State prepares to chart path toward energy goals

A state energy study is designed to foster debate about how the state can achieve its renewable energy goals, officials say.

The Department of Public Service’s draft Total Energy Study (TES) recommends several policy options that could move the state closer to its comprehensive goal to meet 90 percent of Vermont’s overall energy needs from renewable sources by 2050.

The draft discusses several contentious policies, such as a carbon tax and the creation of a statewide renewable energy credit market. These scenarios would reform the state’s energy economy – currently guided by utility regulation, tax policies, incentives and environmental regulation – to close the gap between the current renewable energy reality and the state’s long-term goals.

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service. State of Vermont photo

Chris Recchia, commissioner of the Department of Public Service. State of Vermont photo

“We are trying to explore a full range of scenarios to help inform what getting to 90 percent renewable by 2050 looks like,” Department of Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia said. “They are scenarios. They are not endorsements of a particular path.”

The report outlines three key energy market policy changes: a tax on carbon, a statewide renewable energy credit trading system and regional collaboration. The report also details energy sector specific policies rather than statewide energy regulations.

Public comment on the draft extends until Jan. 22, after which the state will begin modeling the scenarios to test the economic viability and resulting carbon emission projections before a new report is released, Recchia said.

Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said only the details of the report will be discussed this session. He advised caution in moving forward with any sweeping changes in policy.

“We are going to have the department in quite early in the session to talk to us about the total energy report in detail,” he said.

The DPS study was required by Act 89, which aims to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions and applies to all energy sectors, including electricity consumption, thermal energy and transportation.

Carbon tax

The most prominent scenario in the report is a tax on carbon. Revenue from the tax would be applied toward renewable energy and emission-reduction goals, according to the report.

Rep. Tony Klein. VTD/Josh Larkin

Rep. Tony Klein. VTDigger photo

Klein said the state has one chance to pass a complicated carbon tax; therefore, the policy should be thoroughly vetted before legislation is drafted.

“You get to do this once,” he said. “I think it’s probably a viable solution, but it’s going to take a lot of education.”

Total Renewable Energy and Efficiency Standard

TREES is an adaptation of an existing energy market policy using Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). “TREES credits,” would be nearly identical to RECs, except they would incorporate energy efficiency as well.

Under the existing Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) program, Vermont utilities can sell credits to other carbon-emitting facilities outside of the state seeking to enhance their renewable energy portfolio.

The SPEED program, however, has been criticized for allowing Vermont to increase renewable energy in its own portfolio while selling credits to other states that then burn an equivalent amount of fossil fuel. Vermont is the only state that allows its wind and solar power producers to sell their RECs and at the same time apply them toward meeting the state’s own renewable energy requirements.

Regional cooperation

The report highlights the value of a New England regional policy focus. Working with other states would allow Vermont to take advantage of economies of scale to develop new renewable energy and efficiency technologies, the report states.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is a member of the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resiliency, has echoed this notion by saying Vermont cannot solve climate change issues alone.

He recently applauded regional partnerships as a way to acquire the necessary might to address climate change.

One example is the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade “market” among nine Northeastern states designed to cap regional greenhouse gas emissions and encourage states to invest in renewable energy and efficiency projects.

In the program, all participating states receive a “carbon allowance” they can trade on the market in exchange for carbon emissions or money for whatever purpose. Vermont, which sells its allowances in exchange for cash, uses nearly all the money to fund thermal efficiency projects through Efficiency Vermont, the state’s energy efficiency utility.

Buyers in the compact must purchase one allowance for each ton of carbon emissions they produce. But Vermont’s allowance was over-budgeted due to the anticipation that Vermont Yankee would be replaced with a carbon emitting energy generation plant. As a result, the state has been selling its allowances back into the market and has raked in about $12 million for thermal efficiency programs.

Comments

  1. Paul Lorenzini :

    Taxes for a WORKER, (not administrator), come from their flesh, not their ability to harvest flesh from their fellow man.
    How do government paid bureaucrats get considered as tax payers when their paycheck is written on a check with deposits made by taxpayers?
    Merry Christmas from your government, here’s your new bill! It’s a bigger present then last year, you should be happy.

  2. Paul Lorenzini :

    SPEED, another great sounding acronym, invented with taxpayer dollars, in order to benefit the great society.
    The great society of socialists.
    If you happen to be a “not so socialist” sort, then you most likely will die sooner because you did not conform.

  3. Moshe Braner :

    The goal of “90 percent renewable by 2050″ can be approached in two ways: generate more renewable energy, or, use less energy overall. I think we should work on both. Remember that “energy” means more than electricity – in VT that is 1/3, another 1/3 is heating, and 1/3 is transportation. Insulation, new ways of moving around, and reducing the need to move around, are at least as important as new energy sources, even if not as sexy.

    But let’s not get into the kinds of “trading” in energy credits that only benefit the financial institutions that can “game” that system. Thankfully this article mentioned the fiasco that VT RECs have become.

  4. Jim Barrett :

    This so called talk is nothing more than creating more taxes on the backs of Vermonters. Many different excuses are being used and a lot of bull, but the bottom line is a huge tax increase again while we wait for the huge increase of taxes to pay for healthcare. Vermonters are tapped out and had better start hollering or you’ll be forced to move out of state.

