Law students call for changes to renewable energy market - VTDigger
 

Law students call for changes to renewable energy market

Twenty-one 450-foot-tall wind turbines run along the Lowell Mountains ridgeline for 4 miles. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Twenty-one 450-foot-tall wind turbines run along the Lowell Mountains ridgeline for 4 miles. File photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Vermont gets virtually none of its grid power from wind or solar sources, according to a report Vermont Law School students presented recently to the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Developers and utilities sell Vermont’s wind and solar power to other New England states, using what are known as renewable energy credits, or RECs. As a result, although Vermonters subsidize these forms of energy, utilities in other states actually benefit from them, the report found.

The students want to change that. They are calling for new restrictions that would keep Vermont renewable energy in state, although they acknowledge that would raise the cost of electricity because utilities would lose the income from selling the credits.

The committee’s chairman said he’s holding off on any legislative remedy to the issues raised in the report until the Public Service Board finalizes new rules on solar development, which he said might address many of those concerns.

Chris Bray

Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison. File photo

The report “highlights a real need for people buying solar power and selling solar power to be very clear about how they’re handling the RECs,” said committee Chairman Chris Bray, D-Addison.

Developers and utilities continue selling wind and solar energy credits out of state because Vermonters don’t understand the process by which they do so, said Kevin Jones, a professor who supervises the Vermont Law School Energy Clinic. Three law students in that clinic — Gregg Freeman, Heather Huebner and Aaron Kelly — wrote the report under Jones’ guidance.

“This is well understood by people close to policy — they just portray it being radically different than it is,” Jones said.

Other states’ utilities buy Vermont renewable energy credits because those states require the utilities to get a portion of their power from wind or solar sources. Utilities purchase the credits — legal title to the renewable attributes of wind and solar energy — as a way to meet those requirements, instead of building wind and solar facilities.

Some of the credits come from producers in Vermont’s net metering program, which allows electric consumers who generate their own power to sell it back to the grid at a substantially higher rate than utilities pay for wholesale power.

“We’re putting a lot of money and resources into subsidizing renewable energy for Massachusetts and Connecticut, and it makes no sense from a public policy standpoint,” Jones said.

The report’s figures on Vermont’s consumption of wind and solar energy come from the state’s comprehensive energy plan, which determined that the amount of each that isn’t sold out of state is statistically nil. Although some solar purveyors in the state don’t sell their renewable credits elsewhere, they produce a negligible portion of the state’s total energy.

The electricity that replaces Vermont’s exported wind and solar power consists mainly of fossil fuel-generated and nuclear power, the report states.

The report also found that Vermont has doubled its greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production over the last 10 years. About a quarter of that can be attributed to the sale of renewable credits out of state, the report estimated.

The Public Service Board is currently revising rules for the net metering program.

The rewrite of these rules was statutorily scheduled for Jan. 1, to give legislators time to review them and pass legislation addressing any potential deficiencies, Bray said. His committee won’t take action on the report’s recommendations before those rules are finalized, he said, in case the rules largely put those suggestions in place.

But Jones said they won’t.

The draft rules would require that the credits for new net-metered solar power stay in state and go to the utility that purchases the power. But the rules do not speak to solar and wind projects that are already built, Jones said.

“It’s a failure in renewable energy policy by design,” he said. “It’s exactly as they designed it: to perpetuate the long-term out-of-state sale of wind and solar RECs.”

Bray didn’t indicate he would take up the issue of existing projects in his committee.

The law school report recommends the Legislature consider banning the out-of-state sale of RECs from net-metered projects, since Vermonters pay a premium for that energy. The report also recommends phasing out the sale of RECs from most existing wind and solar facilities.

If Vermont kept its wind and solar power in state, energy prices would rise, Bray said. The report confirms this, but urges it nevertheless.

“If Vermont wants to consume the cheapest power on the grid, it will consume dirty power and will increase its greenhouse gas emissions,” the report states.

Mike Polhamus

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Be succinct and to the point. If your comment is over 500 words, consider sending a commentary instead.

We personally review and moderate every comment that is posted here. This takes a lot of time; please consider donating to keep the conversation productive and informative.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage a civil discourse among readers who are willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. VTDigger has created a safe zone for readers who wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a range of subjects. We hope you join the conversation. If you have questions or concerns about our commenting platform, please review our Commenting FAQ.

Privacy policy
  • Annette Smith

    I’m sorry but I don’t understand why Sen. Bray thinks the PSB’s net metering rules are going to address the problem. Today I posted photos of Allco Renewable Energy’s (Wall St. NYC lawyer/developer father/son team) 2 MW Sudbury Solar project, which is a Standard Offer project not touched by net metering rules. See the photos here https://vermontersforacleanenvironment.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/allco-renewable-energys-sudbury-solar-project/.

