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Ensuring a Strong, Smart, Sustainable Vermont RPS

February 29, 2012 Update

Vermont is considering a ‘Renewable Portfolio Standard’ that would move the state forward in an essential direction to get more of our electricity from renewable sources. There have been many iterations of the RPS since it was first introduced this session, and VNRC has been supportive of Vermont enacting an ambitious and forward-looking RPS but have cautioned against creating an incentive that rewards the inefficient development of Vermont’s forest resources for biomass.

VNRC believes Vermont’s RPS should:
•    Bring more renewables online: Set a requirement — not a goal — that Vermont meets 80 percent of its electric portfolio from renewables by 2032.
•    Not incentivize inefficient and potentially damaging use of Vermont’s resources and, instead, maximize the most efficient and sustainable use of our resources. (Find far more detail below about what that looks like.)
•    Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: Require utilities to own the environmental attributes of 80 percent of their electric supplies by 2032. That means that utilities would be required to retire the ‘Renewable Energy Certificates’ or ‘RECs’ that they buy or generate, instead of maintaining the existing system that allows them to sell their RECs out of state and still claim that generation as renewable in Vermont.
•    Advance in-state renewable generation: Expand the Standard Offer program by 10 MW per year for the next 10 years to promote the development of in-state, distributed, community-scale renewable energy generation.

If done right, an RPS can…

•    Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are perpetuating climate change and ensure sustainable and efficient development of Vermont’s resources.
•    Create a market mechanism to promote more renewable energy development in Vermont and regionally.
•    Enhance Vermont’s economy.
•    Serve as a tool to support other important policy goals, such as maximizing the most efficienct use of limited and valuable Vermont resources, such as woody biomass.

Addressing Biomass Well and Moving Towards a ‘Total Energy Standard’….
Vermont’s goal, as framed in the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan is to “attain 90% of our energy from renewable sources by 2050 …. based on a comprehensive approach, requiring action in all sectors regarding all energy sources.” To do this, the CEP recommends that we “look beyond electricity and design an RPS to integrate a future Total Energy Standard to encourage cost-effective adoption of renewables across the entire energy portfolio.”

While creating an RPS for Vermont is an important step, if we do not integrate it with thermal energy, we will be creating unbalanced incentives that drive biomass towards stand-alone electricity production rather than thermal energy production or Combined Heat and Power. This will promote the inefficient use of Vermont’s limited biomass supplies for electricity production as opposed to using those resources for the far more efficient thermal energy production.

There’s a Better Way
The Biomass Energy Development Working Group, a diverse group of forest experts and stakeholders, recently laid out a set of consensus recommendations that included the following priorities on the issues of efficiency and carbon accounting. To this end, the “Bio-E” group recommended that:
➢    The Clean Energy Development Board, in consultation with the Department of Public Service (DPS), develop recommended incentives for woody biomass thermal energy that use a tiered structure that rewards greater design system efficiency with a larger incentive in comparison to less efficient systems.
➢    All new electric generation plants using woody biomass should incorporate CHP.
➢    Economic incentive programs for biomass energy development should incorporate strong design system efficiency standards. The state should maintain the existing “standard offer” program’s requirement of 50 percent design system efficiency for woody biomass generation. For incentive programs other than the standard offer, as an alternative to a flat requirement of 50 percent for design system efficiency, the DPS in consultation with the Clean Energy Development Board should consider a tiered structure for incentives for woody biomass electric generation plants that would reward greater efficiency.
➢    The state should closely follow the development of issues relating to carbon accounting for woody biomass and should initiate a process, working with key stakeholders including the ANR, DPS, the University of Vermont (UVM), and others, to research and officially adopt greenhouse gas accounting protocols relevant to wood bio-energy.
(Check out the Bio-E Groups Report here: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/workgroups/BioMass/)

To ensure that Vermont’s forests are used sustainably to produce biomass energy and to maximize economic benefits and energy efficiency Vermont’s RPS should:
1.    Ensure that harvesting and procurement policies maintain healthy soils, wildlife habitat, water quality and forest regeneration.
2.    Ensure effective standards to protect air quality and public health associated with biomass energy technologies.
3.    Maximize the efficiency of biomass energy technologies.
4.    Accurately account for atmospheric carbon associated with biomass energy.

To achieve that, VNRC recommends that a Vermont RPS set a course where:
•    The Vermont Department of Public Service design a tiered REC system in this RPS that would apportion REC’s to biomass energy based on efficiency. (For example, Massachusetts has changed its RPS to apportion ½ REC to systems operating at 40% efficiency and 1 whole REC to systems operating at 60% efficiency with proportional REC’s awarded for systems within this range.)

•    The Vermont Department of Public Service work with the Agency of Natural Resources to study and develop recommendations for a thermal component to Vermont’s RPS.

•    The DPS and the ANR develop a carbon accounting framework for biomass energy in Vermont.

To read the bill, visit: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/database/status/summary.cfm?Bill=H.0468&Session=2012


Buy Your 50th Anniversary Tickets

Dear Members, Activists and Friends,
Tickets are selling fast and space is limted. 

Purchase your tickets today!

Thanks for all you do!

The VNRC Team




Join us for Groundwater Withdrawal Process Meeting in Montpelier

You are invited. . .

