The Vermont Statutes Online
Subchapter 001 : GENERAL PROVISIONS(Cite as: 30 V.S.A. § 8005a)
§ 8005a. Standard Offer Program
(a) Establishment. A Standard Offer Program is established. To achieve the goals of section 8001 of this title, the Commission shall issue standard offers for renewable energy plants that meet the eligibility requirements of this section. The Commission shall implement these standard offers by rule, order, or contract and shall appoint a Standard Offer Facilitator to assist in this implementation. For the purpose of this section, the Commission and the Standard Offer Facilitator constitute instrumentalities of the State.
(b) Eligibility. To be eligible for a standard offer under this section, a plant must constitute a qualifying small power production facility under 16 U.S.C. § 796(17)(C) and 18 C.F.R. part 292, must not be a net metering system under section 219a of this title, and must be a new standard offer plant. In this section, "new standard offer plant" means a renewable energy plant that is located in Vermont, that has a plant capacity of 2.2 MW or less, and that is commissioned on or after September 30, 2009.
(c) Cumulative capacity. In accordance with this subsection, the Commission shall issue standard offers to new standard offer plants until a cumulative plant capacity amount of 127.5 MW is reached.
(1) Pace. Annually commencing April 1, 2013, the Commission shall increase the cumulative plant capacity of the Standard Offer Program (the annual increase) until the 127.5-MW cumulative plant capacity of this subsection is reached.
(A) Annual amounts. The amount of the annual increase shall be five MW for the three years commencing April 1, 2013, 7.5 MW for the three years commencing April 1, 2016, and 10 MW commencing April 1, 2019.
(B) Blocks. Each year, a portion of the annual increase shall be reserved for new standard offer plants proposed by Vermont retail electricity providers (the provider block), and the remainder shall be reserved for new standard offer plants proposed by persons who are not providers (the independent developer block).
(i) The portion of the annual increase reserved for the provider block shall be 10 percent for the three years commencing April 1, 2013, 15 percent for the three years commencing April 1, 2016, and 20 percent commencing April 1, 2019.
(ii) If the provider block for a given year is not fully subscribed, any unsubscribed capacity within that block shall be added to the annual increase for each following year until that capacity is subscribed and shall be made available to new standard offer plants proposed by persons who are not providers.
(iii) If the independent developer block for a given year is not fully subscribed, any unsubscribed capacity within that block shall be added to the annual increase for each following year until that capacity is subscribed and:
(I) shall be made available to new standard offer plants proposed by persons who are not providers; and
(II) may be made available to a provider following a written request and specific proposal submitted to and approved by the Commission.
(C) Adjustment; greenhouse gas reduction credits. The Commission shall adjust the annual increase to account for greenhouse gas reduction credits by multiplying the annual increase by one minus the ratio of the prior year's greenhouse gas reduction credits to that year's statewide retail electric sales.
(i) The amount of the prior year's greenhouse gas reduction credits shall be determined in accordance with subdivision 8006a(a) of this title.
(ii) The adjustment in the annual increase shall be applied proportionally to the independent developer block and the provider block.
(iii) Greenhouse gas reduction credits used to diminish a provider's obligation under section 8004 of this title may be used to adjust the annual increase under this subsection (c).
(D) Pilot project; preferred locations. For one year commencing on January 1, 2017, the Commission shall allocate one-sixth of the annual increase to new standard offer plants that will be wholly located in one or more preferred locations other than parking lots or parking lot canopies and, separately, one-sixth of the annual increase to new standard offer plants that will be wholly located over parking lots or on parking lot canopies.
(i) To qualify for these allocations, the plant shall not require the construction of a new substation by the interconnecting retail electricity provider or by increasing the capacity of one or more of the provider's existing facilities. To qualify for the allocation to plants wholly located over parking lots or on parking lot canopies, the location shall remain in use as a parking lot.
(ii) These allocations shall apply proportionally to the independent developer block and provider block.
(iii) If an allocation under this pilot project is not fully subscribed, the Commission in 2017 shall allocate the unsubscribed capacity to new standard offer plants outside the pilot project.
(iv) As used in this subdivision (D), "preferred location" means a site within the State on which a renewable energy plant will be located that is one of the following:
(I) A new or existing structure whose primary use is not the generation of electricity or providing support for the placement of equipment that generates electricity.
(II) A parking lot canopy over a paved parking lot, provided that the location remains in use as a parking lot.
