Shumlin Signs Vt. Energy Bill

Friday, June 12, 2015
Montpelier — Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law an energy bill that promises to create 1,000 new jobs and help Vermonters save on energy costs over a 15-year period.

The bill, which was passed by the House and Senate May 15, repeals the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program and implements a renewable energy standard and “energy transformation program” that would start in 2017, according to the overview of the bill by Aaron Adler, legislative council member. A provision of the new renewable energy standard requires the state to provide leasing and on-bill financing for any Vermonter who wants to improve their home’s energy efficiency.

By 2032, the renewable electric utility requirements — or the minimum requirements for anybody to install gas or electric service in a new or remodeled property — will be at 75 percent of power sales under this legislation, increasing from the 55 percent that will be required by 2017. Shumlin said this bill is part of the goal for energy to be 90 percent renewable by 2050.

“I think it is the most forward-leaning legislation in the country,” said Mary Powell, chief executive officer at Green Mountain Power.

Adler wrote the bill, and Reps. Anthony Klein and Rebecca Ellis co-sponsored it.

“We’re doing things that are good for people’s pocketbooks and things that are good for the environment, and we’re doing them together,” said Sen. Christopher Bray, chairman of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

The pens used to sign the bill were given to Bray, Klein and Darren Springer, Shumlin’s chief of staff, as thanks for their “hard work” getting it passed through the legislature.

Shumlin said that while talking to other governors about the bill, they responded that their state’s utility companies would “kill them” if they did something similar and that there was no way their own utilities would cooperate with state government on such a business model.

“This is totally consumer-driven,” Klein said.

Efficiency Vermont, a program which is included as part of the bill, has been around since 2000. Every electric customer — other than those at Burlington Electric Department — pay an Efficiency Vermont fee to help sponsor new initiatives and reduce costs of consumer products, such as subsidizing LED bulbs to make them more affordable.

Bray said that the renewable energy standard in the bill mirrors a carbon tax.

Over the next two years, the legislature will investigate whether Vermont could include such a tax with the renewable energy standard, he said.

Klein, who sponsored a carbon-tax bill during this legislative session, said he supports a carbon tax.

“All the major corporations know that carbon use needs to be managed,” Klein said.

Powell said she is interested in learning more about carbon taxes, but right now she is focused on finding more innovative ways to reduce costs for Vermonters.

There are some solar companies that can do seven-hour installations, making it less expensive for Vermonters to get on solar power, Powell said.

She said she doesn’t believe that there won’t be other solar-power incentives in place by the time the current federal solar-power incentives die out, at the end of 2016.

Klein said that he is not convinced that incentives for solar power will die out.

The bill was signed outside of the Montpelier home of Green Mountain Power customers Dan and Mary Margaret Groberg, who have capitalized on the energy improvements.

The Grobergs moved into their home two years ago, Shumlin said. Under the bill, they have been able to upgrade their home’s energy efficiency, saving them an estimated $1,400 a year on energy bills, according to a news release.

“We can’t do fast enough what you are doing, and what you have the courage to do, across the state,” Shumlin said to the Grobergs.

Green Mountain Power upgraded its first energy-efficient house in Rutland, Vt., a year ago, Shumlin said.

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