    This company, which is a founder of SunEdison and part-owner of groSolar, has received numerous Standard Offer contracts, including for Sudbury Solar, two 2 MW Bennington Solar projects (one recently denied by the PSB, but the lawyer/developers already got approval from the PSB to file more motions in that case), and some wind turbines too close to homes in Franklin County. They have filed a 45 day notice for a solar project on a 56 acre forested tract in Rutland east of the Diamond Run Mall, and recently purchased a 70 acre forested parcel in Bennington which they are promoting around town. None of these projects will help meet the state’s renewable energy goals, they will all sell the RECs out of state.

    Please, for the future of our state, wake up and fix this and stop pretending that it’s going to be fixed by the PSB’s net metering rules which do not apply to these large projects. groSolar is another company planning big projects on bad sites (like the Cold River Road solar project which is planned for some of the finest prime at soils in Rutland County).

    It is evident that Governor Shumlin has told his appointees at DPS and ANR to approve everything and not stand in the way of renewables. Another bad proposal is South Forty Solar in Burlington, proposing to cut thousands of trees and put a big solar array on a Class 2 wetland right next to Lake Champlain. ANR has already issued the wetlands permit which articulates the important functions the wetlands are providing. Bad science, destroying and degrading our environment, for what? To make Goldman Sachs and its proxies rich? You can see in those photos (link above) why Goldman Sachs is so heavily invested in aluminum.

    Thank you to VLS and the students who are raising awareness. The policies brought to this state by VPIRG and legislators who have worked exclusively for the renewable industrialists need to be changed, and now! Please listen and take action. With 150,000 kW more solar on the way, we really need to slow this monster down. Time out!!

  • Willem Post

    Chris Bray,

    “The report “highlights a real need for people buying solar power and selling solar power to be very clear about how they’re handling the RECs,” said committee Chairman Chris Bray, D-Addison.”

    But this has been going on for FIVE YEARS.

    Rules and regulations regarding RECs that are clear to the public should have existed FROM DAY ONE.

    Had that been done, none this brouhaha would exist.

    There has been entirely too much secrecy by the top politicos regarding many aspects of the state government taking over/centralizing the energy sector in Vermont.

    The same is happening regarding GMP quietly reducing, “on there Q T”, purchases of low-cost (6 – 7 c/kWh), clean, near-CO2-free, hydro energy from Hydro-Quebec.

    GMP is just letting contracts run out to “make room for RE”, per orders of the higher-ups.

    The same is happening regarding GMP quietly not taking advantage of the 200 MW (RESERVED FOR VERMONT BY AGREEMENT) of the just-approved Blackstone high voltage transmission line, also “to make room for RE”.

    Blackstone, a Venture Capital Firm, is planning to build a $1.2 billion, 154-mile, $7.8 million/mile, 1000-MW, HVDC transmission line that would run beneath Lake Champlain. The line, called New England Clean Power Link, would carry hydroelectric and wind power generated in Canada to metropolitan energy markets in the Northeast. http://www.necplink.com/docs/NECPL-Overview-Presentation.pdf

  • Randy Jorgensen

    “If Vermont kept its wind and solar power in state, energy prices would rise, Bray said. The report confirms this, but urges it nevertheless.”

    Much like putting a price on Carbon. By keeping the RECS instate we are NOT allowing another out of state entity to burn fossil fuels.

  • John Freitag

    It seems that if we want to do the right thing regarding climate change, we should, as a first step, be purchasing the renewable power produced in our own State before buying our energy from fossil fuel plants. This should be a far higher priority that would have real results than all the current talk about divestment of state employees pensions funds . Of course this means actual sacrifice for all which might not be politically as popular.

    • Except for pricing of “renewable” power is too high, the risks too great to environmental, human, aesthetic and property rights

    • Larry Gleb

      @ John Freitag:
      “Of course this means actual sacrifice for all which might not be politically as popular.”

      I can’t believe you are recommending further sacrifice by Vermonters, that would only result in increased energy costs and other costs of living expenses. Something tells me you are speaking for the 1%..ie those who can afford lofty energy ideals that raise their living expenses. Mean while, I am scrimping to pay my fuel, food and rent. Honestly, the only energy policy I want is the one that will lower my costs today…not 10 years from now. Bottom line- I can barely make ends meet, don’t force me to be even poorer so you have the benefit of feeling good about where you bought your energy.

      • John Freitag

        Larry makes a good point. While solar can be a beneficial part of an overall energy portfolio, peak production comes in the summer when there is often peak demand on the hottest of days, it has to be sized and sited appropriately. We are currently hiding the true costs of solar by selling the REC’s and using far cheaper hydro power from Canada to meet our current renewable energy requirements and then using far cheaper fossil fuel and nuclear power from Seabrook for the rest of our energy needs.
        When hydro power from Canada becomes available to the MA and Conn. in a few years they will no longer want our high priced solar power and we will be facing real sticker shock. Far better to be paying now for solar and wind that is in Vermont and know the real costs and be able to size appropriately then to pretend that there will not be significant impacts, not that far down the road, that will make it even harder for Larry, myself, and others on limited incomes to live in Vermont.

