IEE Fortnightly – Town Meeting Day Edition

clinic_at_state_houseHappy Town Meeting Day from the Eaton House,

Hope you had a nice morning in your local town hall or school gym, engaging in one of our nation’s finest traditions of participatory democracy. Robert’s Rules need not apply here, so I move unilaterally to proceed to the IEE updates.

It’s a been a busy couple of weeks over here at the Institute, what with a visit from a certain presidential candidate’s energy and environment staff, and then with the Vermont Public Service Board’s release of new draft net metering rules.

For all of you who haven’t (yet!) had the good fortune of taking Prof. Dworkin’s “Energy Policy in a Carbon Constrained World,” net metering is a pretty important policy mechanism for solar development. The new draft rules are, well, in the words of our Deputy Director Kevin Jones, “fundamentally flawed.”

But don’t worry, IEE is totally on it. Which brings me to…

Clinic RECkoning Crew Testifies at State Senate

Last  Friday morning, Clinicians Heather HuebnerGregg Freeman, and Aaron Kelly presented testimony to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. Careful Fortnightly readers will remember that Committee Chair Chris Bray paid a visit to IEE a few weeks back, asking for guidance and help explaining RECs (or renewable energy certificates) and how they are tangled up in net metering and broader state energy policy. Heather, Gregg, and Aaron have since worked night and day (I’m not joking, they’re effort has been Herculean), and have churned out a 25-page explanatory report in a couple short weeks.

On Friday morning, they testified to the Committee and explained why it’s so important that the State’s laws and rules get these RECs right, and how current and proposed policies are doing far more damage than good. (Then, hopefully, they slept late on Saturday and cut loose at Law Prom. They earned it.)

Dr. Jones Takes a wRECking Ball to the Rules

Required reading in VTDigger if you want to better understand these PSB draft rules: “Penalty in new solar rules called unfair to small producers.” The article relies heavily on quotes from our in house REC-expert (RECxpert?) Kevin Jones, like this one:

“This is, to me, fundamentally flawed,” said Kevin Jones, an energy law professor at Vermont Law School, about the new regulations. “Any business that wants to say they’ve gone solar, legally can’t do that” without a penalty.

Last Wednesday, a reporter from VPR was over here in the Eaton House interviewing Prof. Jones and Heather about a local community solar array and how the new rules and RECs played into the development. Hopefully, this is the start of a wave of media coverage of this issue that will prove so crucial to Vermont’s energy future.

Prof. Jones also spent Friday at the State House, supporting the clinicians and then talking with legislators and other parties about energy policies that would take a more rational and constructive approach to net metering and RECs.

Good Thing We Didn’t Wait

Before we move on from these draft rules, it’s worth mentioning that VLS’s very own 2,250 panel, 500KW solar project in Royalton (developed and owned by Energizer Aaron Kelly’s company, Tunbridge Solar) wouldn’t have been possible with these proposed rules. If enacted, these new rules will make projects like ours economically unviable, and will stifle small- and mid-scale solar development — and especially community solar installations — in Vermont.

Director Dworkin Endorses Divestment

On February 19th, IEE Director Michael Dworkin testified before a rare joint-hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations. Director Dworkin also testified in front of both the House and Senate, arguing the case for reducing Vermont pension funds’ risky reliance on coal and petroleum stocks. On February 25th, the House passed a resolution that asked the state’s pension fund panel to consider the actions recommended by Director Dworkin’s testimony.

Research Associate Brandon Oldham’s fingerprints are all over the chart’s testimony, as he stepped up and volunteered to do research in support of the Institute’s divestment report to the VLS board, which then evolved into the financial charts that now sit on the desks of policymakers in Montpelier.

Berning Down the (Eaton) House

Finally, last Tuesday we were pleased to host a couple of VLS alum, who both work on Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ energy and environment team. Katie Thomas (former Energizer and JD/MELP 2013) serves as an Energy and Environment Policy Adviser to the Senator, and Jason Reott (MELP 2015) is a Legislative Fellow. They came back home to the VLS to lead a discussion on Bernie’s energy, climate, and environmental priorities.

Until next time,

The Energizers

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