More than 150 clean energy business owners in Vermont signed a letter to state senators this week urging them defeat a controversial piece of legislation that could damage renewable energy advances there.
While Vermont has a reputation for liberally supporting solar energy and other renewable technologies and installations, a recent surge of wind projects coming online has prompted some to question the process.
Vermont’s Senate Bill 30 would put a three-year moratorium on wind projects and change the way all solar, wind and other renewable energy siting is decided.
“This bill is not in compliance with current state law,” said Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont. “And it essentially turns off industry for at least a year – longer, depending on what happens.”
She said renewable energy industry leaders were surprised by the legislation and are on high alert.
“It’s going to be a fight,” Stebbins said. “It will be close.”
She said there is broad support on both sides.
The bill is responding to what a lot of Vermonters see as the sudden influx of wind projects in their communities. Stebbins said there were three wind projects that had been in various stages of development for the last four to seven years that have been fully vetted and permitted through the current system.
They all had 200-page orders and full environmental assessments, Stebbins said.
“But they all happened to be developed in the last year or so and it looks like a drastic change to people,” Stebbins said. “And it’s a visible change.”
She said there has been a lot of misinformation floating around and some information so wrong and false it almost seems to be maliciously disseminated.
Senate Bill 30 would stop renewable energy development in Vermont and add new layers to the permitting process that will make it take longer and cost more to approve solar and other projects in the state, which would raise costs for ratepayers whose utilities are beholden to a renewable energy portfolio standard and will have to accept the added expense if they’re going to meet those thresholds.
“Our hopes and expectations are to defeat this bill entirely and to really work with the Vermont public and our legislators about the energy revolution coming our way so this doesn’t happen again.”