  5. Avram Patt :

    The issue with the selling of RECs is really not about “financial institutions gaming the system.” Whatever one’s opinion of the current SPEED statute, the reason it has allowed the sale out of state of Vermont-generated RECs is to directly benefit Vermont ratepayers. This was the intent, nothing underhanded about it. The revenue generated by the RECs reduces the need for rate revenue collected from Vermonters, and in some utilities’ cases, it is as ignificant portion of total revenue whichever would otherwise need to come from rates.

    The issue is that while this energy is part of the total renewable energy supply in the New England region, it cannot be claimed as renewable in the power mix of Vermont utilities. Establishing a Vermont standard will mean that some portion of the RECs now sold in other New England states will need to be retired (not sold). How much rate impact that will have on Vermonters would depend on how high the standard is set and the timeframe for reaching it.

    Also, this article contains a common mistake: it conflates ” renewable” with carbon emissions. Moving to renewables does reduce carbon emissions and is necessary to limit climate change. But the goal of a renewable portfolio standard such as is required in the other New England states is to reduce dependence on all non-renewable energy sources, not just to reduce carbon emssions. The term “renewable” has been in use since long before almost anyone was focusing on carbon and climate change, and it’s definition should not be limited in this way.

    • Lance Hagen :

      Avram, let me see if I can follow your logic. Vermont generates expensive renewable energy (2 to 5 times as costly as existing market prices), but in order to keep the cost down to Vermont ratepayers, which you call ‘direct benefit to ratepayers’, we sell these renewable energy RECs to other states so that they can continue to generate CO2.

      How about this idea. Don’t build any renewable generators of expensive energy. It will benefit the rate payers and generate no more CO2 than would be generated by the RECs we sell to other states. And at the same time not scar the Vermont landscape.

      But you could be correct that selling RECs is really not about “financial institutions gaming the system.” It is more like a government run Ponzi scheme.

      • Avram Patt :

        Lance Hagen:

        The government doesn’t run the RECs market. It’s a market.

        Not all renewable generation is that expensive; some is slightly above market and has been below market at times.

        Vermont-generated RECs add renewable supply to the New England grid system that Vermont utilities are a part of and are served by. Renewable generation must be built where the renewable resources are, just as fossil fuels must be extracted and the environment damaged where those resources are.

        What we have in effect is a system where ratepayers across the New England grid have helped pay for the development of Vermont’s renewable projects, rather than that cost having been borne entirely by Vermonters. If the Legislature eventually creates a Vermont Renewable Portfolio Standard or a “Total Renewable Energy and Efficiency Standard” as described in this article, then at that point, some utilities will already have built or contracted for enough generation to meet that standard, and may still have excess to sell (perhaps to other Vermont utilities.) There will be a cost to that change, as I noted in my initial comment.

        If one doesn’t believe that we need to convert to renewable energy sources and that we can accept the climate change and other environmental impacts of not doing so, then that is a separate argument. I believe we must make that change and pretty quickly. There is a cost to that. The cost to not doing it is greater.

        This discussion about RECs is about who pays the cost for that and when, and whether the costs are assigned equitably and openly. There are disagreements about this, policy issues that must be resolved. But the position that we should just stick with (currently) cheap non-renewable sources is on another page altogether, in my opinion.

        • Lance Hagen :

          Avram,
          I am not buying your arguments. The entire RECs system is a government controlled scam. It is the government that defines the ‘renewable’ requirements, then allows power generators to buy and sell RECs. And in Vermont we even allow double counting.

          I have a hard time buying into bureaucratic system that has Vermont building power generation systems that are not cost competitive, scarring our landscape so that other states can just buy their way out of meeting their own define renewable obligation.

          And as for climate change, I have yet to see any study that actually estimates, quantitatively, the impact of doing or not doing a renewable program in Vermont.

          • Mark Whitworth :

            When you think about RECs, think about Connecticut. Connecticut has a moratorium on industrial wind turbines.

            Connecticut buys RECs from Vermont generators and is involved in the construction of turbines in northern New England.

            You may recall that a company called BNE proposed building turbines in Eden, Vermont. That project was a response to an RFP issued by Connecticut.

      • John Zuppa :

        The ONLY way that Avram Patt can come to his incredibly flawed (and in some ways criminally blind) conclusions and endorsements of an energy scam of Tea-Pot Dome Scandal proportions has been described (sad but true) by Upton Sinclair.
        The only people (I paraphrase) who cannot see the glaringly apparent facts and figures that disprove their position…are those who will not see them because their job or wealth depends on them NOT seeing it.

        • John Greenberg :

          John Zuppa calls Avram Patt’s comments a lot of bad names — “incredibly flawed,” “criminally blind,” etc. — but provides narry a detail to back up such blanket condemnations. I have neither a job nor wealth associated with these issues, (pace Upton Sinclair) and yet to my eyes, Mr. Patt seems to be precisely correct.

          So, Mr. Zuppa, please be so kind as to enlighten me (and the rest of us) as to precisely where it is that Avram Patt errs, lest we continue to tread in darkness.

