The Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) released a draft of the new 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP) earlier this week. By statute, the Comprehensive Energy Plan must be updated every five years, and the plan is intended to provide a policy road map for Vermont’s energy future, touching on electricity, thermal heating sources, transportation and land use issues.
This draft follows several months of public comment sessions held by the DPS around the state and provides a valuable perspective into the Shumlin Administration’s top energy policy goals. Governor Peter Shumlin has been a strong supporter of renewable energy for many years and has also been outspoken both on climate change and on closing Vermont’s only nuclear plant, Vermont Yankee. Renewable energy advocates have been anxious to see how the administration will translate those general positions into specific policies, and this draft plan gives some clear perspective on the direction the Shumlin administration is headed.
We are still reviewing the details of the 420-page draft plan, but several highlights are worth noting quickly. Among other things the draft plan:
- Sets a goal of attaining 90% of energy from renewables. Where nonrenewables are necessary, the plan recommends using natural gas and biofuel blends ”to virtually eliminate” reliance on oil.
- Broadens efficiency focus beyond electricity by increasing investment in heating efficiency and developing a “whole-building approach to all-fuels efficiency.”
- Directs renewable energy generation to serve transportation and heating needs, not just electricity needs. (Renewable generation currently provides over half of Vermont electricity needs but only 23% of Vermont’s total energy usage.)
- Recommends adoption of a streamlined Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for electricity load, with an aggressive total electricity goal, and a next-generation Standard Offer program for small-scale distributed generation.
- Seeks mandatory mediation for Section 248 siting projects so that developers and opponents can seek solutions and avoid litigation.
- Plans for expansion of natural gas infrastructure to Middlebury and eventually Rutland.
Public comment sessions on the draft plan are scheduled around the state on the following dates:
- September 27th (7-9 p.m.) – Middlebury High School (73 Charles Avenue)
- September 28th (7-9 p.m.) – Brattleboro High School (131 Fairground Road)
- September 29th (7-9 p.m.) – Rutland High School (22 Stratton Road)
- October 3rd (7-9 p.m.) – Colchester High School (131 Laker Lane)
- October 6th (7-9 p.m.) – Danville School (148 Peacham Road)
Public comments may also be submitted in writing until 5:00 pm, Monday, October 10, 2011. Filing instructions are at http://www.vtenergyplan.vermont.gov/comment.
For more coverage on the new draft energy plan, please see these recent articles: