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The State Of Solar Power Policy And Incentives In Vermont

1969 words - 8 pages

The State of Solar Power Policy And Incentives in Vermont

Vermont has become widely known as a progressive, even cutting-edge state in terms of its public policy. With two out of three of its Congressional delegation officially independent, a groundbreaking civil-unions law, and no fast-food franchises in its state capitol, perhaps that reputation is well-deserved. Energy; its generation, transmission, usage, and impacts upon the Earth, has arisen as a tempestuous, geo-political issue in the past few decades. As the petroleum era explodes (or should we say implodes?), the development and utilization of renewable energy sources has become vitally important for the survival of humanity and all the other species on our shared Earth. So then, how is the tiny green state of Vermont doing in terms of the development of solar energy, one of the central tenets of the renewable energy movement? What policies exist to help direct its agencies and organizations? What financial incentives are in place to encourage a homeowner to invest in solar technology and design? In one year, the equivalent of over 5 million kilowatt hours of solar energy hits each acre in Vt. (Vt. Solar Energy Guide, 1993) How well is the government of Vermont motivating people to stick something in front of all that energy?

The main agency entrusted with renewable energy in Vt. is the Dept. of Public Service (D.P.S.) formerly headed up by Richard Sedano, now run by Davis O’Brien. This office works with many of the other groups in the state that push for the use of more solar power and other renewable energy sources. From the D.P.S. website we can read former governor Dean’s official Energy Initiative (Dec. 2001): It “is a long-term vision for Vermont that looks to increased conservation efforts, small-scale combined heat and power applications and renewable energy sources such as wood, wind, and sun to meet Vt.’s growth in electric energy use in the next decade.” It is carefully worded in that it specifies only accommodating the growth in demand. It explicitly does not “seek to replace Vt.’s current electric generation sources such as Vt. Yankee and Hydro-Quebec.” And it “is not a mandate that Vt. attain certain goals or that Vt. seek some sort of ‘energy independence.’” The initiative does look to “encourage alternatives to relying on large-scale fossil fuel facilities.” And in so doing, “give the state more options for meeting its energy needs in the future.” The document spells out how it would help push these goals forward: through Legislative approval of $750,000 from the Petroleum Violation Escrow Fund for demonstration projects, an extension on sales-tax exemptions to include solar hot-water and off-grid photovoltaic (PV) systems, “Green Pricing” programs, and a mandate to the Public Service Board (P.S.B.) to formulate a renewable portfolio standard for utilities. This would mean that power companies would have to disclose, among other things, how their electricity was...

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