Vermont releases long-term energy plan

By Anna Austin | January 09, 2012

Vermont has officially released its Comprehensive Energy Plan, not only setting a high standard for state renewable energy strategies, but also for taking into account comments and opinions from the public.

The CEP, which addresses Vermont’s energy future for electricity, thermal energy, transportation and land use, is based off of a working draft that was released in 2008 and updated last March. It was followed by a public comment period that drew in more than 7,800 comments, and a draft for public review was released in September. The release of that draft saw an additional two-month public comment period that ended Nov. 4 and included five public hearings, prompting nearly 1,400 more comments. 

All comments were read and taken into consideration, according to Edward Delhagen, Vermont Department of Public Service energy program specialist. “The Vermont Department of Public Service received comments from hundreds of individuals and groups on the 2011 Public Review Draft Comprehensive Energy Plan,” said Delhagen. “We are extremely pleased with the number, breadth, and level of attention to detail represented by the comments.”

Delhagen said the final CEP, released Dec. 15, was formulated in light of what was shared. It makes specific recommendations on ways the state can support, guide, expand and move toward renewable energy, while setting an ambitious long-term goal of obtaining 90 percent of the state’s total energy needs from renewable sources by mid-century.

The CEP addresses biomass specifically, pointing out that about five percent of Vermont’s energy currently comes from in-state biomass. It assumes that with increased renewable electricity deployment consistent with state policy and  25 percent renewable electricity—other than hydropower and existing biomass—by 2025, about 60 MW of additional biomass electricity will be deployed by 2028. 

Rather than placing specific restrictions on end usage for woody biomass, the CEP recommends that guiding principles for its prioritization and use be sustainable, well-monitored forest management practices. It calls for direct state investment and incentives toward projects that maximize biomass fuel efficiency and displace fossil fuels. It also suggests the monitoring of available woody biomass by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources so availability can be taken into account as biomass projects subject to regulatory review are brought forward.

Other recommendations in the report include encouraging residents, institutions, and communities not only to invest in energy efficiency, but also to switch to biomass-based heating equipment and fuels, including wood- or crop-based solid fuels such as chips and pellets and blended liquid biofuels; opening Vermont’s small-scale renewable incentive program to biomass equipment; encouraging greater innovation in fuel delivery systems so Vermonters can benefit from automated bulk delivery from local fuel dealers; and revisiting present efficiency standards in current statutes, with an eye toward whether the present standard allows development of cogeneration applications where waste heat could be effectively used, but only during a portion of the year.

Click here to see the full CEP.