Report: Vermont consumers receive no renewable energy despite industry’s growth

Link to Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and Environment Report 

By Robert Walton | March 1, 2016

Dive Brief:

  • A new report from the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School shows that Vermont residents are using no renewable energy, despite growth the state’s solar industry, because its renewable energy certificate program encourages their sale to out of state consumers.
  • Not only do Vermont residents receive none of their energy from solar and wind sources, but electric sector greenhouse gas emissions have approximately doubled over the last decade, the report warns.
  • The report recommends Vermont consider banning the out-of-state sale of RECs from net metered projects, and said the practice “has often led to deceptive marketing practices by solar companies and false claims of renewable energy consumption.”

Dive Insight:

The sale of renewable energy credits has created a pretty unbelievable headline out of Vermont: Consumers there are using no renewable energy, “partly due to flawed renewable energy policies,” according to the new report from Vermont Law School.

“Vermonters receive 0% of their energy from solar and wind sources,” it concludes. “Vermont’s electric sector greenhouse gas emissions have approximately doubled over the last decade, partly due to flawed renewable energy policies. … The Vermont net metering program allows customers to receive monetary credits on their bills in exchange for generating renewable electricity. Most small residential net metering projects retire RECs in Vermont, but projects larger than 100kW often sell their RECs out-of-state.”

The report recommended the Vermont Legislature consider prohibiting REC sales from net metered projects to out of state buyers, and ensure there is no penalty for a customer retaining and retiring their net metering RECs.

The out of state sales “undermine the net metering program’s fundamental policy goals,” the report found. “Nearly all large-scale net metering generators (solar projects 100kW-500kW) are selling their RECs outside Vermont and, thus, increasing Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

The report also recommends modifying the first tier of Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard “to begin phasing in the retirement of the RECs from Vermont utility SPEED resources.” The Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprises program was designed to increase in-state development of renewable energy, but the researchers say SPEED and Standard Offer programs “have not increased the percentage of renewable energy consumed in Vermont but have increased Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions because they have incentivized the out of state sale of RECs.”

Changes to the first tier could include beginning to phase in the retirement of the RECs from Vermont utility SPEED resources, the report recommends.  

About vermontersforacleanenvironment

VCE's mission is to raise the voices of Vermonters and hold corporations accountable for their impacts on our people, our land, our air and our water. We are united in the belief that Vermont's future lies in conserving its clean, rural, small-town environment. We have joined together to pursue the common goals of encouraging economic development with minimal environmental impacts and preserving Vermont's natural beauty. VCE is committed to providing facts and information so that people can make informed decisions. We encourage your participation.
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