Vermont Approves a Wide-Ranging Clean Energy Bill

March 26, 2008

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas approved a bill on March 19 that will promote energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the state. Called the Energy Efficiency and Affordability Act of 2008, the new legislation creates a new $4 million fuel efficiency fund that will be financed from existing revenues and from the sale of emission credits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The fund will provide energy efficiency services to the state's consumers of heating and process fuels. The state will use a competitive process to award the funds to service providers under performance-based contracts. The new legislation also assures that the state's residential and commercial building energy standards are upgraded to keep pace with changes to the international energy conservation code, and it doubles the spending cap for weatherization projects in homes of low-income families.

Regarding renewable and distributed energy use, the bill expands net metering to include renewable energy systems up to 250 kilowatts in capacity, up from only 15 kilowatts, and allows for combined heat and power systems up to 20 kilowatts in capacity. Net-metered systems earn credit for power fed back into the utility grid. The bill also doubles the cap on net-metered systems to 2% of the peak demand as of 1996. It allows farms to have all their electric meters consolidated on paper into one net-metered system, and it also takes the innovative step of allowing groups of buildings, such as all the municipal buildings in one town, or all the schools in a district, to be consolidated on paper into one net-metered system. Individuals, such as residents of an apartment building or a subdivision, can apply to be treated as a group, with all their electric meters consolidated on paper into one net-metered system, and even a geographically distributed group can apply, if such a group serves the common good. Such group net metering could encourage people to band together to install a large renewable energy system that will serve them all.

For customers that don't want to own their own renewable energy systems, the bill requires all utilities to offer a voluntary green power program. It also establishes an alternate education property tax of 0.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for wind energy facilities that are at least 5 megawatts in capacity, and allows businesses to earn solar energy tax credits. And it encourages the state to use more biodiesel in its vehicles and buildings. See the governor's press release and the full text of the bill, S 209.