ACT NO. 208
Conservation; public service; net metering;
commercial building energy standards
This act, titled the Vermont energy security and reliability act, requires the implementation of a process for engaging the public in power planning issues, focusing on energy supply choices facing the state beginning in 2012, and assisting communities in identifying local energy opportunities and developing community energy plans or climate change action plans. This process is to be developed by the department of public service and the joint energy committee, and is to be implemented through a request for proposal (RFP) process.
The act amends the section that involves the granting of a certificate of public good for the removal of a dam that formerly was involved in the generation of power to require that consideration be given to the dam's potential for future power.
It expands the list of projects eligible to receive funding under the clean energy development fund by allowing the fund to finance: distribution line upgrades to three phase lines, as needed to serve a farm generating system; certain biomass and biofuels projects; and, until the end of 2008, super efficient buildings. It establishes a process by which the fund shall be managed to include the creation of a clean energy development fund advisory committee (consisting of the commissioner of public service and two legislators), which in turn is required to appoint members of a clean energy development fund investment committee. It requires the commissioner to develop plans, budgets, and program designs, all of which are subject to review by the advisory committee and the approval of the investment committee. It requires the commissioner to adopt rules to carry out the program. The act requires the commissioner to make specific grant decisions, acting jointly with the investment committee, until the rules have been adopted. It allows up to five percent of amounts appropriated to be used for administrative costs related to the fund.
It gives the commissioner of public service the authority to amend the residential building energy standards (RBES) and makes a technical amendment to those rules. It establishes commercial building energy standards (CBES) according to a regulatory system that generally reflects the approach currently in law with respect to residential building energy standards. However, in addition to being enforceable by means of a right of action on behalf of a purchaser of a building that is not up to standards, the CBES are enforceable in district court, and any violation may be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $250.00 per day. In addition, this section contains a requirement that an architect, an engineer, or a builder certify compliance with the standards by means of an affidavit, thus bringing into play existing law that provides substantial criminal penalties for false swearing.
The act gives regional planning commissions explicit power to inventory critical and vulnerable local facilities and work with utilities and others to propose and evaluate alternative sites for distributed power facilities that might serve those critical facilities in times of extended regional power disruption. It adds additional objectives to be accorded particular emphasis by the public service board when it is establishing a utility charge to fund the efficiency utility; those objectives being: to reduce the size of future power purchases, to reduce the generation of greenhouse gases, to limit the need to upgrade transmission and distribution facilities, and to minimize the cost of electricity.
The act requires the public service board to design a proposed electricity affordability program in the form of draft legislation, to be developed with the aid of a collaborative consisting of representatives of interests specified in the act. It requires the department of public service, in conjunction with the department for children and families and the department of disabilities, aging and independent living, to compare overall assistance provided to low income families in Vermont and throughout the country.
The act requires the public service board to approve rate designs to encourage the efficient use of natural gas and electricity, including consideration of inclining block rates for residential customers, with an initial block of low cost power for all residential customers. It revises the net metering law to clarify the definition of renewable energy sources, and to provide that certain unused credits shall revert to a utility if not used within 12 months. It provides that any unused credit reverting to the electric company shall be considered SPEED resources. It allows the board to raise the 1.0 percent cap on net metering without a joint application from a utility, adjusts how the cap is established, and allows utilities to charge certain fees for systems of greater than 15 kilowatt capacity. It allows a utility and the owner of a farm system to agree to output that exceeds 150 kilowatts under certain conditions. It requires the public service board to expand the scope of net metering and, in this process, to consider expanding the maximum capacity of systems in the program and to consider allowing group net metering, as determined by the board.
The act combines two biennial SPEED reports into one, requires timely decisions on applications for SPEED resources, and encourages joint efforts by regulated companies to purchase power. It requires the agency of human services to provide information regarding the efficiency utility to participants in the home heating fuel assistance program. It requires the department of public service to study the costs and benefits of establishing a coordinated program to provide efficiency to all buildings, regardless of the source of fuel and the owner's income.
Effective Date: July 1, 2006; except that Sec. 5, amending the clean energy development fund, takes effect upon passage.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street