Proposed doubling of Renewable Energy Standards could cost a half-billion dollars

In mid-March, before lawmakers began social distancing, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy heard from energy experts on how effectively doubling portions of the state’s Renewable Energy Standards could have dramatic consequences for ratepayers and require massive amounts of new solar to be built across the Vermont landscape.

The state’s Renewable Energy Standards are green energy quotas for the energy utility purchases. A bill backed by environmentalist lawmakers revises those standards to require 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The experts who testified were Josh Castonguay, chief innovation executive for Green Mountain Power, Craig Kieny, the power supply manager for the Vermont Electric Cooperative, and Melissa Bailey, the legislative and regulatory affairs representative for the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority.

Each explained that language proposed in S.267, the bill which bumps up renewable quotas, is going to hit Vermonters’ wallets. And it might do little to reduce carbon emissions.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

RENEWABLES AT WHAT COST?: Vermont Public Power Supply Authority Melissa Bailey told the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy last month that doubling the state’s renewable energy requirements for electric utilities could be among the most expensive options yet for reducing carbon emissions.

“We’re concerned that if this is a carbon-reduction strategy, there are other strategies that could be much more effective at lower costs,” Bailey said. “As a reminder, we spent a good deal of time discussing Efficiency Vermont’s potential to spend $6 million dollars over several years on combating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

“This bill imposes costs of magnitudes larger than that, so we do have significant concerns about the magnitude of costs when this seems to be sending the state on one path for achieving some climate benefit and it’s an extremely expensive path.”

The path would require a heavy reliance on the increased installation of solar arrays. Castonguay suggested 1,200 megawatts of total solar would be required to fulfill these proposals.

Currently, much of Vermont’s solar comes from net metering projects, which see ratepayers pay around 19 cents per kilowatt-hour. By comparison, non-net-metering solar projects tend to be around nine cents per kilowatt-hour. Some non-renewables, such as natural gas, can be just three or four cents.

Kieny said if Vermont is ever to meet ambitious RES requirements, the threshold for a project to qualify as net metering should drop from 500 kilowatts down to 150 kilowatts.

“Net metering is the most expensive way for us to meet the RES,” he said. “Our goal is to meet the RES in the least costly way as possible.”

Castonguay broke down some of what these new solar requirements would mean for ratepayers.

“When we break down the costs, we have sort of two buckets. … It’s essentially an additional $15-$25 million in that year, so over 10 years it’s over $150-$250 million, and this is before any transmission upgrades.”

Then he broke down the transmission costs.

“Per the VELCO long-range plan, if it were built out across the state as it’s been currently going, you’d have anywhere from $150 to $500 million dollars of transmission investments and upgrades,” he said.

All this new solar development could take up a lot of Vermont’s landscape. At about 5 acres per megawatt, 1,200 megawatts of solar would amount to about 6,000 acres, or an area close to the size of Manhattan.

Bailey noted that even at the current pace, finding where to put all the solar is tricky.

“VPPSA is in the process of deploying about 10 megawatts of solar, finding locations that pass muster with the Agency of Natural Resources. … We’re seeing projects commissioned through the standard offer program taking three years to come online,” she said.

Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex/Orleans, reiterated Bailey’s sentiment that revising the state’s renewable standards is a very expensive way to attempt to curb the earth’s carbon composition.

“I think what Mrs. Bailey is pointing out is, by the cost estimates that all the utilities and the department are putting out there, [it’s] in the tens of millions, possibly hundreds of millions statewide,” he said. … We’re gonna add millions of dollars to ratepayers for not that much benefit if we’re chasing carbon.”

Without increasing the current RES program, a study last year by Chicago University found that seven years after the implementation of such programs, for every increase of 1 percent in renewable energy, there is a 6 to 7 percent increase in ratepayer costs.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain and Michael Bielawski/TNR

14 thoughts on “Proposed doubling of Renewable Energy Standards could cost a half-billion dollars

  1. Forget about it…wake up…we are now at the culmination of close to 40 years of Progressive/Liberal/Socialist?Acvist/Environmental control of Vermont…..all started here just after Vietnam…. It took that 30-40 years to fool people and indoctrinate our kindergarten thru colleg kids…. and ff they haven’t left VT already, they believe it all. I figured that Vermont had about 4-5 years untl the real financial crisis hit….”Reality Is The Last At Bat”….and then came the pandemic virus. I think it is less than 3 years now. Tax revenues will plunge…taxes will have to be raised substantially…70% of Vermonters will still be, basically, subsidized….The State’s credit rating will go down again…and all this will force upper income people….ESPECIALLY newly retired BABY BOOMERS (with $ assets) to get OUT of Vermont ASAP….which will only cause things to get worse, financially. VT may need to seek some kind of bailout. This is the “generational culmination” of the Progressibve/Enviro and Socialist culture. Ignorance & Kumbaya. You did NOT “save the world”…. Better to get out now. Good luck selling your house of it is over $500k. There are no buyers (outside of Chittenden County).. But grab any offer you get….even if at a loss…it will get worse here, IMO.