  • R.J. Adler

    I find it interesting that Jones forgets to mention in this article, or really any others that he’s written, that a Renewable Portfolio Standard was recently passed so RECs can be sold in Vermont in 2017, thus mitigating the out of state sale problem.

    Also, let’s take a step back and remember: More renewable energy is good for the planet as a whole. Global warming doesn’t care about state lines.

    Selling RECs doesn’t allow polluters to keep polluting- it forces them to take their profits, that which they covet most, and give it directly to their competitors.

    Selling RECs makes renewable energy less expensive for the consumer; by not selling the RECs we would make the cost of clean energy go up, cutting out large portions of the population from being able to access clean energy. If we want to make real change to our energy mix, we need to make clean energy available to everyone, not just those who can afford it.

    The REC Market has put $1Billion of development into renewable energy in the New England Grid. How is that much clean energy bad for the planet?

    And I know “haters gunna hate”, research my name, and find out I work for SunCommon. They may insinuate that because I spend all of my time and effort making actual progress on fighting Global Warming that somehow makes me unqualified to comment on the issue. I’m one of those pesky young Vermonters who has come here with his own ideas about how to make the world a better place and make progress. I would love to have coffee with anyone who has a different opinion than me. Seriously- email me: [email protected] .

    • Willem Post

      RJ,
      At present, Vermont PV solar is a free-for-all for out-of-state and instate multi-millionaires, because they want to get to excessive subsidies, as quickly as possible, and as much as possible.

      Tens of millions of dollars are shipped out-of-state EACH YEAR to these multi-millionaires to fatten their no-risk tax shelters, because the PSB is STILL awarding them excessive feed in tariffs, even though the capital costs of large PV solar systems have declined.

      The feed-in tariffs are much higher in Vermont than in Germany, even though Vermont has better solar conditions than Germany.

      The PSB is over-coddling multi-millionaires, at the expense of hard-working, already-struggling, Vermont households and businesses trying to make ends meet in a near-zero-real-growth Vermont economy.

      This free-for-all is aided and abetted by purposely designed sloppy rules and regulations, such as regarding RECs, siting, and the PSB’s very-easy-to-comply-with “noise code” for wind turbine noise, which is MUCH LESS STRICT than Denmark’s noise code.

      Vestas, the Danish wind turbine vendor for Lowell, gets noise codes written in Vermont, it could never get in Denmark.

      Vermont is a mere pinprick on the globe. For politicos to demagogue global warming, Vermont saving the world, doing its part, being a leader, is beyond rational.

      Vermont should concentrate on INCREASED energy efficiency.

      Vermont should have enforced building codes requiring “zero-energy” and preferably “energy-surplus” construction for ALL NEW buildings to ensure building energy requirements are minimal.

      Such “energy-sipping” buildings would be energy efficient, Passivhaus-standard or better. Such buildings, with the addition of PV solar, and ground- or air source heating and cooling systems, could easily become “energy-surplus” buildings.

      New residential, industrial, commercial, institutional and governmental buildings would produce most of their own energy by having PV solar systems on their roofs or parking lots, and ground- or air source heat pump systems to offset building energy requirements, power electric heat pumps, and charge electric cars.

      The piping for the ground source heat pump systems could be under the parking lots.

      Intel’s Folsom, CA, campus has a 6.5 MW PV solar carport on about 100 acres, which provides 16 charging stations, and shade for about 3,000 vehicles.

      The energy efficiency measures, plus the distributed generation by buildings would significantly reduce generation by large central plants connected to high voltage grids, and would reduce overall Vermont’s energy requirements and fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/2162036/comparison-grid-connected-and-grid-houses
      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/46652/reducing-energy-use-houses

    • Mark Keefe

      RJ you’re not alone. I’m one of those pesky old Vermonters with my own ideas about progress. I believe in efficiency, clean energy and being a good steward of the land. Which is why I believe Act 250 should apply to all industrial development – wind and solar included to ensure we are not doing more harm than good with our projects. I support more power (not less) from Hydro Quebec because I can afford it and it is, by far, the cleanest, most dependable, steady source of power available. Adhering to our own environmental laws and capitalizing on the geographic opportunity of energy from Hydro Quebec is just being prudent. Let’s start with making Vermont a better place…for everyone.

