Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed a new law that will expand renewable energy use in Vermont, support job creation, and help consumers reduce their energy bills.
The so-called net metering law signed today allows more homeowners, businesses, farms and communities to install solar or other renewable technologies and meet their energy needs through local generation.
"Since 2011, we have quadrupled the amount of solar energy on the grid, with nearly 54 megawatts installed or pending today," Gov. Shumlin said. "That push to expand renewable energy brings jobs to Vermont, and saves ratepayers money on transmission costs."
Net metering allows Vermonters to generate electricity using a renewable source -- typically solar -- for their own use, and then sell any additional power back to the utility to distribute on the grid to other consumers. Vermont currently has more than 3,600 net metering projects, helping to make Vermont number one in solar jobs per capita.
Local, renewable power generation, in addition to energy efficiency, have helped defer $400 million in transmission projects, saving Vermont ratepayers $16 million. Despite the success of net metering, Vermont's program was challenged last summer when several utilities hit a statutory cap on participation in the net metering program and could not allow additional customers to sign up for the program.
This sparked a broader conversation about the future of the program, and the Shumlin Administration, through the Department of Public Service, worked with legislators, utilities, renewable energy businesses, and environmental organizations to find a solution that works for Vermont.
The legislation will: Raise the cap on participation from 4 percent of peak demand to 15 percent; save ratepayers money by lowering the net metering solar credit on larger projects; expand a fast-track, nationally recognized 10 day solar permitting registration process to include projects up to 15 kilowatts in capacity from the current 10 kilowatt limit; create innovative 5 megawatt pilot projects for utilities and municipalities to pursue, including on already disturbed capped landfills; and chart a framework for a Public Service Board process to redesign the net metering program for 2017 and beyond, when federal tax credits may expire, to ensure the program continues to be fair and sustainable for the long-term.
The Governor thanked all the partners who worked on the law, including House Speaker Shap Smith, Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, Rep. Tony Klein, Sen. Tim Ashe, and the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee and Senate Finance Committee.
"We can all be proud of this law, which is fair for ratepayers, as well as good for jobs and the environment," the Governor said.