    • I apologize if I sound so “dire”….but everyhthing the VT Legislature proposes IS DIRE to your financial well being..Vermont right now – already – has a negative net worth! Numbers don’t lie. Activists & Progressives do. You cannot “Kumbaya & Ignore” a $4.5 billion unfunded Union liability. Businesses are not coming here, some will leave. Many Baby Boomers will retire soon (or have), and a good portion will leave 100% totally, or exit to a low tax and sunny state, for six months and a day (thus non VT resident and assets protected from VT taxes)…should they still have family back in VT. My advice is to prepare! If you do want out, but can’t do it yet,.. in next couple years, consider selling your house while you can….and then rent till you are ready. There will be plenty of nice rentals soon, because more expensive homes are not selling. There is no liquidity in your largest single investment….houses. It will be a game of “Musical Chairs”….don’t be the last one standing.

      • Wow, and then this news just: “Analysts speaking with the House Ways and Means and Appropriations committees on Friday said that they expect the fund will lose $89 million in revenue this year because of COVID-19’s economic impact — about twice as much as previously projected. This means COVID-19 will likely wipe out the fund’s reserves, and leave a $40 million deficit that lawmakers will have to contend with as they mull a massive budget adjustment in the coming weeks. “Basically, the ed fund is insolvent at this point,” said Mark Perrault, an analyst with the Joint Fiscal Office .”

        What is it the Progressives can’t grasp? “…Basically, the education fund is insolvent at this point.” Vernont is already basically “insolvent” when you add in the $4.5 billion owed to Unions….unfunded.Federal law says States cannot declare bankruptcy. Cities can, States cannot. The onl;y option VT has is to seek some kind of Gov’t bailout….but can’t happen, becuse then the Gov’t has to bail out every other liberal/democrat run state…..or VT will massively raise taxes….but VT subsidizes already about 70% of Vermonters, so they can’t be taxed as much. It will all fall to the upper 30% of VT. If you confiscated ALL the ASSETS of the top 30% of VT residents…even confiscatd their homes…. it will still be a drop in the bucket of perhaps $5 billion needed. BE PREPARED! Income and property taxes are going UP! And when that is not enough….next will come the “Wealth Tax”. That is when Vt turns communist….

  2. This scam is eco-terrorism. Your money or your life. All these schemes will use up more energy than they save. The schemers are laughing all the way to the bank. Earth doesn’t need to be saved anyway. It will be still be here after we have frozen or starved to death trying to “save” it. We need CO2 in our atmosphere, or life ends.
    It’s already proven. The Vostok ice cores show that algores horse hockey puck is fiction–actually the reverse of reality. Carbon dioxide does NOT cause global warming, it follows it.
    But there are trillion$ to be made off this racket.

  3. Many of you are talking about the initial cost. What about the cost of maintaining these fields of panels? Why is there nobody out there sweeping them off after snow storms? The expected lifespan of these panels is fifteen years. Then there is replacement cost and no way to recycle them. Will they just be dumped in landfills to further degrade and leech hazardous compounds into the groundwater?

  4. These “Green Deal” fools are so out of touch with reality. Massive waste of valuable land for Solar Farms (not Food), Higher energy costs t homeowners and ZERO effect on the environment=TOTAL DISASTER.

  5. The cost of net metered is about 21.8 c/kWh, about 18 to the owner, 3.8 to GMP to cover costs.

    1200 MW of large solar would cost 1200 x $3.5 million/MW = $4.2 billion, plus grid upgrades, plus storage to deal with midday Duck curves, and variable clouds affecting solar output.

    The generation would be 1200 x 8766 h/y x 0.145 = 153,540 MWh/y, and that would be charged to ratepayers at about 11 c/kWh, plus cost of grid upgrades, plus storage.

    That would be another headwind for Vermont’s stagnant economy.
    It would off-the-charts idiotic/irrational to go that route, just to please Energy Action Network members.

    GMP is buying clean hydro from Hydro Quebec at 5.7 c/kWh and clean nuclear from Seabrook at 4.5 c/kWh

    Here is another example of idiocy.

    Some time ago, RE folks committed Vermont to “meet Paris” by 2025.

    Well, that would require major investments of about $15.5 billion during 2020 to 2025, about $3.1 billion per year in EVs, air source heat pumps, wind and solar, and storage, grid upgrades, etc.

    The best thing for Vermont would be to concentrate on building thousands of
    Passivhaus-style houses each year.

    R40 walls, R60 roofs, R8 windows and doors, R20 basements, 0.6 ACH at -50 pascal verified by a blower door test, high efficiency appliances and lighting

    Such houses would use very little energy, have very little CO2 emissions, and would save people money, which they could save and invest to make the economy grow, if the state were not to tax it away.

