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Legislative Hearing on Energy with Energy Committees Feb. 2, 2012

Greetings Vermont Community Energy Committee Leaders,

We are looking forward to seeing many of you tomorrow evening at the joint legislative hearing on energy!

When: Feb. 2, 2012 •  6 to 8 p.m.

Where:  Room 11 at the State House in Montpelier.

This is a unique opportunity, and it’s really great that there are many of you planning to attend.

We wanted to follow up with some important logistics and more information, especially for those of you planning to testify.

  1. First, don’t miss the chance to have fun and connect with each other at an informal gathering from 5-6 p.m. in Room 10 (across the hall from Room 11). Please come a little early, enjoy some snacks, get caught up with other fantastic energy committee leaders and talk about what’s happening under the Golden Dome.
  2. Second, for those of you on the agenda to testify, please know that you will have limited time, 3-5 minutes max. The hearing is only two hours long and lawmakers hope to leave room for discussion at the end. Please keep your comments focused. One suggestion: Pick one or two of your greatest success stories to date and then let them know your ideas of policies, programs or projects you would like them to support or consider to further advance your work at the local level. Again, being concise and as specific as possible would be helpful.
  3. Lastly, there is a lot happening on energy issues right now at the State House.  Here’s a quick update on a few of the big issues…

§  The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee is considering a bill – H.468 – that would create a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard for Vermont. An RPS is a market-based tool that could help catalyze far more renewable generation in Vermont, in the region and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In the current draft of the RPS bill there is also a provision that would expand Vermont’s successful Standard Offer program, which helps create needed financial incentives for moving small-scale, distributed generation renewable projects forward in Vermont. Many advocates contend that if Vermont is serious about advancing renewables in the state and in the region, a mandatory RPS is essential. Check out VNRC’s Testimony on the RPS to learn more here: http://www.vnrc.org/program-initiatives/education-and-advocacy/vnrc-rps-testimony-january-2012/
§  The House and Senate are considering bills that would require the disclosure of the energy fitness of a home before it’s sold. These bills are aimed at transparency and consumer protection and could result in some important benefits, such as stimulating efficiency investments via the marketplace, creating Vermont jobs and helping meet the state’s energy efficiency goals. Find out far more about this issue and read the House bill here: http://www.vnrc.org/about-vnrc/update-on-building-energy-disclosure-working-group/
§  Also, with federal ARRA funds drying up and an ongoing need to improve the efficiency of Vermont’s homes, especially for low-income Vermonters, finding an ongoing funding source for weatherization in Vermont is key. There is a conversation underway at the State House about how to fund this important work. Increasing the state’s ‘gross receipts tax’ is one option some are considering. Read far more about this important issue, why it matters and thoughts on a potential funding source here: http://www.vnrc.org/program-initiatives/education-and-advocacy/a-quick-summary-of-vermont-s-weatherization-program/
§  The House passed a bill — H.475 — that makes important changes to Vermont’s net-metering law. It’s expected to make it through the full Legislature fairly easily. Stay tuned!

That’s just a quick snapshot of what’s happening on energy-related bills this session at the State House. At the bottom of this email, find a full summary of energy-related bills. The information above might lend a little context to comments from some of you tomorrow or provide an update for those who can’t make it.

Again, please let us know if you need any more information about the hearing tomorrow evening. Information that we sent previously with all the details and more suggestions is also below.

Look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow and thanks to all for everything you do!

Johanna Miller, VNRC Energy Program Director and VECAN Coordinator
Nancy Notterman, Energy Coordinator for the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission

ABOUT THE HEARING

The House and Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committees, the committees who take the lead in policy-making related to energy and climate action, know that there are many Vermonters doing real, important work on these issues at the local level and they want to hear from you.

In fact… Tony Klein, Chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee said it plainly today in a short, video update on energy happenings from his perspective. Check that update out here: www.vnrc.org.

What’s the deal with the February 2 meeting? The goal is to have your efforts as town energy committees more deeply inform the kinds of solutions being crafted at the state level to advance good policies this year… and beyond.

