Energy Legislation Draws Critics and Advocates

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(Host) The Vermont House has overwhelmingly approved legislation that’s designed to promote conservation and renewable energy projects. Supporters say it will help the state make the transition to an era of cleaner energy. Opponents argue it will lead to higher electric rates.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) In about a decade, two-thirds of Vermont’s electricity supply will no longer be available. The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is scheduled to go off line. And contracts with Hydro-Quebec will expire.

So backers of the renewable energy bill see the measure as a good first step toward a cleaner energy future.

Representative, Robert Dostis, is a Waterbury Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He told the Democratic caucus that the bill sets out incentives for utilities to boost investments in conservation and renewable energy projects.

(Dostis) “It puts into place the opportunity for us as a state to reach those goals, to have more in-state generation of electricity, to focus more energy, to help our businesses do more combined heat and power.”

(Dillon) The bill has several key components. One uses a market-based approach by allowing utilities that build renewable projects inVermont to sell renewable energy credits to other power companies.

The measure also promotes energy conservation by lifting a funding cap on the state’s Efficiency Utility.

But some utilities were concerned about a provision that could eventually require them to buy renewable power, even if they thought it was too expensive. The House softened that language by giving power companies the ability to argue to regulators why buying the renewable power might not make economic sense.

But Freshman Representative John Moreley, an Orleans Republican, still had serious reservations.

(Moreley) “S-52 will have an impact on every single person in the state of Vermont. I, Representative John Moreley III, would like to apologize to all the ratepayers of the state, the businesses, the commercial establishments, the residential ratepayers and especially the low-income Vermonters who can’t afford higher rates. Truly, I am sorry.”

(Dillon) The measure will now go to a conference committee to reconcile differences between the House bill, and one that the Senate passed earlier in the session.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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