House gives overwhelming support to energy efficiency legislation

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(Host) The House has given overwhelming support to legislation designed to make Vermont homes and businesses more energy efficient.

The bill replaces similar legislation that Governor Douglas vetoed last year.

The administration now says it likes the measure, but it faces questions in the Senate.

VPR’s John Dillon has the story:

(Dillon) The vote was lopsided-just two lawmakers opposed the measure.

Robert Dostis is a Waterbury Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He said the bill is a careful compromise that should save people money and make the state more energy self-sufficient.

(Dostis) We have in there a tax credit for businesses, something businesses have asked me for, saying if you want us to have solar on our roof, you have to give us a tax credit. That’s in the bill. We give a reasonable, predictable rate for wind developers. We are finally saying now to wind developers: Vermont is open for business.

(Dillon) The measure also covers everything from a study of the state’s use of bio-diesel to an expansion of a program that allows people to sell electricity back to the grid.

But the centerpiece of the legislation is the creation of an all fuels energy efficiency program. It’s designed to help people save money and fuel in heating their homes and businesses.

The legislation directs the Public Service Department to set up the new heating fuel efficiency program that would be run by a private contractor.

But Senate President Peter Shumlin says Efficiency Vermont is already providing services to reduce electricity use. He wants the new program up and running as quickly as possible, and he doesn’t want redundant efforts.

(Shumlin) What the governor and we felt strongly about is not to create an inefficient bureaucracy but to have one-stop shopping for all-fuels. That’s the challenge. So that when you want to use less fuel in your homes, so that we save Vermonters money by not heating the outside of our buildings, you can go to one place for electricity and oil. This bill does not accomplish that goal.

(Dillon) But East Montpelier Representative Tony Klein says Shumlim is mistaken. He says consumers will not be confused when they seek efficiency services.

(Klein) And whatever entity should come out of the department-led workshop and contracts, in the bill it says everybody must coordinate with each other and everybody must be sensitive to consumer concerns. So I don’t think that’s an issue at all.

(Dillon) Representative Dostis, the lead sponsor of the bill, says he’ll testify in the Senate later this week to try to address Shumlin’s concerns.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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