          • Randy Pratt :

            John Greenberg,

            You may have neither a job nor wealth associated with these issues, but I have long been impressed with your knowledge, insight, and perspective.

            Your defense of Avram’s comments is also supported by FERC and FTC rulings, as well as guidance issued by the National Association of Attorneys General. Selling RECs while meeting SPEED goals may not feel right to some, but it is far from criminal.

            If Vermont were a “retail choice” state, and an energy provider marketed “green” power while at the same time selling the RECs elsewhere, that would be a different matter entirely.

            There is a theoretical argument that a Vermont electricity customer might make a different conservation, efficiency, or alternative fuel choice based on the relative “greenness” of renewable energy without RECs. That would be fun to explore.

            Happy New Year

          • John Greenberg :

            Thanks for your kind words, Randy.

            We still need some justification from Mr. Zuppa to justify his excoriation of Avram’s comments. As you say, they appear well supported and reasonable to me.

  6. Randal Murray :

    So lets just make sure that we make it to expensive to do any kind of business in Vermont at all. Carbon taxes are nothing but wealth redistribution. We need to speak up people! We are already running in the negative, this will make it worse! Leave the working people alone, we will be fine! When is Vermont Digger going to run a article on the effects of a carbon tax on the working folks? Or how Global warming is not effected by C02? Or maybe why Canada has stopped spending money on this myth?

  7. Steve Comeau :

    The goal of 90% of all energy used in Vermont to be from renewables by 2050 it probably not attainable. But since that is the stated goal, there should be better communication on how that will impact Vermonters. That is part of the purpose of the Total Energy Study. Since Vermont is now meets about 16% of its energy needs with renewable energy, there is a huge gap to close.

    A reality check would be that it will take much more hydro, wind, solar, and biomass than is now in use. The affect will be that the means of producing energy will be highly visible and dramatically impact the landscape. This already has and likely will continue to affect the acceptance of renewables. But it may also affect the current acceptance of waste and excessive use of energy.

    In many ways renewables are more finite than fossil fuels, as there are only so many places to locate wind turbines, hydro dams, and solar panels. There is only so much wood in Vermont that can be used for fuel. So the goal of 90% renewables, if achieved, would need to result in using much less energy, as is stated in the Total Energy Study. So who gets to use much less? The policy should be directed toward reducing excessive energy use, a topic that is mostly avoided. It is hard to define excessive energy use, but households using significantly more than the median use would be excessive. The low and moderate energy users should not be made to subsidize the build out of an energy system where energy is wasted and used excessively by others. It is a very tough topic, since nobody wants the government telling them what they can spend there money on. But how many wind turbines, solar panels, and dams should be installed to power the excessive energy use of a minority? It should not be ignored in future energy policy.

  8. A carbon tax is a regressive tax, similar to the gasoline tax. It will fall hardest on the bottom 80% of households, who have had DECLINING real household incomes for about 10 YEARS. The tax would finance all sorts of inefficient, dysfunctional, government programs, such as SPEED and Lowell ridge line turbines.

    The 2011 CEP goal of POOR Vermont to get 90% of ALL energy, not just electrical energy, from mostly EXPENSIVE in-state renewables (to coddle Vermont’s RE lobbies) is a much more extreme goal than RICH Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE goal.

    Partially, as a result of PRESENT renewable energy programs, Vermont’s HOUSEHOLD electric rates have become the FOURTH highest in the US: Hawaii, Alaska, Connecticut, Vermont.

    October 2013…………..October 2012

    CT……..18.61……………18.08
    ME……. 14.45……………14.76
    MA…… 15.63………. …..14.38
    NH……. 16.73……………16.03
    RI ……..14.55………….. .13.66
    VT…… . 17.66…………. ..17.51

    http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_06_a

    Historical Real Median Household Income for the United States and Vermont
    http://www.deptofnumbers.com/income/vermont/

    US: 2012 $51,371; 2011 $51,557; 2010 $52,703; 2009 $53,760; 2008 $55,484; 2007 $56,189; 2006 $55,176; 2005 $54,387
    VT: 2012 $52,977; 2011 $53,878; 2010 $52,029; 2009 $55,256; 2008 $55,564; 2007 $55,266; 2006 $54,281; 2005 $53,733

    Cost of Living Index, by state
    http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm

    US: 100
    ME: 110.4
    NH: 120
    VT: 120.1
    MA: 121.9
    RI: 123.3
    CA: 124.3
    NJ: 127.9
    CT: 131.4
    NY: 131.4
    AK: 131.5
    DC: 141.6
    HA: 158.3

    The VT cost of living index is about 20% greater than the US COL index, but the Vermont mean real household income is only 3% greater than the US mean real household income. That means, VT’s standard of living is about 17% less than the US standard of living.

    Already-struggling households and businesses have been dealing with a near-zero-growth Vermont economy since 2007, with the tax-burdened, private sector shrinking relative to the growing government sector, which is acting as a wet blanket on the private sector, a sure recipe for economic stagnation, lack of well-paid employment growth (except in government), or worse.

