Governor, Public Service Department release updated Comprehensive Energy Plan

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Governor, Public Service Department release updated Comprehensive Energy Plan

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 4:18pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine With the state now boasting that solar generates more local peak energy than any other source, Governor Peter Shumlin and the Department of Public Service today released the state's updated Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP). The plan, first adopted by the Shumlin Administration in 2011 after over a decade without an update, provides an overall direction and sets goals for the state's energy future. The plan re-affirms the overall goal of achieving 90 percent of Vermont’s total energy needs from renewable sources by 2050, adds interim goals (including reaffirming the statutory goal of 25% by 2025), and provides greater detail on Vermont’s pathways towards achieving these goals.

“When we set the goal in 2011 of achieving 90 percent renewable energy by 2050 it was ambitious,” Shumlin said. “Today, after years of work together to chart a new energy future, we see a path to achieve that ambitious goal. But to do so we must continue to make the necessary and sound investments in our energy future that will save Vermonters money, put Vermonters to work, and help combat climate change.”

The updated CEP, which can be found at www.energyplan.vt.gov.

The CEP includes the following new and more detailed goals:

·       Reduce total energy consumption per capita by 15% by 2025, and by more than one third by 2050.

·       Meet 25% of the remaining energy need from renewable sources by 2025, 40% by 2035, and 90% by 2050.

·       Three end-use sector goals for 2025: 10% renewable transportation, 30% renewable buildings, and 67% renewable electric power.

·       Greenhouse gas reduction goals include: 40% reduction below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% to 95% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050.

One of the primary tools to meet the plan’s objectives will be to convert more heat and transportation to highly efficient electric technologies, such as heat pumps and electric vehicles.

This CEP reflects the enormous progress Vermont has made in the last four years. Vermont has ten times the amount of solar installed or permitted today than it did in 2010 and 20 times as much wind energy. Over the past two years, one out of every 100 new vehicles purchased in Vermont has been a plug-in or fully electric vehicles. All of this has contributed to a clean energy economy that supports over 16,200 jobs and has helped reduce electric bills in three of the last four years for the vast majority of Vermonters.

Commissioner Christopher Recchia said “In the end, without active citizen participation, the plan is just a plan. While we can and should all be proud of Vermont’s progress to date, I so much value the commitment Vermonters have shown to implement the vision embodied in this Plan.”

As with the 2011 plan, this plan covers not only the electric sector but also the energy required to heat buildings and to power transportation and is the product a year-long process that draws on input received from hundreds of Vermonters and numerous state agencies.

“Not only can Vermont be a leader in global climate change efforts, but we can do so while increasing our energy security, improving our economy, protecting ratepayers, and reducing our total energy costs,” added Asa Hopkins, the Department’s Director of Energy Policy and Planning.

The plan also confronts the issue of renewable energy siting. While first wind farms on prominent ridges brought opposition, solar farms near homes or in scenic fields are causing consternation among many in the state. The Legislature will take up energy siting this session.

Left, Sheffield Wind. Top, Essex Whitcomb solar farm.

The report states: "As we move toward generating more of our energy renewably and closer to home, it’s no surprise that tensions between competing land uses will arise. For one thing, the power density — the amount of energy per given unit of volume, area, or mass — of existing renewables is orders of magnitude less than it is for fossil fuels. As a result, renewables require much more space on the landscape than do traditional, centralized generators. For another, renewable electric sources need to be sited where the renewable resource (wind, sun, water) exists, and where they can be cost-­‐‑effectively built and connected to the grid — which often means greater visibility, at least when compared with the large, centralized, often distant conventional generation to which we’ve become accustomed. And if sited far from load, electric sources must be connected with adequate transmission, which is both a limiting factor in siting renewables and a siting challenge unto itself."Every time we change or restrict uses on a piece of land — whether for energy production, residential or commercial development, agriculture, roads, or another purpose — we are making a decision that often precludes alternative uses (or preservation). These choices may affect the character, functionality, energy use, and climate resilience of the landscape and environment for decades to come. Flat, sunny, open lands are optimal for capturing solar energy, and that energy can help grow food for humans and livestock, power our cars and heat for our buildings, and generate electricity for our homes and businesses. But those same lands are also attractive for conversion into those same residences and workplaces; and if left undeveloped, they may serve as important habitats for songbirds and other wildlife, an important part of the biodiversity that supports us all.

"Our hilltops and mountaintops allow access to the strong, steady winds necessary for the scale of wind energy production that can make a significant contribution to our energy supply. Those same peaks capture rainfall and store snowpack that feeds our headwaters, which descend into the rivers that nurture fish and plants. Mountain ridgelines and peaks tend to sit in the center of our most significant blocks of wildlife habitat; these serve as important travel corridors for a range of species, offer refuges for native plant and animal species to adapt to a warming and crowded planet, and provide solace and sense of place to Vermonters and visitors alike."

The Comprehensive Energy Plan includes the state’s 20-Year Electric Plan, and meets the statutory requirements of sections 202 and 202b of Title 30 of Vermont law.

Source: Vermont DPS 1.12.2016