(III) A tract previously developed for a use other than siting a plant on which a structure or impervious surface was lawfully in existence and use prior to July 1 of the year preceding the year in which an application for a certificate of public good under section 248 of this title for the plant is filed or in which the plant seeks an award of a contract under the Standard Offer Program under this section, whichever is earlier. To qualify under this subdivision (III), the limits of disturbance of a proposed renewable energy plant must include either the existing structure or impervious surface and shall not include any headwaters, streams, shorelines, floodways, rare and irreplaceable natural areas, necessary wildlife habitat, wetlands, endangered species, productive forestlands, and primary agricultural soils, all of which are as defined in 10 V.S.A. chapter 151.
(IV) Land certified by the Secretary of Natural Resources to be a brownfield site as defined under 10 V.S.A. § 6642.
(V) A sanitary landfill as defined in 10 V.S.A. § 6602, provided that the Secretary of Natural Resources certifies that the land constitutes such a landfill and is suitable for the development of the plant.
(VI) The disturbed portion of a gravel pit, quarry, or similar site for the extraction of a mineral resource, provided that all activities pertaining to site reclamation required by applicable law or permit condition are satisfied prior to the installation of the plant.
(VII) A specific location designated in a duly adopted municipal plan under 24 V.S.A. chapter 117 for the siting of a renewable energy plant or specific type or size of renewable energy plant, provided that the plant meets any siting criteria recommended in the plan for the location.
(VIII) A site listed on the National Priorities List (NPL) established under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. chapter 103, if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Agency of Natural Resources confirms each of the following:
(aa) The site is listed on the NPL.
(bb) Development of the plant on the site will not compromise or interfere with remedial action on the site.
(cc) The site is suitable for development of the plant.
(IX) A new hydroelectric generation facility at a dam in existence as of January 1, 2016 or a hydroelectric generation facility that was in existence but not in service for a period of at least 10 years prior to January 1, 2016 and that will be redeveloped for electric generation, if the facility has received approval or a grant of exemption from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
(2) Technology allocations. The Commission shall allocate the 127.5-MW cumulative plant capacity of this subsection among different categories of renewable energy technologies. These categories shall include at least each of the following: methane derived from a landfill; solar power; wind power with a plant capacity of 100 kW or less; wind power with a plant capacity greater than 100 kW; hydroelectric power; and biomass power using a fuel other than methane derived from an agricultural operation or landfill.
(d) Plants outside cumulative capacity. The following categories of plants shall not count toward the cumulative capacity amount of subsection (c) of this section, and the Commission shall make standard offers available to them provided that they are otherwise eligible for such offers under this section:
(1) Plants using methane derived from an agricultural operation.
(2) New standard offer plants that the Commission determines will have sufficient benefits to the operation and management of the electric grid or a provider's portion thereof because of their design, characteristics, location, or any other discernible benefit. To enhance the ability of new standard offer plants to mitigate transmission and distribution constraints, the Commission shall require Vermont retail electricity providers and companies that own or operate electric transmission facilities within the State to make sufficient information concerning these constraints available to developers who propose new standard offer plants.
(A) By March 1, 2013, the Commission shall develop a screening framework or guidelines that will provide developers with adequate information regarding constrained areas in which generation having particular characteristics is reasonably likely to provide sufficient benefit to allow the generation to qualify for eligibility under this subdivision (2).
(B) Once the Commission develops the screening framework or guidelines under subdivision (2)(A) of this subsection (d), the Commission shall require Vermont transmission and retail electricity providers to make the necessary information publicly available in a timely manner, with updates at least annually.
(C) Nothing in this subdivision shall require the disclosure of information in contravention of federal law.
(e) Term. The term of a standard offer required by this section shall be 10 to 20 years, except that the term of a standard offer for a plant using solar power shall be 10 to 25 years.
(f) Price. The categories of renewable energy for which the Commission shall set standard offer prices shall include at least each of the categories established pursuant to subdivision (c)(2) of this section. The Commission by order shall determine and set the price paid to a plant owner for each kWh generated under a standard offer required by this section, with a goal of ensuring timely development at the lowest feasible cost. The Commission shall not be required to make this determination as a contested case under 3 V.S.A. chapter 25.
(1) Market-based mechanisms. For new standard offer projects, the Commission shall use a market-based mechanism, such as a reverse auction or other procurement tool, to obtain up to the authorized amount of a category of renewable energy, if it first finds that use of the mechanism is consistent with:
(A) applicable federal law; and
(B) the goal of timely development at the lowest feasible cost.
(2) Avoided cost.