  9. Randy Pratt :

    A tax on carbon can be good for the planet and for Vermont. It should be called what it is — a carbon tax — and not hidden behind a clever acronym; but, it also needs to be well designed and clearly understood (Tony Klein is so right about that).

    Hopefully the discussion this year won’t start midstream in the river of misconceptions, because:

    – A carbon tax is not necessarily regressive.

    – High rates don’t always equal high bills.

    – Sold RECs in VT don’t necessarily equal coal plants in Massachusetts.

    – Efficiency, weatherization, and net-metering can benefit all ratepayers (but only if utilities get rate design right).

    • Justin Turco :

      Hi Randy,

      A question. Not taking a tone with you here. What percentage of the power produced by net metered generators is ACTUALLY used or needed? (Remembering that somewhere out there is dispatchable generation capable of picking up the full load on the grid at a moments notice.)

      While considering that low number, imagine that HALF of the rate payers had small wind, solar and run of river hydro in their back yards. These people are all being net metered. Lets say this is how my home is set up. Every drop of energy I produce is paid for at market rates. By the end of the month I have no electric bill to pay. You and the other half of the rate payers don’t have these net metered generators. So it’s actually your money that pays for the big baseload generator that is ALWAYS… 24/7/365 available to carry the entire grid when my power generators “expectedly” (because that is how they work) go offline. You and the other unlucky folks who don’t have a solar panel on the roof have to bear the full cost of the big dependable generator that is ALWAYS ready to take over and always costing money to feed. Do you know what I’m saying here?

      I see no benefit of net metering except to the few who participate.

      The other option: what if we all net metered our way to a zero bill? Then there would be no-one to pay for the big generator that actually keeps our lights on 24/7/365.

      Net metering, speed, renewable energy credits are all a sham against those who don’t participate. It’s an opportunity to benefit only if you’re in on it.

      The rest of you pay for my participation with higher electricity rates, higher taxes thanks to welfare being paid to build renewable projects and higher prices paid for goods produced by carbon emitting businesses (like plane tickets on an airline… for example.)

    • Randy,

      Why not submit to the PSB, for its approval, a household rate schedule as follows:

      0 – 400 kWh; 10 c/kWh, energy only.
      400 – 600 kWh; 15 c/kWh
      600-800 kWh; 20 c/kWh
      800 – 1000 kWh; 25 c/kWh
      1000 – 1200/kWh; 30 c/kWh
      1200 – 1400 kWh; 35 c/kWh, etc.

      Energy-guzzling households would quickly find ways to reduce their consumption, AND reduce CO2.

      Your T&D system capacity would be even more adequate,

      - AND little NEW investments in generating and T&D systems would be required,

      - AND it would be invisible,

      - AND it would make no noise.

      It would be a win-win on many levels.

      It would be a no-brainer, even to the mentally-challenged.

    • Randy,

      - A carbon tax should be tied to household income. Those with less than $50,000/yr would not pay it. The more income above that level, the greater the percent of carbon tax.

      - By skimping and scraping a household can reduce consumption which will reduce electric bills, even when rates are high, as in Vermont.

      - Connecticut made it illegal to meet CO2 targets by buying RECs from Vermont. Mass may be next.

      - In Germany, PV system-owning households sell ALL the energy they can produce to the utility at a generous feed-in-tariff through one meter. They buy ALL the energy they need through another meter, in the same manner as households without PV systems; this eliminates the inequities David Hallquist, et al, have been mentioning on this site.

  10. Dave Bellini :

    I wish I could afford a new more efficient furnace, to have insulation blown into all the outside walls, seal the basement sill, replace doors and windows, put in all energy efficient appliances and slap up some solar panels on a new roof. Wouldn’t that be great! I’d be politically correct if I could afford it. Taking more money from my wages makes it harder to do these things. It’s catch 22 for some.

  11. Kathy Nelson :

    I have a somewhat different view of the “Total Energy Study”. I see this document as an emergency response to a resolution working its way through the Democrat party in opposition to Gov. Shumlin’s energy policy. I’ve looked at the TES and found it to be somewhat hastily slapped together and strangled by lawyer-ese language.
    It is a poor document indeed, and will do nothing to strengthen Shumlin’s position in a party struggling with internal revolt. Energy generation is a minor part of the issue here, at least it should be, and efficiency should be the big player. But efficiency means dealing with the people of VT, not the invading corporations looking for the big bucks. Dealing with the needs and interests of Vermonters is not something our governor does well, I’m sure Jeremy Dodge could understand that.

    • Steve Comeau :

      Kathy,
      The intent of the report is as a report on the progress of the Total Energy Study, with the final report due out in the summer of 2014. This report is missing charts and images that would have greatly helped display the information in the report. It is written in such a way that it is hard to tell how well the state is doing toward meeting the renewable energy goals and greenhouse emissions goals. Apparently not too well, since the emissions goal was a 25% reduction by 2012 as compared to 1990, and the results are “almost unchanged”. Clear metrics, charts, and trends in the final report would be a huge improvement.

      • Steve,

        Why waste money writing such an inane TOAL ENERGY STUDY “report”.

        Does not look like a study to me.

        It totally lacks basic, easy to understand information for part-time legislators and the lay public.

