Vt. Utilities May Have To Rely More Heavily On Renewables

03/20/12 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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AP/Toby Talbot
A project in South Burlington includes 382 solar power panels mounted on poles so they can follow the sun.

(Host) The Vermont House has given its preliminary approval to legislation that creates new renewable energy portfolio standards for Vermont utilities.

Under the bill, all utilities would have to have 35 percent of their energy produced from a variety of renewable sources in 20 years.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Backers of the bill say the legislation is needed to help reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions that are directly related to the generation of electricity.

The bill sets a goal of having 75 percent of the state's energy come from renewable sources by 2032. The goal doesn't have the force of law so the legislation establishes firm targets for utilities to meet in 20 years.

Under the provisions of the bill, utilities would be required to have 35 percent of their power generated by renewable sources by 2032.  Power from Hydro Quebec is considered to be a renewable source. Utilities could also meet the standards by purchasing renewable energy credits.

Norwich Rep. Margaret Cheney said the bill is a reasonable step in addressing a very serious issue.

(Cheney) "We lay out a future path taking deliberate necessary and meaningful steps to reduce greenhouse gases and build a clean stable energy system and we do it at a pace that is practical common sense and sensitive to cost. We believe that we have chosen in this bill the best of both worlds."

(Kinzel) And Cheney said the bill is good for the environment and good for the state's economy.

(Cheney) "We've learned that as we address climate change we also build good in-state jobs in our local economy. And as we lessen our dependence on fossil fuels and their volatile prices we strengthen our energy independence into stable predictable prices that come with locally generated clean energy."

(Kinzel) Barre Town Rep. Tom Koch wasn't persuaded by these arguments.

(Koch) "The bill promises an undetermined and uncertain reduction in carbon footprint from electrical generation in exchange for an undetermined but certain increase in our electrical rates. It says trust us and things will be fine. I don't have that degree of trust." 

(Kinzel) The House approved the bill by a two to one margin on a vote that fell largely along partisan lines. A large number of Democrats supported it and many Republicans voted against it.

The bill is expected to receive final approval in the House on Wednesday. It will then be considered in the Senate.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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renewable_energy vermont_legislature politics
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