    • Annette Smith

      Act 56 requires that 10% of Vermont’s renewable power retire the RECs. All the rest allows the RECs to be sold indefinitely with no phase-out. CLF and REV testified in favor of phasing out REC sales. The prior RPS legislation that failed required a phase-out of REC sales leading to retirement. Instead of requiring any built or future projects to sell the RECs, what the RPS law you are proudly proclaiming is good for Vermont allows is the continuing sale of RECs from wind and solar out of state, and then the utilities can meet the state’s goals by purchasing low value Hydro-Quebec non-RECs to meet Vermont’s RPS. Do you support this game? Or is more about keeping your job at SunCommon which depends on enriching the 1%, because those are the primary people who can benefit from investing in these bad renewable energy projects that are cluttering our state with very little long-term accountability? I do not hate you or SunCommon. I want to love what you do. I love solar. Please work to make your company into one that is providing renewable solar power to Vermonters. I purchased my solar arrays without any gimmicks. Solar has come way down in price. It can be done right.

    • Kevin Jones

      R.J. selling RECs does not make renewable energy less expensive it transforms this energy into expensive nonrenewable energy that has Vermonters paying a premium to increase the state’s GHG emissions. Lets look at what happens when your company develops the so-called community solar arrays in Vermont. A Vermont customer signs up thinking they are going solar and there is a 19 cent per kWh net metering payment to the customer of which they turn 92.5% over to the developer. The developer then sells the RECs out of state for another 5 cents per kWh and that state counts the renewables toward their requirements. Vermont electric customers paid 19 cents/kWh, the developer got 19x.925% plus 5 cents or about 23 cents per kWh. The unfortunately labeled community solar array net metered customer gets a little bit of savings for buying non-renewable energy, Vermont’s percentage of renewable energy does not increase but our greenhouse gasses do and for increasing the state’s carbon footprint and likely misleading a well-meaning Vermonter into thinking they have gone solar but did not the developer gets 23 cents per kWh when the utility could have bought natural gas on the margin for perhaps 4.5 cents per kWh. One heck of a public policy for Vermont and meaningful climate accomplishment and community service from the B corp.

      Now lets look at Act 56 commingled with the current flawed draft of PSB net metering rules. Under ACT 56 if my clinic students were to update their report in 2032 we should still see 0% wind in the mix since there is a strong disincentive to retire the existing SPEED wind RECs or develop new ones that are retired – there could be some new wind sold to MA and CT. Since the current PSB net metering rules strongly penalize the colleges, businesses, individuals and community solar participants who want to truly go solar and keep their RECs while increasing the share of instate renewables and reducing Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions if these rules go forward there will be almost no new solar developed in Vermont beyond what Act 56 mandates. All new solar would then will be sold to utilities for retirement under Act 56. Under Act 56 their is a 10% distributed goal by 2032 so we should have a mix of 10% new solar (plus perhaps some small wind and anaerobic digesters) who retire their RECs but no more. So in summary in 2032 under the flawed Act 56 we have 0% wind, 10 % solar (or other distributed resources) and the remaining 65% of the RES goal consists of HQ and a growing array of near worthless RECs that no other state would even consider counting toward their RPS and thus the reason that the value of the RECs are so low. Lets keep talking about the Comprehensive Energy Plan’s 90% goal and ignore the details because the details are so distasteful and disappointing. Under your scenario we still can rely on Dorothy clicking together her ruby red slippers with the hopes that when we return to Kansas threat of climate change will all have been a dream.

      • Willem Post

        Kevin,

        “The unfortunately labeled community solar array net metered customer gets a little bit of savings for buying non-renewable energy, Vermont’s percentage of renewable energy does not increase but our greenhouse gasses do and for increasing the state’s carbon footprint and likely misleading a well-meaning Vermonter into thinking they have gone solar but did not the developer gets 23 cents per kWh when the utility could have bought natural gas on the margin for perhaps 4.5 cents per kWh. One heck of a public policy for Vermont and meaningful climate accomplishment and community service from the B corp.”

        You keep making the same mistake. There is a difference between bookkeeping/feel good and Physics 101.

        Rule No. 1: Any wind and solar plant built anywhere will reduce CO2.

        Rule No. 2: Everyone in New England uses the SAME mix of energy, because energy travels at about 1800 miles per 0.01 second.

        To claim Vermont’s greenhouse gases are increasing due to selling RECs is not only grossly misleading, but it is physically impossible, per Physics 101. As a lawyer, instructing future law students, you should do a whole lot better.

        Regarding your REC arguments, you are talking strictly about feel-good, and about bookkeeping, and about who should get credit, i.e., who gets to wear the green halo.

        That is entirely different from physical reality.

        NOTE: Shutting down Vermont Yankee, which RELIABLY produced 4,500,000,000 kWh/year of steady, not variable, not intermittent, near-zero-CO2 energy at 5 c/kWh,

        – Materially INCREASED New England’s CO2 emissions, because the VY energy was largely replaced by fossil energy generated in New England, PLUS

        – INCREASED the average cost of energy generation, above what it would have been, in New England.

        The Vermont Law School was in favor of shutting down VY.

        That is something of major regret.