That’s why this special joint hearing is happening. Legislators want to hear:
§  What are your goals as an energy committee?
§  What do you think the state’s goals should be regarding energy and climate change (and why)?
§  What are you doing that’s working? What are some projects, activities, or actions you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t been able to accomplish?
§  Where do some of your challenges lie? What’s making it hard for you to accomplish your goals?
§  What kinds of state policy or programs are needed to support your efforts?
§  What kinds of state policy or programs are needed to support energy and climate action in general?

These are the kinds of things that lawmakers want to hear from you. You don’t have to answer all of them, but be specific! Tell your story. And think about how what you are doing (or want to do) that would be better supported by state policy or programs.

You can also expect to get an update from lawmakers on what’s happening under the Golden Dome on energy this session.

The HOW:
§  To get on the agenda to speak at the hearing simply email me at jmiller@vnrc.org or call me at 802-223-2328 ext. 112. (For efficiency’s sake I am working with the committees’ assistants to put the list of town energy committee leaders together.)
§  Come prepared with a summary of what you’d like to say. Be honest, brief, to the point and be prepared for questions that legislators might have.
§  Just like in committee, you will speak directly to legislators, so you will face them to share your stories and ideas. Other committee members and interested folks will be in the audience, so it will be a good opportunity for others to hear what you are up to.

Additionally:
We hope to use this as an opportunity to connect energy committee leaders to each other. So, come early! Join us at 5:00 p.m. in Room 10 at the State House for some snacks and peer-to-peer networking before the hearing.

Interested in carpooling with other folks who might attend? Look to find carpool options through the GoVermont web site at: www.connectingcommuters.org.

If you have any questions or want to run what you hope to say on Feb. 2 by me or Nancy Nottermann of CVRPC, please contact us at: jmiller@vnrc.org or Nottermann@cvregion.com.

Thanks for all you do! Please let me know if we can expect to see you or other members of your committee on Feb. 2. Hope so!

Best,
Johanna

P.S. Several bills have been introduced aimed at expanding opportunities for renewables and promoting energy efficiency. Two of the bigger bills are aimed particularly at promoting renewables, including a bill aimed at creating a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard in Vermont and a bill that would make important changes to Vermont’s net metering law. (Find bill numbers and a link to more information on these bills below.)

2012 ENERGY-RELATED BILLS FOR INTRODUCTION

House Bill Summaries

H.0464            Hydraulic fracturing wells for natural gas and oil production.  This bill would formalize the existing Agency of Natural Resources Underground Injection Control (UIC) Rule on underground injection wells, which provides that no natural gas or oil well proposed for use in hydraulic fracturing will be permitted if injection into the well results in movement of contaminating fluid into underground sources of drinking water.  Relying on this standard, the bill would prohibit the issuance of a permit for discharge into an injection well for recovery of natural gas or oil on the basis that permit applicants cannot effectively show that contaminating fluids used in hydraulic fracturing activities will not threaten underground drinking water aquifers.

H.0468            A renewable portfolio standard and the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program.  The general purpose of this bill is to continue to advance Vermont toward a clean energy future by promoting renewable power in the state. The first main component of this bill aims to establish a mandatory state renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which would require Vermont utilities to have 80 percent renewable energy portfolio by 2025.  Secondly, the bill proposes certain revisions to the existing Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development (SPEED) Program, the most notable revision regarding the expansion of the state’s successful Standard Offer Program by removing the existing cumulative capacity ceiling on plants that may receive the standard offer.

H.0475            Net metering and definition of capacity.  The effect of this proposed bill would make it easier for Vermont residents to go solar by lifting the existing cap for registration of net-metered projects from 5KW to 10KW and by exempting residential installations from the 4% statewide cumulative capacity cap on net metering systems.  The bill would also affect electric companies by requiring them to base their calculation of additional credits for solar net metering systems on the standard residential energy rate charged by the company to the majority of its residential customers.

H.0476            Transparency in billing for electric power.  This bill would increase transparency in electric power bills by requiring distribution utilities to include an itemized poles and wire charge (which allocates by kWh the cost of building, operating, and maintaining the provider’s transmission/distribution system, and includes any regionalized transmission costs paid by a provider) and a power charge (which allocates by the kWh the cost of power generated or purchased by the provider to distribute directly to retail customers and includes capacity, energy, and the cost to transmit power).