        Are not pictures worth a thousand words?

        Who assigned that person to write such a report?

        Who approved it?

        This came out of the DPS, no less. These people should know their energy systems, to say the least.

        Recchia may need to look for some other line of work.

    • Lance Hagen :

      After reading this ‘Total Energy Study’ I have to say, this is bureaucracy at its finest. It consists of 35 pages of generalized ‘motherhood’ statements. Here are some of my favorites:

      “Focus state, legislative, stakeholder, and general public conversation on actions with a high probability of meeting State goals.” (Lets all FOCUS)

      “The initial step in the Total Energy Study was to develop a Framing Report intended to facilitate public and stakeholder feedback and discussion”

      Responses to this so called Framing Report

      “The Department received 19 sets of comments addressing some or all of the above questions. The comments are summarized in Appendix A.” (Only 19 comments and where is this Appendix A?)

      “Vermont’s biomass resource is extensive, but also limited.” (This pretty much covers it all)

      “There is no guarantee that a price on carbon will encourage greater usage of renewable energy” (but let’s tax it anyway).

      Chris Recchia should be ashamed to call this document a ‘study’.

  12. Kathy,
    I agree with your assessment of the TES. BTW, it is definitely not a “study”. My Lord, what a misnomer. An energy systems engineer would be ashamed call it a “study”.

    I am amazed the DPS has the excess staff to put out such inane pamphlets. No wonder the state runs deficits and needs to raise taxes year after year. I wonder when the Legislature/voters will finally have enough of this.

    The pamphlet is a catch-all document that is presented as a starting point for discussion to get to 90% of ALL energy from mostly in-state renewables, not just electrical energy which is only 1/3 of all energy.

    No state in the US has such a goal. Even rich Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE does not have such a goal. The 90% goal is beyond rational to this energy systems engineer (and similar engineers elsewhere) who has been in the business for over 4 decades.

    The 90% goal is a feel-good/eye-catching number pulled out of a hat by lobbyist/Rep. Klein/DPS, et al, to please their RE constituents.

    What Vermont really needs is a strictly-enforced building code that requires all NEW buildings to be zero-energy or energy-surplus buildings.

    A number of medium-income households in Vermont have already built such buildings. It would be good for EV to make a list of them and publicize/praise their achievements, instead of having GMP, et al, crowing about how many ridge lines they are going to destroy with 459-ft high IWT monsters that are totally out of place in Vermont in order to “save the world”.

    Here are the results of the Klein/DPS-inspired RE programs:

    1) The SPEED projects produce low-quality energy at an increasing average cost, and the average has been increasing EACH YEAR SINCE INCEPTION, according to DPS records.

    Analysis of DPS data shows SPEED energy production costs of:

    2010, last six months: 13.87 c/kWh
    2011: 16.44
    2012: 17.16
    2013, first eight months: 19.30

    http://vermontspeed.com/speed-monthly-production/
    http://vermontspeed.squarespace.com/project-status/

    2) The Lowell Mountain ridge line wind turbine plant:

    - capital cost was about $2600/kW to build versus about $2000/kW in the Central States,

    - capacity factor is less than 0.20 versus 0.33 claimed; all of the Northeast has a CF of 0.24 versus 0.36 in the Midwest.
    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/2012_wind_technologies_market_report.pdf

    - O&M cost is about 2 times Midwest.

    - useful service life is about 20 years, per NREL studies and European experience, not the 25 years claimed by GMP.

    - production COST is at least 15 – 20 c/kWh.

    - GMP is no longer crowing about how thrilling it is to own ridge line wind turbines; more like a nightmare.

    Dysfunctional is the only apt name for it.

    • Steve Comeau :

      Willem,
      Do know what the latest numbers are for the breakout of the 16% renewable energy in Vermont? This 16% includes wood for heating. I would think that half that must be from Hydro-Quebec.

      What I would like to see in the final Total Energy study is a realistic scenario of how Vermont can convert to 90% renewable energy by 2050. What would that look like, both in the literal sense and as a breakout of wood, biofuels, solar, wind, and hydro (in state and from Hydro-Quebec). At the very least there are major technology hurdles, such as the ability to store electricity at utility-scale from intermittent sources and electric cars that can go long distances without a recharge. But is there a combination of RE that could actually be built in Vermont that would really work within economic, physical, and political constraints that we have? If not, then the goal of 90% renewable energy of Total Energy is unachievable and is therefore the wrong goal.