May 8th
6:00 – 7:30 pm
Montpelier Kellogg Hubbard Library – Hayes Room

The Vermont Natural Resources Council is holding an informational meeting on the permitting process for large groundwater withdrawals. Thanks to everyone who was able to attend the meeting in Springfield earlier this spring. If you were unable to attend, join us, this time in Montpelier.

Groundwater is a public trust resource that belongs to all Vermonters. New permitting requirements recently went into place that dictate how large groundwater withdrawals (more than 57,600 gallons per day) are permitted. Vermont has not yet seen an application for such a withdrawal so we are using this time to understand the process and to help concerned citizens become more informed.

The rather technical permit process has many important public comment periods. Understanding the process before a permit is applied for is the first step in participating and ensuring the protection of existing groundwater uses and water resources such as streams and wetlands.

For more information, please contact Kim Greenwood at 802-223-2328 x119 or visit the event page.

We hope you can come, and thanks for all you do!


Add to the Momentum to Halt Vermont Yankee!

 Posted April 5, 2012
Dear VNRC Members, Activist and Friends,
You have an opportunity to affect whether Vermont Yankee breezes through the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) review of the plant’s water quality impacts or whether the board hears new evidence about Yankee’s pollution.Right now, the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRWC) and Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) have an opportunity to show that continued operation of the plant involves significant,new natural resources concerns.  But we can’t do it without your help.
We’ve already won round one. Late last week the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) issued an order requiring Vermont Yankee to file an amended application in a new docket for a license to operate. That same day the PSB also denied Vermont Yankee’s request to immediately issue them a new license to operate. This is good news.Working together, CRWC and VNRC have an excellent opportunity to raise some key issues, such as impacts related to contaminated groundwater at the plant and thermal discharges into the Connecticut River. It is critical that we redouble our efforts in this case now, while we have the opportunity to create a new, fresh record, unlike the original record, which the PSB described as “stale.”Please help us hold Vermont Yankee accountable for their impact on our water resources today with a generous donation for this work. We need $10,000 to bring our experts to testify before the Public Service Board and fully participate in these proceedings. Thankfully, a generous donor has given us a $5,000 challenge grant. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar, giving us twice the bang for the buck. These proceedings are moving quickly. If we are going to be able to mount an effective campaign we need your support now.
Here is some background:
VNRC and CRWC have been participating in the Vermont Yankee relicensing proceedings before the PSB. Earlier in March, the organizations, represented by VNRC, filed two briefs arguing that the Board should reopen the record or open a new docket to consider new evidence on the impacts of Vermont Yankee’s thermal discharge to the Connecticut River, Vermont Yankee’s contamination of groundwater, a public trust resource, and the potential for increased decommissioning costs to monitor and/or clean up that contamination.Now that the PSB is starting over with a new docket, VNRC and CRWC will submit evidence to make sure that the Board understands:

  • the studies used to justify Vermont Yankee’s thermal pollution to the Connecticut River are “substantially flawed” according to nationally-recognized experts;
  • that contamination of groundwater from leaking pipes at the plant violates Vermont law, and that Entergy’s response to the leaks raises serious concerns about whether Entergy is a fair and reliable partner to the state of Vermont; and
  • that Entergy’s lack of compliance with the terms of its existing state license, Board orders and memoranda of understanding are compelling reasons to deny Entergy a new state license for another twenty years of operation and storage of additional spent nuclear fuel.
Our Request
Entergy will be working hard to block our efforts, but with your help we can fight for the protection of Vermont’s environment in front of the Public Service Board.Please donate to help us build a strong case against Vermont Yankee. Remember, every dollar you give will be matched thanks to a generous $5,000 challenge grant. With your support, we can help persuade the Public Service Board to deny Entergy a new license.Thank you for your consideration,

The VNRC Team


Buy Your 50th Anniversary Tickets

Join us for our annual meeting and be inspired by Van Jones — attorney, activist, and author — as he shares his vision of the green collar collar economy and its potential in Vermont.

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Join VNRC at Tar Sands Pipeline Press Conference

If you can, please join us at a press conference tomorrow (Tuesday) in front of Montpelier City Hall starting at 11 am. We will be joining the National Wildlife Federation and many others in releasing a report outlining the threats to Vermont and the…

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Fracking Bill Signing Tomorrow – Join Us

Come witness history in the making, tomorrow in Montpelier! Gov. Shumlin plans to sign a bill at 12:30 pm tomorrow (Wednesday) at the State House, enacting what is believed to be the nation’s first legislation banning “fracking” for oil or natural…

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Ice Cream Social for Chittenden County’s Future

Burlington City Arts is hosting four Ice Cream Socials throughout Chittenden county. Help the ECOS project envision a sustainable future for Chittenden County over FREE ice cream!

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Join us for Groundwater Withdrawal Process Meeting in Montpelier

The Vermont Natural Resources Council is holding an informational meeting on the permitting process for large groundwater withdrawals. Thanks to everyone who was able to attend the meeting in Springfield earlier this spring. If you were unable to…

Read more

Let’s Ban Fracking in Vermont

The Vermont Senate is expected to take votes soon on legislation related to fracking in Vermont. VNRC strongly supports a ban on fracking in Vermont, NOT a limited moratorium, which is also under discussion. We hope you can help with a phone call…

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