        • Kevin Jones

          Willem you forget that we have energy laws and policies not just physics with the electric grid. You seem to have little respect for anything beyond your field of engineering. Taken literally your statement that everyone in New England uses the same mix of energy does not respect the laws set up to ensure accurate disclosure of electrical use and carbon accounting. Your statement also does not respect the physics of the system. Under your rules we would have to acknowledge that we don’t know what anyone consumes because your assumption of some generic mix is a physical fiction itself and not reflected in current policy either.

          Of course a solar plant backs off other resources but one that sells its RECs to CT or MA does so on behalf of those states’customers. Before you correct me I will acknowledge for you that you don’t believe in accepted rules for greenhouse gas accounting. I assume you don’t have direct deposit of your paycheck either because that is not physical money either. Finally I am an energy economist not a lawyer. Although I have taught many a lawyer and engineer about the grid they usually have to come with an open mind which I see is difficult at times.

          Finally you are similarly incorrect about VLS and VY. Individuals who work or study at VLS have positions on issues not the institution. Like other institutions there are people who may be in favor or opposed to nuclear power under various circumstances. I am sure you have no idea what my position is for instance nor do I suspect that you care since you seem to have formed your own impenetrable view of the world.

          • Willem Post

            Kevin,
            “Under your rules we would have to acknowledge that we don’t know what anyone consumes because your assumption of some generic mix is a physical fiction itself and not reflected in current policy either.”

            This sentence is pure nonsense.

            Please do not denigrate me for being an engineer, as I studied a fair number of law sources. I can see a flaw in an argument, legal or science, before most people.

            1) The energy mix IS generic, per Physics 101. In NE, we ALL consume the same energy mix.

            2) Regarding what we CALL that mix, per various rules and regulations, is an entirely DIFFERENT matter. Very often, the NAME assigned to that mix is to make some people (who did the right thing) feel good, and make others (who didn’t) feel bad.

            As a lawyer, you have difficulty separating the two, because for so many years, either you did not know the difference, or you decided to ignore it to make your REC arguments.

            Regarding RECs, I am on your side. The sooner they are abolished, nationwide, the better.

  • Vermont’s policy of condoning REC sales out of states makes a mockery of renewables energy policies. But I disagree with Mr. Jones’ characterization that Vermont is “subsidizing renewable energy for Massachusetts and Connecticut.” It’s the other way around. MA and CT ratepayers are heavily subsidizing the cost of renewables built in VT. Meanwhile, Mary Powell and Shumlin perpetuate the lie that Vermonters can build wind cheaper than everyone else.

    • Michael Bobee

      I’m in complete agreement. The reality is that no one state can support/sustain all the resources it needs.(energy, transportation, etc.) It seems like we’ve had our head in the sand and now we can be selective and innovative? Don’t forget where Vermont gets it’s revenues. It’s not from high-tech research. Know your strengths and accept how others can make your community better based on their strengths.

    • Kevin Jones

      Lisa it depends on your perspective. The leaders of CT and MA should be commended for having an honest and leading renewable energy policy. They realize you have to pay a premium today to truly purchase renewable energy. When they purchase our solar RECs though their utilities can buy market power on the margin for 4.5 cents and pay 5 cents for our RECs and legally claim to go solar at the cost of around 9.5 cents. For a 500 kW solar array Vermont ratepayers have paid 19 cents a kWh only to have the developer then sell that solar to MA. So Vermonters have paid a large premium for the perception of being green when in reality our GHG emissions have been rising in the electric sector as a result of these policies. Effective public policy in MA and CT and flawed policy in VT that sets Vermont backwards.

  • Steve McKenzie

    So if I have this right:

    Under the umbrella of the “90% renewable energy by 2050” goal, industrial wind and solar projects essentially get immediate green lights regardless of local opposition.
    Any RE generated is sold out of state, resulting in Vermont increasing fossil-fuel use, directly counter to the purported goal.
    The wind/solar developers get the financial reward, other states get the REC’s and Vermont gets an increasingly industrialized & tarnished landscape.

    Watchdog.org, 07/28/15: “Can Vermont really hit a 90% renewable energy goal?”

    “Vermont is leading America in getting energy policy right,” Shumlin said last month..”
    No, it’s apparently not.

    “It’s kind of like the Wild West here,” (Mark) Whitworth (exec dir of Energize Vermont) told Watchdog.org. “It’s a free for all.”
    Yes, it apparently is.

    Thank you, VLS, for this report.
    I’ll now patiently wait for the VPIRG, etc., counter spin.

    • samuel shultis

      The case for being skeptical of climate change – and many other popular scientific assertions – is based on knowledge of the ‘machine’ by which new ‘scientific’ ideas are evaluated and spread by non-experts, who are prone to choose winners and losers on the basis of warm & fuzzy/touchy-feely political ideology rather than scientific merit. Ergo we pave Vermont with solar panels in the name of the Church of Environmentalism …. Welcome to the world of indulgencies to get out of our imaginary carbon purgatory.