  13. Peter Everett :

    I just saw on the news, this AM, that since 2008 the cost of electricity, NATIONWIDE, has increased by 20%. I have to admit that I do not know what the rate of increase in VT is, but, since I have moved to VT in 2006 my bill has increased substantially, and my household is using less now than when I moved here.
    I am retired, on a fixed icome and I work, roughly, 15 hours a week in a part time job that I have not received a raise since Dec 2006. I have seen, roughly a 25% increase in my property taxes since ’06 and increases in just about every aspect of my life.
    Fortunately (????), I’m in the same boat as everyone else, trying to figure out how to meet the demanding increases we face every year.
    Right now, I’m able to do so through creative means. My family really hasn’t been impacted, for our needs. This probably will hold true for the foreseeable future.
    What has happened, and I’m to many, many other families is the effect that we have on our local communities economy. We are transferring, what used to be disposable income, spent locally, to provide the neccessities of life.
    The local economy is very dependent on our disposable income being placed within their businesses. The less we have to spend, the greater the actual hurt on our neighborhood businesses, and, more importantly, many of our friends.
    Sometimes, I don’t think politicians at both the State and Federal levels really grasp the hurt that they are putting on families when they say they need more revenue to keep programs intact.
    We, as taxpayers, all need more revenue to keep our way of life intact. Yet, we may see a real decrease in our ability to spend because of higher increases in most products we need. Is anyone seeing a real decrease in gasoline, fuel oil, food, utilities, etc? Is our annual income increasing at the same rate of inflation? Most of us will say no to those questions.
    We must make decisions on a daily basis as how to get through. We make cuts within our budgets. This goes for the majority of us.
    Most politicians, on the other hand, live large. I could live very well on the salaries and perks those in D.C. get. They talk a good talk, but, how many walk in our shoes. They have no idea. That doesn’t make them bad, they just don’t understand what it is like to live from day to day. And, they really wouldn’t want to.
    It’s up to us to get them to reign in costs. If they don’t this country will fall further and further into debt, which is pretty damn high now.
    Thomas Jeffereson stated that it is immoral for one generation to leave the next generation to pay off their debts. I guess we’re pretty immoral then. Sad part is you and I didn’t put us in this situation. It’s those who continually spend more than they receive causing this problem that isn’t going away any time soon.

  14. Randy Pratt :

    Justin,

    No tone taken! You’ve got a good handle on the net metering dilemma.

    If utilities don’t buy power differently to reflect net metering, it may not offset any fossil-fueled power (and therefore the net-metered facilities technically cease to be “green”). But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Utilities may also be missing a revenue opportunity, if they don’t have the ability to forecast day-ahead load, including renewables, with reasonable accuracy, and purchase or sell power accordingly in the day-ahead market. What is needed is a way to aggregate and assign this new risk/reward to the participants.

    We also can’t ignore the benefits of well-placed net-metering (and renewables generally) in delayed or deferred infrastructure, which is a benefit to all.

    We should keep in mind that cross-subsidization happens all the time. Urban customers use fewer poles & wires than rural, for example, but both pay the same customer charge. The standard is whether it is just and reasonable, not an absolute dollar figure that shows how much cross-subsidization there is. The DPS gets this. Your airline analogy is perfect. Try to find any flight where any 3 people pay the same fare.

    As for Willem’s inclining block rate design, there is already a piece of that in public power rates, and I believe WEC has taken it a step farther. There aren’t may industries left that charge a fixed fee to (supposedly) cover fixed costs. For example, no one pays the gas station a fee to keep the lights on. I’ve been a long-time advocate for low customer charges; but as we’re seeing with the gas tax no longer being appropriate to pay for roads, we’re dreaming to think there’s a system where people will pay for anything commensurate with their use. But let’s not stop!

    Happy New Year

  15. Annette Smith :

    I participated in the PSD’s focus groups, and have offered comment on the drafts of the TES. The first draft was such poor quality I inquired who did it and how much it cost. It was done by RAP (regulatory assistance project) of Montpelier, and cost $40,000.

    I don’t claim to understand what it is trying to achieve, as there seems to be a real disconnect between the real world and what comes out of ivory tower think tanks. To further understand the TES, I suggest reviewing the work of Energy Action Network http://eanvt.org/. Under Resources, download their 2012 annual report, which goes into some detail about their agenda, all of which is to be carried out through messaging by its various members.

    I signed up to attend the EAN annual meeting and was disinvited within 24 hours. Not an open forum, but very much influencing the state’s energy policies. They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on materials associated with how to get their message to the public. Watch for their Community Heroes and other PR campaigns to get you to drive electric cars (that’s an imperative according to both the TES and EAN), heat with electricity, and take out loans to button up your homes.

    • Mark Whitworth :

      Electric cars?

      GMP will be decommissioning their turbines in Lowell long before there are enough electric cars to affect the demand for electricity in Vermont. Even the biggest EV enthusiasts are scaling back their projections for market penetration.

      And when they tear down the Lowell turbines, they won’t bother to replace them because there will be far better, less expensive, less hazardous, and less disruptive renewable generation technologies than industrial wind turbines.

  16. Rob Pforzheimer :

    Avram Patt’s claiming that the sale of recs is saving vt ratepayers money is questionable.
    A few years ago WEC asked for a rate increase claiming that because the fluctuating price of recs was low, that WEC’s revenues were down.
    As more useless wind projects are built the supply of recs increases. The price of recs will fall and WEC and other VT utilities will ask for more rate increases to offset loss in revenue from declining rec prices.
    How is this keeping rates low for VT’ers?

    And how about some proof that renewables are lowering emissions or having any effect on the climate.

    • Rob,

      There is no proof, because CO2 emissions are not measured at 15-minute intervals.

      Instead, factors, fuel consumption data and generator production data are used to ESTIMATE annual CO2 emissions.

