pp 15–20). It also provides flexibility for utilities to encourage innovation in how they will meet the fossil fuel reductions (54–56).
The goals may be easy. Making sure our utilities have the tools to actually achieve them is harder. This solid path forward enhances our ability to succeed in Vermont and around New England.