Note: In June 2016, the Public Service Board issued an Order implementing the RES. A rulemaking will follow in 2017 or 2018.
In June 2015, H.B. 40 was enacted, establishing a mandatory renewable portfolio standard - called the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) - for the first time in Vermont history. The state previously had a renewable energy goal, as part of the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) program.
Eligible renewable technologies are defined as those that use "a technology that relies on a resource that is being consumed at a harvest rate at or below its natural regeneration rate". The Public Service Board determined that methane and flammable gases from food waste, agricultural waste, or other organic materials, or from decay of sewage or landfill wastes; geothermal; hydroelectric; marine thermal or hydrokinetic; photovoltaic solar; concentrated solar power; and wind are eligible resources. Other technologies utilizing solid waste, apart from silvicultural waste, are explicitly ineligible.
The Vermont RES requires all retail electricity suppliers in the state to obtain 55% of their annual retail electricity sales from eligible renewable sources by January 1, 2017. This requirement increases by 4% every three years until reaching 75% on January 1, 2032.
Distributed Renewable Generation
Retail electricity providers must obtain 1% of their annual retail electricity sales from distributed renewable generation by January 1, 2017. This requirement increases by 3/5ths of a percent each year on January 1, until reaching 10% on January 1, 2032.
Distributed renewable generation is defined as either (1) an eligible renewable generator with a capacity of 5 megawatts or less that is directly connected to the subtransmission or distribution system of a Vermont retail electricity provider or connected to the transmission system as part of an approved plan to defer a transmission system improvement, or (2) a new (placed into service after June 30, 2015) net-metered renewable generator whose renewable energy credits (RECs) are owned and retired by the interconnecting retail electricity supplier.
Energy Transformation Projects
While generation used to meet the distributed renewable generation requirement can also count toward meeting the overall standard, energy transformation projects used to meet this requirement do not count toward the overall standard.
Retail electricity providers must support energy transformation projects equal to 2% of their annual retail electricity sales by January 1, 2017. This requirement increases by 2/3rds of a percent each year on January 1, until reaching 12% on January 1, 2032.
For municipal utilities serving 6,000 or fewer customers, the requirement is 2% of annual retail electricity sales by January 1, 2019, increasing by 2/3rds of a percent each year until reaching 10 and 2/3rds percent on January 1, 2032.
Energy transformation projects are defined as undertakings that produce energy-related goods and services and result in a net reduction in fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but do not generate electricity. These reductions in fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions must be attributable to the customers of the retail electricity provider supporting the project. Examples of energy transformation projects include home weatherization, air source or geothermal heat pumps, high-efficiency heating systems, biomass heating systems, demand management strategies, support for electric vehicles, and infrastructure for the storage of electricity generated by renewable sources.
Retail electricity providers may also satisfy the energy transformation requirement with distributed renewable generation that is in addition to that used to comply with the distributed renewable generation category.
Compliance is demonstrated through the generation of electricity from eligible renewable sources with environmental attributes attached, the purchase of RECs from plants whose energy is capable of delivery within New England, or a combination of the two.
H.B. 40 directs the Public Service Board to develop a system to recognize, approve, and monitor the environmental attributes attached to renewable energy systems owned by retail electricity providers in the state and used to comply with the RES. This system will also recognize RECs traded on the New England Generation Information System (GIS).
An alternative compliance payment can also be paid to comply with the standard, rather than retiring RECs. Alternative compliance rates for 2018 are $0.01/kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the general requirement and $0.06/kWh for the distributed renewable generation and energy transformation requirements. Alternative compliance payments will go into the Clean Energy Development Fund and be put toward energy transformation projects within the paying provider's service territory.