A proposed remake of the state’s renewable energy program cleared its first major hurdle Tuesday with broad support from a panel of lawmakers.
After three weeks of deliberation, the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee voted 10-1 to pass H.40, a bill requiring utilities to sell renewable power and incentivize fossil fuel consumption reductions by their customers.
This bill aims to avoid a potential rate increase under Vermont’s current program and reduce greenhouse gas emissions coming from all energy sectors, including heating and transportation.
According to the bill, 55 percent of a utility’s electricity must come from renewables such as wind, solar or hydro power by 2017 — a percentage that steadily increases to 75 percent by 2032. Some of this electricity must come from in-state energy generation projects.
The utilities would also be required to reduce their customers’ fossil fuel emissions from heating and transportation. This may be achieved by offering thermal efficiency and electric heating incentives, for example.
The bill now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee because it includes alternate compliance fees for utilities that don’t reach their obligations under the program. The revenue from the fees would be placed into the Clean Energy Development Fund to help pay for other renewable energy projects.
Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, does not plan any significant changes to the bill at this point.
Neighbors living near energy generation project suggested the bill include new siting standards, but both committees agree that energy siting will be addressed in a separate bill.