  • John McClaughry

    lLet’s get real here. If Vermont wants to subsidize wind and solar to defeat “climate change”, the planet is getting all the wind and solar electricity that the PSB will allow, and the planet is (according to the likes of VPIRG) benefiting (infinitesimally) from it. So to lessen the rate shock caused by those mandated high priced renewables, we let the Vermont utilities peddle these funny-money REC coupons to anybody who needs to buy them – mainly utilities in other states subjected to Renewable Portfolio Standard laws, who find buying Vermont RECs less damaging to their own ratepayers than building their own wind and solar. And then we allow our own utilities to earn much cheaper Hydro Quebec RECs to meet our RESET requirements – which the out of state utilities can’t use to meet their states’ more demanding RPS requirements..
    As Prof. Jones has repeatedly pointed out, RESET is a cheap scam that lets Vermonters beat their chests about defeating “climate change”, and not have to shoulder the full cost of the high priced renewables that the greenies want to believe will help do that job.
    There’s a better solution: scrap RESET, scrap the feed in tariffs, scrap the cost-shifting net metering pricing, stop creating RECs, stop scamming, stop all the fatuous “climate change” chest thumping, and redirect the passion into really protecting the planet, say by cutting back on phosphorus draining into Lake Champlain.

  • Ron Bouchard

    Thank you for this report, VLS. The influence of big money renewable and the ongoing, corrupting effect it has had on the current administration is evident in this report. Rep. Bray’s unwillingness to meaningfully address this issue, for the benefit of all Vermonters, is emblematic of the state house “lock-step” mentality to do the governor’s bidding that has devastated so many aspects of our once fine state. With complicity from the DPS and the PSB, big renewable is striving forward unfettered, decimating our landscape and selling RECs out of state with a nod and a wink from the administration. The recent reporting by VPR that key testimony from an experienced witness, critical of the PSB process, was left out of the self-published final Legislative Report due to a “misunderstanding” is only more indication and indicative of the status quo in Montpelier under this administration. One has to ask, what it at the root of it all? It sadly becomes more evident with time that the best interest of average Vermonters is no longer given consideration. With Shumlin, its always personal gain and “follow the money”. We are fortunate to live in a state where we can at the least do something about it. Get out and vote for anyone rather than those who have sat by and watched this happen and did nothing, or worse contributed to it.

  • Scott Woodward

    Vermont has turned itself into a REC exporter, plain and simple. No doubt that it’s important to build out renewable energy, but the way we’re going about it is truly unfortunate. Our poorly structured policies overshadow the good that comes from renewable energy projects and the means do not justify the ends. Renewable energy is a good thing, but how we get there is just as important. I don’t know if it will happen this session, but we really need to put it all out on the table and get it straight.

    It is not new news that the sale of RECs increases Vermont’s GHG emissions (pg. 2 of last year’s ANR report), but I’m glad that the VLS report reiterates this point: http://anr.vermont.gov/sites/anr/files/specialtopics/climate/documents/emissions/Vermont%20GHG%20Emissions%20Inventory%20Update%201990-2012_June%20-2015.pdf

    I also hope the PSB does not include in its revision of 5.100 the provision that, by default, transfers REC ownership from the project/property owner to the utility. That would, in my opinion, defy traditional notions of property ownership — that a property owner has to assert ownership in order to keep it.

  • Kim Fried

    Don’t worry the Legislature and Shumlin are doing their best to divest the State and Teacher’s retirement plan of investments in coal and Exxon. But selling RECs out of state and turning Vermont into an industrial park for Mass., Conn. and RI is perfectly okay. How these people perpetuate this lie and absurdity is beyond imaginations. It is criminal, and these are our “Leaders”????????.
    Thank you Vermont Law, Mr. Jones and students for bringing the truth forward. Now if we can get the Burn’s student fraternity to do their home work it will be a huge step forward.

  • samuel shultis

    “It’s a failure in renewable energy policy by design,” he said. “It’s exactly as they designed it: to perpetuate the long-term out-of-state sale of wind and solar RECs.”

    Why am I not surprised? The state of Vermont is stupid enough to vote into office a legislative body the majority of which ARE out-of-state students ….

  • Allen Preston

    Curious as to why we’re having a conversation about RECs without bringing up Act 56. Because of it we have a strong renewable portfolio standard that will ultimately retire RECs in state.

    • Scott Woodward

      A conversation about Act 56 and the RPS should also include discussion of the Tier II requirements and whether in the next years to come the RPS allows for the creation of surplus RECs which will still be sold out of state. As I see it, the RPS does not fundamentally alter the situation, but certainly open to a different interpretation of the Tier II requirements.

      • Allen Preston

        Not saying the tier II requirements are perfect, they could certainly be stronger, but it at least act 56 addresses the issue in a meaningful way. Yet you rarely hear it mentioned when the REC issue comes up

    • Annette Smith

      As I posted above, Act 56 requires only 10% of Vermont’s renewable power to be retired. All built projects like Lowell, Sheffield and Georgia Mountain wind, all big solar arrays will continue to sell the RECs out of state in perpetuity under Act 56. Utilities will meet the state’s renewable energy goals for the other 90% with Hydro-Quebec non-RECs, called compliance payments, which cost about a penny compared to 5 or 6 cents for wind and solar. Is this called a shell game or a sham? We can fix this now.