Senate Bill Summaries

S.0141            Prohibiting commercial construction on certain state and conserved lands and to public service board approval of wind towers and turbines.  If enacted, this bill would prohibit most commercial construction (including wind turbines and towers) in Vermont’s parks, forests, wilderness, and conserved lands. The bill also proposes to amend the public service board’s criteria for issuing a certificate of public good for wind towers and turbines by requiring a more in-depth aesthetic impact analysis of proposed projects.

S.0143            Disclosing building energy performance and promoting thermal energy efficiency.  Under this bill, upon the request of a prospective buyer, an owner of a building would be required to disclose the building’s energy efficiency performance, which would be calculated by one or more energy disclosure tools to be developed by the department of public service. The bill would also require the department to study and recommend different funding and financing options to promote thermal energy efficiency and improve the overall energy fitness of Vermont buildings.

S.0148            A pilot project on expediting development of small hydroelectric plants. This proposed bill requires the commissioner of public service, in consultation with the secretary of natural resources, to enter into a memorandum of understanding with FERC for a pilot project that would make it easier for small hydroelectric power projects and conduit hydroelectric facilities to receive exemptions under FERC’s licensing requirements.  The terms of this project would mirror those of a similar project that commenced in August 2010 between FERC and the State of Colorado (through the Governor’s Energy Office) to streamline and simplify authorization of small-scale hydropower projects in that state.

S.0156            Energy, environmental costs, and appeals to the public service board.  This bill would require a full evaluation of environmental costs and GHG emissions reduction measures to be incorporated into determinations for electric and natural gas energy planning and permitting in the state.  The bill also proposes the addition of two members to the public service board to be involved only with appeals to the board of secretary of natural resources decisions that specifically concern renewable energy and telecommunications facilities.

S.0158            A charge for storage of spent nuclear fuel.  This proposed bill would establish an annual charge of $2 million dollars per dry cask (an individual container containing spent nuclear fuel, plus all associated components and systems) and a separate annual charge (to be determined by the commissioner of public service) for the storage of spent nuclear fuel in storage pools located in the state. These annual charges are to be paid to the commissioner of taxes no later than June 1 of each year of storage, and the funds received will be distributed among the following entities: the electric efficiency fund, the general fund, the education fund, and the Town of Vernon, and the clean energy development fund.

S.0170            A renewable portfolio standard, the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program, and climate change.  This bill is the Senate version of H.0468 (see above). The differences in this bill include the increase of the existing 50 MW capacity of the current SPEED program to 100 MW, the achievement of net-zero carbon emissions from energy consumed in the state by 2025, and institution of a climate change education campaign.

S.0214            Customer rights regarding smart metering. This bill would require the public service board to develop terms and conditions governing the installation of wireless smart meters. The terms and conditions would include the requirement of electric companies to obtain a customer’s written consent before installing a wireless smart meter on his/her property, and to remove, upon the request of a customer and at no cost to the customer, a previously-installed wireless smart meter.

S.0220            Exempting solar generation on flat roofs from municipal bylaws.  This proposed bill would also make it easier for Vermonters to go solar (see also H.0475 above) by exempting solar generation on flat roofs from municipal land use regulations.  The exemption would include the installation, operation, and maintenance of any device that, using solar energy only, heats water or space, or generates electricity.

S.0229            Utility bill payments. This bill would require the public service board to regulate the payment of utility bills with respect to companies that are subject to the board’s jurisdiction. The board would have a deadline of November 2012 to establish an order regarding the payment of retail charges online or by means of a credit or debit card.

S.0247            Establishing the Vermont green trust. This bill proposes the establishment of a public body, headed by a five-member board of government-appointed directors, and charged with the provision of financing and investment in clean energy throughout the state. The trust’s funding would include revenues generated by participation in various regional and state energy-related programs; taxes, fees, or assessments imposed/collected from spent nuclear fuel storage; eligible federal funds available to support clean energy projects; gifts, grants, donations.

To read these bills and learn more, you can search for any of these bills here:

http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/billtext.cfm?Session=2012

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