Amendment to Renewable Energy Standard (H.289) - March 21, 2024

Representatives Walker and Harrison joined the House Energy and Environment Committee on Thursday to propose an amendment to H.289. The amendment would attempt to target new generation facilities in areas that already have additional distribution capacity. In areas where additional distribution capacity is necessary, the amendment would protect ratepayers from bearing the cost of these upgrades.

Walker explained that “renewable energy projects can add onto the demand of the main infrastructure of transmission lines, but the cumulative effect of the developments will put a utility in a position where they will no longer be able to support all the cumulative effects of all the smaller individual pieces. The sponsors of the amendment are looking for the ability for utilities to petition to the PUC to be exempt or provide a protection from those “huge costs.”

Representative Patt noted that this language appears to preclude the utility itself from being able to decide if they would like to build a renewable generation facility if that would require some upgrade to their infrastructure. Walker stated that if the “development is big enough that it puts them in a spot on the main transition line they would be able to appeal to the Public Utility Commission PUC for relief from that.”

Patt felt that this would put “a real limit” on the development of new renewable energy. Walker responded that they do want more renewable energy but if the effect of all the new development means that the infrastructure can’t handle it, utilities have an option for keeping the cost of that from landing on ratepayers. The PUC would still have the option of turning the petition down.

Chairwoman Sheldon weighed in that “this is redundant because the PUC already reviews these issues and takes into account costs.” She pointed out that it’s the main reason why the PUC is already saying we can’t build renewable energy projects in many parts of the state. She is worried this will make the current situation more complicated than it already is and it is “too late in the process to consider.”

Walker attempted to convince the Committee using the example of Sheffield Wind, where they can produce more power than they can transmit. He questioned how they can make sure that situation isn’t repeated throughout the state. The Committee was unsympathetic, still believing that the PUC can handle this currently.

A lobbyist for Green Mountain Power (GMP) chimed in that they are comfortable with the amendment as it is laid out. They “respect the conversation that’s been taking place,” but, they don’t think this mechanism will be utilized by any utility. The amendment keeps the overall requirements for in-state and regional renewable development in H.287 intact. They don’t think the amendment is necessary, but if it provides some comfort, they’re okay with it.

Representative Morris wondered how upgrades to transmission lines are paid for now. The GMP lobbyist replied that the developer pays that cost, but it’s not “simple and straightforward.”

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