  17. “Klein said the state has one chance to pass a complicated carbon tax; therefore, the policy should be thoroughly vetted before legislation is drafted.”

    Klein’s strategy appears to be:

    - to make VT a leader in “fighting global warming”; THE PLAN, 90% of ALL energy from dysfunctional, expensive, in-state renewables by 2050, a la SPEED and Lowell Mountain.
    - to pull the wool over the eyes of the part-time legislators and lay public to get them to vote for the carbon tax, which will be too complex for most mortals.
    - to let Joe Public complain once he finds out more of the details.
    - to respond with inane PR blather to soothe feelings.

    - A carbon tax should be tied to household income. Households with less than $50,000/yr would not pay it, as they have had declining real incomes for the past 14 years. The more income above that level, the greater the percent of carbon tax.

    - By skimping and scraping, a household can reduce consumption which will reduce electric bills, even when rates are high, as in Vermont.

    - Connecticut made it illegal to meet CO2 targets by buying RECs from Vermont. Mass may be next. The door to the REC boondoggle will close.

    - In Germany, PV system-owning households, a small percentage of all households, sell ALL the energy they can produce to the utility at a generous feed-in-tariff through one meter. They buy ALL the energy they need through another meter, in the same manner as households without PV systems; this eliminates the inequities David Hallquist, et al, have been mentioning on this site. PV system-owning households RECEIVE a check each month, if their selling is greater than buying. No wonder PV solar is so popular in sunny Germany.

    Note: The real household incomes of the middle, 4th and bottom quintiles peaked in 2000, 2000, 1999, respectively; in those peak years their incomes were $56,311, $33,815, $13,663; in 2012 their incomes were $51,179, $29,696, $11,490, for a decline from peak year of 9.1%, 12,2%, 15.9%.

    The bottom 60% of households have been getting nailed bigtime, and Klein/DPS/PSB, et al, are maneuvering to make it worse with their dysfunctional, expensive, RE schemes, such as SPEED and ridge line wind, a la Lowell Mountain, that will have zero impact on global warming, but benefit RE system providers.
    http://advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Household-Income-Distribution.php

  18. Don Peterson :

    Vermont has an energy policy that is tailored to exploit specific federal tax policies; it has nothing to do with efficient energy production

    That ordinary people outside the golden dome are so resistant to these policies is a measure of how far the apparatchiks have strayed from reality on the issue of global climate change.

    Vermont is more prosperous than many states because of our clean undeveloped landscape and our care for the land.

    When you kill the goose, you forego the golden egg. Lets find solutions to climate change that fit our state, rather than take instructions from a corrupt federal system.

  19. timothy price :

    The most effective way for a free society to reduce its energy use is to reduce the tax burden. Individuals and businesses will make better choices through enlightened self interest if they can afford to.
    There are lots of ways government could reduce energy use in Vermont. Stop using cement and use stone from our quarries. That would cut our a huge chunk of energy use in the manufacture of cement, and would put hundreds of Vermonters to work at good paying jobs. The increased use of stone would revive the railway system too, which is 10 times more efficient that highway transportation. But in truth, the real reason for the carbon tax is to increase the revenue coming in to the state… and that is what the government is after. sigh…

  20. Peter Everett :

    The day after Christmas I was returning home, heading north on I89. The Solar Farm between Exits 2 – 3, most of the panels were covered with snow. How much electricity is being generated when the panels are covered? Not very efficient I expect. Can the Tax Payer count the $$$ leaving their pockets during Jan, Feb and March when these panels are not working as intended> Another reason renewables are not cost effective yet. They may be in the future, but, not now.
    I am all in favor of renewables, almost purchased Solar for my home last year UNTIL I found out that BOTH State & Feds collect excise taxes on the electricity that I generate at my expense. Decided that the cost plus taxes (Gov’t greed) didn’t make sense at my age (old fart).

    • Don Peterson :

      Mr. Everett:

      My solar panels are snow covered but still manage to make enough electricity to equal our consumption every month. We don’t cover our fixed metering charges, or these taxes you refer to, but so what?

      The basic problem facing the planet is not an economic business model, and it’s obvious (to me anyway) that a solution couched in those terms is bound to fail.

      We need to make an investment in the future of the human race, but instead we get an investment in the corporate status quo.

      Governments aren’t up to this task, at least a hijacked democracy isn’t. So I say to you Mr. Everett, pony up and do something on your own. Your pure unbiased democracy “government with the consent of the governed” isn’t available to help.

      • Peter Everett :

        I still have the “choice” of which taxes I will voluntarily pay. I choose not to spend a large amount to generate my own power, then, pay taxes on what I produce. I would never receive a return on investment at my age, although I was originally considering so. In you estimation, that makes me a bad person because I guess you would consider me selfish, so be it.
        I would rather provide, the best I could, for my family, not being taxed to provide for yours. So, no, I won’t “pony up” as you say. I will take care of others by my choice, not Gov’t telling me that I must. Hopefully, I’ll be long gone before Gov’t, or you, force that upon everyone. Each year our personal freedoms diminish, thats not my idea of the way I wish to live, although it’s most likely your chosen way.