    • Addition to comment:

      Energy Action Network, an umbrella organization supported by RE entities, claims there would be $800 million in energy cost savings/y, if its recommendations to reduce CO2 by 2.281 million metric ton to meet the Paris Agreement were implemented by 2025. See page 4 of EAN URL

      The measures are a multi-billion-dollar wish list of EAN members with a cost well over $15.536 billion during 2020 – 2025, about $3.107 billion/y. EAN members want these heavily subsidized measures, because it is good for RE businesses.

      It took about 20 years (2000 – 2020) to achieve the existing conditions by spending about $210 million/y, including Efficiency Vermont. The level of annual spending to achieve Paris would be at least 10 times greater.

      These measures would be major burdens on the Vermont people, businesses, ratepayers, taxpayers, etc., in addition to Vermont being in the middle of a major recession, with decreasing tax collections by state government (room & meals, sales, income, gasoline, etc.), due to the coronavirus.

      All I see is:

      – Costs of $15.536 billion during 2020 – 2025, about $3.107 billion/y
      – CO2 reduction less than stated in the EAN report
      – More wind, solar, hydro, etc., which need subsidies to build, plus Standard Offer/Net-metering subsidies to operate, increasing the average price/kWh of the Vermont electricity mix.
      – Amortizing the cost of the short-life assets, at 3.5% over 15 years, would require annual payments of $1.333 billion, or $1.081 billion over 20 years, more than offsetting the $800 million/y energy cost savings.

      • Addition to comment:

        EAN Method of Calculating CO2 Reduction, PE basis

        The EAN report claims CO2 reduction/EV = 405000/90000 EVs = 4.500 Mt/y.

        – The EAN assumed 22.7 gpm is the Vermont average for light duty vehicles, LDVs, of all sizes, in 2018. See EAN URL, page 2.

        Such an LDV mix (if EVs) would draw, via the wall meter, about 0.4553 kWh/mile to have 0.350 kWh/mile in the battery, on the basis of real-world driving of about one year. The kWh difference takes into account: 1) charging loss, 2) self-use loss due to heating, cooling, electronics, etc., and 3) losses due to NE road/climate conditions.

        – The EAN assumed 0.315 kWh/mile, which is too low for comparison with a 22.7 mpg vehicle, and likely did not take into account: 1) charging loss, 2) self-use loss due to heating, cooling, electronics, etc., and 3) losses due to NE road/climate conditions.

        – The EAN assumed 34 g CO2/kWh is an artificial/political value for 2018 concocted by VT-DPS, based on “paper” power purchase agreements, PPAs. EAN should have used 323 g CO2/kWh, per ISO-NE. See table 12

        Table 4 shows the EAN values to achieve the CO2 reduction of 4.500 Mt/y
        The table also shows the CO2 reduction, based on realistic values.

        EAN overstated CO2 reduction by about 4.504/2.707 = 66.4%, due to comparing a small EV with an LDV mix vehicle, i.e., apples versus oranges.

        EAN would have needed 1.664 x 90,000 = 149,761 EVs to reduce 4.500 Mt/y, if a 30-mpg vehicle had been used for comparison.
        Eco-conscious owners, who would buy an EV, likely would already be driving higher mileage vehicles, say 30 mpg.

        NOTE: The EAN analysis is just one example of declaring rah-rah results, which have had the net effect of:

        – Vermont spending billions of dollars on dysfunctional energy programs from 1990 to 2020.
        – Vermont CO2 increasing from 1990 to 2018

        NOTE: The Global Warming Solutions (Spending) Act requires $1.2 billion (a down-payment for 2020 – 2025) for the FORTRESS VERMONT fantasy.
        Perchlik is shepherding the bill through the legislature to make sure it contains all the goodies.
        He is one of TEN VT-DPS employees who are members of EAN, including Tierney, head if VT-DPS.
        Legislators and bureaucrats are colluding for the benefit of EAN members.

  6. When will the madness in the state of Vermont be discontinued.

    At what point will Common Sense hit some of these fools that have been elected to represent vermonters under the golden dome?

    Please people if you have the inclination get out and run for political office to save our state from the madness that has infiltrated us.

  7. For golly sake, would SOMEONE in Montpelier check for unintended consequences resulting from all these FOOL GOOD regulations BEFORE they plunge ahead????? Why do they always have to say “oops we did a dummy??? “

  8. Efficiency Vermont, not really that efficient, maybe they are costing us much more than they are worth?

    • $43K in solar and heat pumps invested in last three years plus upgraded light bulbs and appliances twice since “Efficiency Vt” was born. Yet I paid $21.84 in EEVT fees on my Dec 1 bill. When does it end?
      This is like feeding another child. It keeps growing and demanding more every year but no financial benefit. And no, I am not feeling the love about saving the planet. I miss my $$$ and time spent making it.

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