Vermont is a Northeastern state that gets an average of roughly 4 kilowatt hours per-square-meter of sunlight per day. While the state doesn’t have the solar resources of Arizona or California, it is making sound investments to become an energy independent state and is focusing on offering incentives to promote its renewable resources, which include solar and biomass.
The state offers residents numerous measures to help them become energy independent, including grants, state rebates, low-interest rate loans, tax incentives (including a 100 percent sales tax exemption) and net metering programs. These incentives are encouraging Vermonters to install photovoltaics (PVs) and other renewable energy sources on their homes or small businesses. The state also allows municipalities to create Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs to help finance renewable energy installations.
Vermont has a renewable energy goal of 20 percent by 2017. The goal is part of the state’s Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) Program. While SPEED is not technically a renewable portfolio standard, if the Vermont Public Service Board finds that the state’s 19 utilities are not meeting the program’s goals, then a renewable portfolio standard will be enforced by law.
Under the program, “all new load growth from Jan. 1, 2005 through July 1, 2012” is to come from SPEED-qualified renewable resources. It’s well on its way, with more than 188,400 MWH of SPEED-qualified power already in operation, and a total of 419,482 MWH of SPEED-qualified electric generation in active development, according to the program’s site, vermontspeed.com. Together they represent about 10 percent of the state’s electricity use as of Jan. 1, 2005, putting the program well on its way to meeting SPEED’s more ambitious 2017 goal.
Since SPEED’s inception, Vermont has added feed-in tariff provisions and a standard-offer contract, under which small energy generators are financially reimbursed for net excess electric generation, to the program. This is in addition to the state’s net-metering law. Home and building owners with PV and other renewable installations may opt to sign up for the standard-fee contract rather than net metering.