(A) The price paid for each category of renewable energy shall be the avoided cost of the Vermont composite electric utility system if the Commission finds either of the following:
(i) Use of the pricing mechanism described in subdivision (1) (market-based mechanisms) of this subsection (f) is inconsistent with applicable federal law.
(ii) Use of the pricing mechanism described in subdivision (1) (market-based mechanisms) of this subsection (f) is reasonably likely to result in prices higher than the prices that would apply under this subdivision (2).
(B) For the purpose of this subsection (f), the term "avoided cost" means the incremental cost to retail electricity providers of electric energy or capacity, or both, which, but for the purchase through the standard offer, such providers would obtain from distributed renewable generation that uses the same generation technology as the category of renewable energy for which the Commission is setting the price. For the purpose of this subsection (f), the term "avoided cost" also includes the Commission's consideration of each of the following:
(i) The relevant cost data of the Vermont composite electric utility system.
(ii) The terms of the contract, including the duration of the obligation.
(iii) The availability, during the system's daily and seasonal peak periods, of capacity or energy purchased through the standard offer, and the estimated savings from mitigating peak load.
(iv) The relationship of the availability of energy or capacity purchased through the standard offer to the ability of the Vermont composite electric utility system or a portion thereof to avoid costs.
(v) The costs or savings resulting from variations in line losses and other impacts to the transmission or distribution system from those that would have existed in the absence of purchases through the standard offer.
(vi) The supply and cost characteristics of plants eligible to receive the standard offer.
(3) Price determinations. The Commission shall take all actions necessary to determine the pricing mechanism and implement the pricing requirements of this subsection (f) no later than March 1, 2013 for effect on April 1, 2013. Annually thereafter, the Commission shall review the determinations previously made under this subsection to decide whether they should be modified in any respect in order to achieve the goal and requirements of this subsection. Any such modification shall be effective on a prospective basis commencing one month after it has been made. Once a pricing determination made or modified under this subsection goes into effect, subsequently executed standard offer contracts shall comply with the most recently effective determination.
(4) Price stability. Once a plant owner has executed a contract for a standard offer under this section, the plant owner shall continue to receive the price agreed on in that contract regardless of whether the Commission subsequently changes the price applicable to the plant's category of renewable energy.
(5) Price; preferred location pilots. For the period during which the Commission allocates capacity to new standard offer plants that will be wholly located in one or more preferred locations as set forth in subdivision (c)(1)(D) of this section, the following shall apply to the price paid to such a plant:
(A) If the Commission uses a market-based mechanism under subdivision (1) of this subsection (f) to determine this price for one or both of the two allocations of capacity, the Commission shall compare only the proposals of plants that qualify for the allocation.
(B) If the Commission uses avoided costs under subdivision (2) of this subsection (f) to determine this price for one or both of the two allocations of capacity, the Commission shall apply the definition of "avoided costs" as set forth in subdivision (2)(B) of this subsection with the modification that the avoided energy or capacity shall be from distributed renewable generation that is sited on a location that qualifies for the allocation.
(C) With respect to the allocation to the new standard offer plants that will be wholly located over parking lots or on parking lot canopies, if the Commission receives only one application or multiple applications for plants owned or controlled by the same person as defined in 10 V.S.A. § 6001, the Commission shall investigate each application and shall have discretion to reduce the price to be consistent with the standard offer price for plants outside the pilot project using the same generation technology.
(g) Qualifying existing agricultural plants. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, on and after June 8, 2010, a standard offer shall be available for a qualifying existing plant as defined in Sec. 3 of No. 159 of the Acts of the 2009 Adj. Sess. (2010) (Act 159). The provisions of subdivision 8005(b)(2) of this title, as they existed on June 4, 2010, the effective date of Act 159, shall govern a standard offer under this subsection. Standard offers for these plants shall not be subject to subsection (c) of this section (cumulative capacity; new standard offer plants).
(h) Application process. The Commission shall administer the process of applying for and obtaining a standard offer contract in a manner that ensures that the resources and capacity of the Standard Offer Program are used for plants that are reasonably likely to achieve commissioning.
(i) Interconnection application. No contract under this section for a new standard offer plant shall be executed unless and until the plant owner submits a complete application to interconnect the plant to the subtransmission or distribution system of the applicable retail electricity provider.
(j) Termination; reallocation. In the event a proposed plant accepting a standard offer fails to meet the requirements of the Program in a timely manner, the plant's standard offer contract shall terminate, and any capacity reserved for the plant within the Program shall be reallocated to one or more eligible plants.