      • Willem Post

        Annette,

        And this sham was pulled off behind closed doors by Campbell, Smith, Klein, Bray, Utilities, and wind and solar multi-millionaires, with Shumlin as the maestro leading the orchestra.

        All is done under a false flag to deceive the people, i.e., saving the world, being a leader, fulfilling the 90% RE PLAN, and more such irrational nonsense malarkey.

        Next will be the carbon tax imposed on hard-working families and businesses, so Montpelier

        – Can centralize the energy sector in the same inefficient, ponderous way as the health and education sectors.

        – Can have about $500 million MORE to play RE leader with.

        All this folly is making the Vermont economy LESS competitive, by burdening it with ever more expensive energy.

        When are people finally going to wake up?

  • I get stuck on the word renewable. Big power companies allowed tomonopolize themselves, slyly retaining Vermont or Green Mountain in the title. They blew up mountain tops, own the hydro rights to Vermont waterways. Instead, drive out nuclear, then PSB and politicians invited Gaz Metro to put a pipeline through Monkton, Vermont. Fossil Fracking fuels. The so called solar farms are an eyesore, pitting townspeople against government, lawyers everywhere, and nowhere. The PSB, like the all powerful Oz, decides, they have spoken. Each project, each line extension, is intended to be a cash cow for power companies, and more. Each house off the grid? That’s not the goal in the world of renewable profits.

  • Asa Wagner

    Credits are good for Vermont renewable energy because they help pay for the often expensive development. Yes, a company in Boston might technically be getting credit for using renewable energy, but it’s helping us create more solar panels and wind mills in New England. Besides, Act 56 has a measure that essentially will get rid of this practice by 2032, and by that time we’ll be much further along with renewable energy structures and technology.

    • Kevin Jones

      If your employer happened to deposit your paycheck in a MA customers bank account would you say that is just a technicality or a serious error. We are legally selling this solar and wind energy to MA customers who pay a premium for it and count the GHG reductions. It is not just a technicality. The facts from the state’s own data speaks for itself 0% solar 0% wind and a doubling of Vermont’s GHG emissions.

    • Scott Woodward

      That’s most like a false equivalence, but seeing how developers are generally disinclined to reveal the financials, we’ll never know really know whether selling RECs is actually required for the development to occur. There are examples of where community projects have been developed without the RECs being sold, so that cuts against your argument Asa. There would seem to be no reason why development can’t occur at a reasonable pace without selling RECs. The pace is most likely designed to serve the interests of developers and not Vermont in general.

      “Vermont Grown, Vermont Green”: http://mountaintimes.info/boardman-hill-solar-farm-is-vermont-grown-vermont-green/

      Arguing that the practice will stop by 2032 doesn’t seem very helpful in terms of correcting a known policy problem. By then, the it will be too late to change course, which is quite likely by design.

    • Willem Post

      Asa,

      GMP gives a wind energy REC to an out of state entity, and that entity gives GMP 5 c/kWh.

      The out of state entity does not have to build RE systems, because it bought an REC.

      GMP, with a straight face, crows about how low the cost of wind energy is.

      However, its cost would be about 15 c/kWh, without REC revenues, fast depreciation write offs, over-generous subsidies, and cash grants.

      And that is how wind energy became so “competitive” with other energy sources.

      But that is not all. Wind energy cannot stand on its own, i.e., no wind, no energy!!!

      Wind and PV solar energy are weather-dependent, variable and intermittent, i.e., therefore are not steady, high-quality, dispatchable, 24/7/365 energy sources. In New England:

      – Wind energy is near zero at least 25% of the hours of the year (it takes a wind speed of about 7 mph to start the rotors), minimal most early mornings and most late afternoons. About 70% of annual wind energy is generated during October – April, and about 30% during May – September.

      – PV Solar energy is zero about 65% of the hours of the year, minimal early mornings and late afternoons, minimal much of the winter, and near-zero with snow and ice on the panels. CSP with 10 hours of storage provides steady, high-quality, dispatachable, 24/7/365 energy.

      – New England has poor winter conditions for PV solar energy, due to snow, icing and clouds. Monthly min/max PV solar ratios are about 1/4. On a daily basis, the worst winter day is as low as 1/25 of the best summer day.

      – Often both, wind and PV solar, are simultaneously at near-zero levels during many hours of the year. See URL, click on Renewables. In the Fuel Mix Chart you see the instantaneous wind and PV solar %.
      http://www.iso-ne.com/isoexpress/

      That means, in New England, without adequate and viable energy storage systems, almost ALL other existing generators must be kept in good running order, staffed, fueled, and ready to provide steady, high-quality, dispatachable, 24/7/365 energy. At higher wind energy percentages, a greater capacity of flexible generators would be required to operate at part load, and ramp up and down, which is inefficient (more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh*) to provide energy for peaking, filling-in and balancing the variable PV solar and wind energy.