    • Peter,
      If you are not grid connected, there will be no taxes.

      • Peter Everett :

        The company I was speaking with told me that to go off gris required new batteries every 5 – 7 years at a cost of $20 – $25 K. At my age this was not a viable option nor one I could afford. This was my first choice, yet there was never an option for payback. No, at my age I cannot bare the cost of this. I must place what extra income I have into the never ending rise in my property taxes.

        • Peter,

          That goes to show solar energy is a cripple; it cannot stand on its own without help from expensive energy storage backup, such as batteries, or grid backup.

          The same is true for wind energy.

          The best approach is much increased energy efficiency.

          Houses are being built in Vermont that use 1/5 the energy for heating and domestic hot water of standard houses.

          Your fuel bill would be very small, and that part of your CO2 foot print would be very small.

          Part of the problem solved.

        • Annette Smith :

          That’s ridiculous. I live off grid with solar, and have replaced my battery bank more than once in 25 years. The cost is more like $2500, not $25,000, and if managed properly will last more than 7 years. Find a new company.

          • Annette,

            Total investment over the life of the panels of 25 years is 2500 x 25/7 is about $9000.

            The capital amount is proportional to the kWh stored.

            How much is your battery kWh? About 10 – 15?

            Many families with solar systems are relatively well off, live in larger houses, use more electricity.

            Such families use at least 500 KWh/30 = 16.6 kWh/day.

            2-3 days of storage would be prudent for such families.

  21. Steve Comeau :

    What is amazing is that the Total Energy Study Legislative report states that the current Vermont energy from renewables is at 16% of total energy, but it does not provide a breakout of the energy sources that comprise the 16%. Given purpose of the report, not stating the amount used from the sources of renewable energy is a major flaw of the report. We know that 16% of total energy in Vermont is achievable, because that is the current situation. We know that nearly no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 is possible since that is the current situation. The report gives no indication of what is possible in the next 5 to 10 years with existing technologies.

    • Steve:

      In 2013

      Solar was about 0.69%
      Wind about 2%

  22. John Sales :

    Dear everybody,

    ENERGY – SLOW TRANSITIONS, FAST DEPLETIONS, DIRE CONSEQUENCES

    Vaclav Smil, Scientific American, Jan. 2014, points out that we underestimate time to transition to new fuels – a minimum of 60 years. He infers a lower peak with each successive fuel – wood, coal, oil, natural gas. Wind and solar are unlikely to exceed 50% of demand and may take even longer. 100% wind and solar won’t happen – the other fuels will have declined, making it impossible. In contrast, America went from dire depression to WW-II victory in lass than ten years, the whole country united post-Pearl Harbor. Today we both ignore and actively resist winning the energy battle, it might bankrupt existing energy stakeholders. We’ve got several trillion tied up in petroleum, coal and uranium infrastructure, plus transportation, housing and military sectors that would become obsolete. It would probably cost nearly that much more to establish the super high tech all-renewables support grid, and the high tech houses to make solar and wind viable. Some energy gurus assume everybody wants it to happen – like after Pearl Harbor. Not so. Crudely, only a small fraction of us are pro-renewables, and only a fraction of those are doing something about it. The great majority either don’t care, don’t understand it, or are afraid it would raise their taxes, as it surely would. What’s worse, a potent minority of that majority would very much like to see it not happen – and they happen to have America’s deepest pockets – entrenched energy stakeholders, with most of the lobbying and media clout.
    Meanwhile all major energy fuels (oil, gas, tar sands uranium nuclear and coal) will be in significant decline, nearly in unison, in the same next 20 years. The one technology that could pick up the slack, augment renewables, and reinvigorate the economy – thorium nuclear in the form of small distributive LFTRs, has been stonewalled over 40 years, won’t even be licensed by the NRC until 2030 and, if Smil’s curves hold, will require a minimum hundred years to get enough energy share to do our kids any good. This does not compute. This is a devastating long-term American energy policy – we are not minding the store!

    John Sales

    • John,
      Your thinking is in the right direction: more EE first, then build-out RE and modular thorium plants over the next 30 – 50 years.

      If Boeing can deliver 650 airplanes/yr at an average cost of about $200 million, then a consortium of Bechtel, GE, Babcock & Wilcock, etc. can build 200 modular 150 MW reactors/yr at $350 million each ; 30,000 MW each year to replace existing reactors and add new ones.

  23. SPEED Program production:

    2010…… 5980779 kWh…… ..0.1387 $/kWh
    2011……20172973 kWh……..0.1644 $/kWh
    2012…..29666592 kWh………0.1716 $/kWh
    2013.. ..44822813 kWh………0.1919 $/kWh

    Note the rising trend.

    Each year, without fail, the cost of SPEED energy is INCREASING and Klein/DPS/ PSB/Shulman want more of such expensive energy rolled into rate schedules of already-struggling households and businesses.

    They call such a program a success. I wonder what would be considered a failure.

    No wonder Vermont has a near-zero growth economy. Money is invested in Chinese solar panels to make expensive energy, instead in projects that would create well-paying jobs with good benefits.

    http://vermontspeed.com/speed-monthly-production/

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