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Act No. 159


Renewable energy

This act contains various provisions on renewable energy.

Sec. 1 allows net metering for renewable energy plants of 2.2 megawatts (MW) or less installed by the National Guard or state military department.

Secs. 2 and 3 address existing farm methane plants that support renewable pricing programs.

Sec. 2 contains findings that cite unique benefits received from these plants. The findings also state that the plants are experiencing serious losses because of a drop in the market price for power while new agricultural methane projects are receiving a standard offer at a substantially higher price.

Sec. 3 amends existing law to require the public service board to make available a standard offer for the existing farm methane plants that support renewable pricing programs. The price of the required standard offer must be the same as for new farm methane plants.

Sec. 4 clarifies existing law to state that a retail utility that has at least 25 percent of its supply from Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) resources is exempt from the allocation of standard offer costs.

Secs. 5 through 7 address simplified procedures for permitting and interconnection to the utility grid of small renewable energy plants. Under prior law, the public service board created simplified procedures for permit review and interconnection for net metering systems of 150 kW or less. The act requires the board to use the same procedures for all renewable energy plants of 150 kW or less and states that this requirement supersedes any contrary provisions of the board's rules. For renewable plants that range from 150 kW through 2.2 MW, the board must simplify application and interconnection procedures by rule or order, issuing an initial order with simplified procedures by September 1, 2010.

Sec. 8 amends existing law to allow a plant owner in the standard offer program to transfer to a retail electric utility all rights associated with a standard offer contract that has been offered to the plant without affecting the plant's status under the program.

Secs. 9 through 11 amend existing law regarding business solar energy tax credits. They extend existing prospective repeals of these credits from January 1, 2011, to January 1, 2012. They cap the credits at $9.4 million total, with eligibility to be certified by the clean energy development board (CEDB). Two sets of systems can receive the credits. First, solar standard offer systems can receive the credits if by July 15, 2010, they file a complete application with the public service board and provide data to the CEDB and by September 1, 2011, they complete construction. Second, solar thermal systems that do not require public service board approval and net metering systems can qualify if they are 150 kW or less, provide data to the CEDB by December 15, 2010, and make the investments by December 31, 2010. The CEDB is required to set aside part of the $9.4 million in available credits for the second set of systems.

Sec. 12 of the bill is deleted.

Sec. 13 removes language from the existing definition of renewable energy stating that hydroelectric generation is renewable only if it comes from a facility of 200 MW or less and inserts language clarifying that if a purchase of electricity is from a system of resources that includes both renewable and nonrenewable technologies, only that portion of the purchase that is actually from renewable technologies qualifies as "renewable." Under Sec. 19 of the bill, this section goes into effect on July 1, 2012.

Sec. 13a requires the public service board by October 1, 2011, to submit to the legislative committees of jurisdiction a report on the potential development of a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and the potential adoption of, instead of an RPS, revisions to the SPEED program. It contains findings that explain existing law and facts related to an RPS and the SPEED program and how removing the capacity limit on hydroelectric generation might affect an RPS or the statutory SPEED goals. The report is to address the overall issues of whether or not to adopt an RPS or, in lieu of an RPS, revised SPEED goals and requirements and is to evaluate a range of associated questions, including the impact of declaring large-capacity resources to be renewable and the manner in which Vermont would require third-party certification that a resource is renewable or has low environmental impact. The board must submit its recommendations and a potential RPS and potential SPEED revi sions for consideration.

Sec. 13b requires the public service board to determine the disposition, allocation, and use of revenues received by an electric utility that are from the sale of environmental attributes related to renewable energy from a system greater than 200 MW and that are received by the utility as part of an agreement under which those revenues or the rights to those attributes are transferred to the utility. The allowed uses must promote state energy policy and renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction, and building efficiency goals as stated in existing statute. The allowed uses include development of in-state renewables, energy efficiency, rate reduction, and alternative transportation.

Sec. 14 amends Vermont's existing efficiency standard for medium voltage dry-type distribution transformers to be the same as the federal standard.

Sec. 15 amends Act 54 of this biennium to extend from January 15, 2010, to February 1, 2011, the deadline for the department of environmental conservation to amend its stormwater rules to include alternative guidance for renewable energy projects located at high elevations.

Secs. 16 through 18 transfer jurisdiction over appeals of agency of natural resources permits from the environmental court to the public service board if the appeals concern renewable energy plants for which the board must issue a certificate of public good under 30 V.S.A. § 248 and provide for the potential consolidation of those appeals with the board's section 248 process. In the appeals, the board must use the same substantive and participation standards as the environmental court did and must apply environmental court precedent. The transfer of appellate jurisdiction would not apply to hydroelectric facilities licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Sec. 18a amends existing law to authorize the Clean Energy Development Fund to support natural gas vehicles and associated fueling infrastructure.

Sec. 18b amends existing law concerning residential building energy standards to conform the definition of "residential construction" to the International Energy Conservation Code of 2009, as required by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Sec. 18c requires the governor, relevant state agencies, and the efficiency utility to act promptly to secure the greatest possible benefit for Vermont from the pending federal Home Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 and to use the efficiency utility for implementation of that act.

Sec. 18d amends existing law to exempt from electric licensing requirements the installation of solar electric modules and racking on complex structures to the point of connection to field-fabricated wiring and erection of net-metered wind turbines.

Under Sec. 19 (effective date), the act takes effect on passage, except that Sec. 13 takes effect on July 1, 2012.

Date Signed by the Governor:  June 4, 2010

Effective Date:   Sec. 13 - July 1, 2012; all other sections - on passage (June 4, 2010, the date on which the governor signed the bill)