  • Ed Grimley

    Once again, in the infinite wisdom of the well meaning we the tax payer bears the burden for their stupidity.

  • Amanda Arena

    Glad the legislature passed Act 56 to address the REC issue. Weird that’s not talked about. They will eventually be retired in the state, and by next year utilities will be required to have a certain amount of renewables which will keep more RECs in the state.

    • Randy Jorgensen

      It was talked about above by Annette in a few places, I’ll quote it for you reference:

      “Act 56 requires only 10% of Vermont’s renewable power to be retired. All built projects like Lowell, Sheffield and Georgia Mountain wind, all big solar arrays will continue to sell the RECs out of state in perpetuity under Act 56. Utilities will meet the state’s renewable energy goals for the other 90% with Hydro-Quebec non-RECs, called compliance payments, which cost about a penny compared to 5 or 6 cents for wind and solar. Is this called a shell game or a sham? We can fix this now.”

  • Norm Etkind

    Let’s consider how we got into this mess.

    Global warming is bad. Global warming is substantially caused by the generation of greenhouse gases, primarily CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels.

    Therefore we need to reduce the generation of CO2.

    We know in Vermont we are a tiny part of the problem but nonetheless we should do our part to address this problem.

    How?

    The key next question should have been, “How can we get the biggest CO2 generation reduction and the maximum benefit to Vermonters for the limited amount of money we can invest in this program?”

    This question was not asked and answered. Instead various interest groups jumped on the bandwagon with their preferred approaches to the problem and lobbied the legislature accordingly. We got a huge PV program and a lesser wind program. But PVs are expensive for their limited production in Vermont and wouldn’t pencil out. So we added big subsidies and allowed the sale of the RECs to get more of them built.

    Never mind that additional investments in electrical energy efficiency would have gotten a bigger bang for the buck and wise investments in thermal efficiency would yield even greater benefits at a fraction of the cost.

    Also, no fields or ridge-lines would be taken over for development, large quantities of solar panels would not be imported from China, many more jobs would be created and we would all also benefit from increases in comfort, reduction of pollutants, and reduced costs.

    But energy efficiency is not newsworthy with no ribbons to cut. Oh well.

    • Chris Kayes

      “Let’s consider how we got into this mess.

      Global warming is bad. Global warming is substantially caused by the generation of greenhouse gases, primarily CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels.

      Therefore we need to reduce the generation of CO2.”

      Sorry Norm, but your statement is based on the speculation that assumes a human increase in CO2 causes an increase in temperature as opposed to a natural variation in temperature which causes an increase in CO2, which has been more than adequately proven in the ice core records.

      Global warming, if it is actually happening, is not bad. Do you prefer glaciers?
      There is no need to reduce CO2, it is necessary for life.

      To put this in perspective, please read:
      http://www.biocab.org/carbon_dioxide_geological_timescale.html

      • Norm Etkind

        I’m not going to engage with those that deny that there’s global warming or climate change or whatever you want to call it. Why?

        Because, regardless, it makes sense to make our buildings more efficient to save money and to use less resources.

    • Willem Post

      Norm,
      Vermont’s best approach would not be expensive RE, but energy efficiency. That will SAVE money for households and businesses, PLUS reduce CO2.

      Vermont should have enforced building codes requiring “zero-energy” and preferably “energy-surplus” construction for ALL NEW buildings to ensure building energy requirements are minimal.

      Such “energy-sipping” buildings would be energy efficient, Passivhaus-standard or better. Such buildings, with the addition of PV solar, and ground- or air source heating and cooling systems, could easily become “energy-surplus” buildings.

      New residential, industrial, commercial, institutional and governmental buildings would produce most of their own energy by having PV solar systems on their roofs or parking lots, and ground- or air source heat pump systems to offset building energy requirements, power electric heat pumps, and charge electric cars.

      The piping for the ground source heat pump systems could be under the parking lots. Intel’s Folsom, CA, campus has a 6.5 MW PV solar carport on about 100 acres, which provides 16 charging stations, and shade for about 3,000 vehicles.

      The energy efficiency measures, plus the distributed generation by buildings would significantly reduce generation by large central plants connected to high voltage grids, and would reduce overall US energy requirements and fossil fuel CO2 emissions. See Part II at the end of the article.

      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/2162036/comparison-grid-connected-and-grid-houses
      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/46652/reducing-energy-use-houses

    • Chris Kayes

      Norm,

      Also, we don’t call it global warming anymore, it’s called climate change as there hasn’t
      been any global warming in the last 18+ years.

      Must have missed the memo…

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Law students call for changes to renewable energy market"