Governor signs net-metering program expansion
One of Vermont's most popular small-scale renewable energy policies is fully operational again.
Gov. Peter Shumlin on Tuesday signed H.702, a bill to expand the state's net metering program, which allows businesses and homeowners to generate renewable electricity and connect it to the grid.
The program is an incentive to build out distributed solar energy. The program stalled last year when several utilities reached a statutory limit on the amount of power they could accept from net metering projects.
"In other words, our successes exceeded our wildest dreams," Shumlin told a crowd of reporters and stakeholders at a news conference on the McKnight Farm in East Montpelier, pointing to a nearby solar array as an example of Vermont's energy future.
Lawmakers this year were quick to raise the program's cap from 4 percent of a utility's total power supply at peak demand to 15 percent, allowing the program to continue nearly unchanged for the next few years.
Darren Springer, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service, said the state has over 3,600 net-metered projects, a small chunk of the total portfolio. Nonetheless, Springer said, "[it's] the part of the portfolio that everyday Vermonters can touch and feel and install on their properties."
Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, orchestrated the drafting of the bill. He made sure that the program fix did not upset key stakeholders, such as utilities and capital investors.
The responsibility of overhauling the program will be passed to state regulators after 2017, at which point it is unclear whether the federal solar tax credit will be reauthorized. The subsidy is an important financing tool for a program dominated by solar.
Klein said challenges with the program will be solved in future.
"The future is not the past. And going forward into the future, we will figure what the solutions are to any problems that get in our way, just like we did with this bill," he said.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.