(1) For the purpose of this subsection, the requirements of the Program shall include commissioning of all new standard offer plants, except plants using methane derived from an agricultural operation, within the following periods after execution of the plant's standard offer contract:
(A) 24 months if the plant is solar power or is wind power with a plant capacity of 100 kW or less; and
(B) 36 months if the plant uses a fuel source not described in subdivision 1(A) of this subsection (j) or is wind power of greater than 100 kW capacity.
(2) At the request of a plant owner or for other good cause, the Commission may extend a period described in subdivision (1) of this subsection (j) if it finds that the plant owner has proceeded diligently and in good faith and that commissioning of the plant has been delayed because of litigation or appeal or because of the need to obtain an approval the timing of which is outside the Commission's control, or for other good cause as determined by the Commission.
(k) Executed standard offer contracts; transferability; allocation of benefits and costs. With respect to executed contracts for standard offers under this section:
(1) A contract shall be transferable. The contract transferee shall notify the Standard Offer Facilitator of the contract transfer within 30 days of transfer.
(2) The Standard Offer Facilitator shall distribute the electricity purchased to the Vermont retail electricity providers at the price paid to the plant owners, allocated to the providers based on their pro rata share of total Vermont retail kWh sales for the previous calendar year, and the Vermont retail electricity providers shall accept and pay the Standard Offer Facilitator for the electricity. However, during any given calendar year:
(A) Calculation of pro rata shares under this subdivision (2) shall include an adjustment in the allocation to a provider if one or more of the provider's customers created greenhouse gas reduction credits under section 8006a of this title that are used to reduce the size of the annual increase under subdivision (c)(1)(C)(adjustment; greenhouse gas reduction credits) of this section. The adjustment shall ensure that any and all benefits or costs from the use of such credits flow to the provider whose customers created the credits. The savings that a provider realizes as a result of this application of greenhouse gas reduction credits shall be passed on proportionally to the customers that created the credits.
(B) A retail electricity provider that was relieved from the requirements of this subdivision by the Commission on or before January 25, 2018, shall be exempt from the requirements of this subdivision in any year that the Standard Offer Facilitator allocates electricity pursuant to this subdivision if the retail electricity provider meets the following criteria:
(i) during the immediately preceding 12-month period ending October 31, the amount of renewable energy supplied to the provider by generation owned by or under contract to the provider, regardless of whether the provider owned the energy's environmental attributes, was not less than the amount of energy sold by the provider to its retail customers; and
(ii) the retail electricity provider owns and retires an amount of 30 V.S.A. § 8005(a)(1) qualified energy environmental attributes that is not less than the provider's retail sales.
(3) The Standard Offer Facilitator shall transfer the environmental attributes, including any tradeable renewable energy credits, of electricity purchased under standard offer contracts to the Vermont retail electricity providers in accordance with their pro rata share of the costs for such electricity as determined under subdivision (2) of this subsection (k), except that in the case of a plant using methane from agricultural operations, the plant owner shall retain such attributes and credits to be sold separately at the owner's discretion. It shall be a condition of a standard offer issued under this section that tradeable renewable energy credits associated with a plant that accepts the standard offer are owned by the retail electricity providers purchasing power generated by the plant, except in the case of a plant using methane from agricultural operations.
(4) The Standard Offer Facilitator shall transfer all capacity rights attributable to the plant capacity associated with the electricity purchased under standard offer contracts to the Vermont retail electricity providers in accordance with their pro rata share of the costs for such electricity as determined under subdivision (2) of this subsection (k).
(5) All reasonable costs of a Vermont retail electricity provider incurred under this subsection shall be included in the provider's revenue requirement for purposes of ratemaking under sections 218, 218d, 225, and 227 of this title. In including such costs, the Commission shall appropriately account for any credits received under subdivisions (3) and (4) of this subsection (k). Costs included in a retail electricity provider's revenue requirement under this subdivision (5) shall be allocated to the provider's ratepayers as directed by the Commission.
(l) Standard Offer Facilitator; expenses; payment. With respect to standard offers under this section, the Commission shall:
(1) determine a Standard Offer Facilitator's reasonable expenses arising from its role and the allocation of the expenses among plant owners and Vermont retail electricity providers;
(2) determine the manner and timing of payments by a Standard Offer Facilitator to plant owners for energy purchased under an executed contract for a standard offer;
(3) determine the manner and timing of payments to the Standard Offer Facilitator by the Vermont retail electricity providers for energy distributed to them under executed contracts for standard offers;
(4) establish reporting requirements of a Standard Offer Facilitator, a plant owner, and a Vermont retail electricity provider.
(m) Metering. With respect to standard offers under this section, the Commission shall make rule revisions concerning metering and the allocation of metering costs as needed to implement the standard offer requirements of this section.
(n) Wood biomass. In addition to the other requirements of this section, wood biomass resources may receive a standard offer under this section only if they have a design system efficiency (the sum of full load design thermal output and electric output divided by the heat input) of at least 50 percent.
(o) Voluntary contracts. The existence of a standard offer under this section shall not preclude a voluntary contract between a plant owner and a Vermont retail electricity provider on terms that may be different from those under the standard offer. A plant owner who declines a voluntary contract may still accept a standard offer under this section.
(p) Existing hydroelectric plants. Notwithstanding any contrary requirement of this section, no later than January 15, 2013, the Commission shall make a standard offer contract available to existing hydroelectric plants in accordance with this subsection.
(1) In this subsection:
(A) "Existing hydroelectric plant" means a hydroelectric plant of five MW plant capacity or less that is located in the State, that was in service as of January 1, 2009, that is a qualifying small power production facility under 16 U.S.C. § 796(17)(C) and 18 C.F.R. part 292, and that does not have an agreement with the Commission's purchasing agent for the purchase of its power pursuant to subdivision 209(a)(8) of this title and Commission rules adopted under subdivision (8). The term includes hydroelectric plants that have never had such an agreement and hydroelectric plants for which such an agreement has expired.
(B) "LIHI" means the Low-Impact Hydropower Institute.
(2) The term of a standard offer contract under this subsection shall be 10 or 20 years, at the election of the plant owner.
(3) Unless inconsistent with applicable federal law, the price of a standard offer contract shall be the sum of the following elements:
(A) a two-year rolling average of the ISO New England Inc. (ISO-NE) Vermont zone hourly locational marginal price for energy;
(B) a two-year rolling average of the value of the plant's capacity in the ISO-NE forward capacity market;
(C) the value of avoided line losses due to the plant as a fixed increment of the energy and capacity values;
(D) a two-year rolling average of the market value of environmental attributes, including renewable energy credits; and
(E) the value of a 10- or 20-year contract.
(4) The Commission shall determine the price to be paid under this subsection (p) not later than January 15, 2013.
(A)(i) Annually by January 15 commencing in 2014, the Commission shall recalculate and adjust the energy, capacity, and environmental attribute elements of the price under subdivision (3) of this subsection (p). The recalculated and adjusted energy, capacity, and environmental attribute elements shall apply to all contracts executed under this subdivision, whether or not the contracts were executed prior to the adjustments.
(ii) the Commission may periodically adjust the value of environmental attributes that are applicable to an executed contract based upon whether the plant becomes certified by LIHI or loses such certification.
(B) With respect to the price elements specified in subdivisions(3)(C)(avoided line losses) and (E)(value of long-term contract) of this subsection (p):
(i) These elements shall remain fixed at their values at the time a contract is signed for the duration of the contract.
(ii) The Commission annually may adjust these elements for inclusion in contracts that are executed after the date any such adjustments are made.
(5) Once a plant owner has executed a contract for a standard offer under this subsection (p), the plant owner shall continue to receive the pricing terms agreed on in that contract regardless of whether the Commission subsequently changes any pricing terms under this subsection.
(6) Capacity of existing hydroelectric plants executing a standard offer contract under this subsection shall not count toward the cumulative capacity amount of subsection (c) of this section.
(q) Allocation of regulatory costs. The Commission and Department may authorize or retain legal counsel, official stenographers, expert witnesses, advisors, temporary employees, and research services in conjunction with implementing their responsibilities under this section. In lieu of allocating such costs pursuant to subsection 21(a) of this title, the Commission or Department may allocate the expense in the same manner as the Standard Offer Facilitator's costs under subdivision (l)(1) of this section.
(r) State; nonliability. The State and its instrumentalities shall not be liable to a plant owner or retail electricity provider with respect to any matter related to the Standard Offer Program, including costs associated with a standard offer contract or any damages arising from the breach of such a contract, the flow of power between a plant and the electric grid, or the interconnection of a plant to that grid. (Added 2011, No. 170 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. May 18, 2012; amended 2013, No. 34, § 20; 2015, No. 56, § 4; 2015, No. 97 (Adj. Sess.), § 62; 2015, No. 174 (Adj. Sess.), § 12a; 2019, No. 31, §§ 15, 27; 2021, No. 42, § 8.)