Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott celebrated legislation on Friday that enhances businesses, particularly manufacturers, ability to be more energy efficient, while simultaneously helping the state meet its energy goals. “When some of Vermont’s larger energy users told me the way the state had been incentivizing energy efficiency investments didn’t work for them, I knew we needed to take action,” said Scott. “This new tool will help companies like WestRock make investments they simply would not have done under the limitations of the existing energy efficiency program. This new approach will help reduce operating costs, strengthen our economy, and – importantly – help the state meet its energy goals.”
The new law, passed by the Legislature last month, directs the Public Utility Commission to create a new Energy Savings Account Partnership Pilot (ESAPP) Program – a three-year pilot that will incentivize energy efficiency investments by businesses that have previously not been able to fully benefit from the state’s electric efficiency programs. It also expands eligibility for the state’s Self-Managed Energy Efficiency Program (SMEEP) and the eligible use of funds within the program.
Some businesses in the state are struggling to fully utilize the existing electric efficiency programs, which assess an efficiency charge on all electric users and provide incentives to help reduce electricity demand. The new ESAPP Program will help assure that participating businesses receive incentives and services equal to what they pay into the efficiency fund; expand the eligible uses of funds to include thermal, demand management, productivity and energy storage; and make the entire cost of an energy efficiency project eligible for incentives.
The Public Utility Commission will publish a rule or order establishing the pilot program by July 2019. The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Vermont Public Service Department, and Efficiency Vermont will then select businesses to participate in the pilot.
Scott ceremonially signed the legislation into law at the WestRock recycled boxboard manufacturing facility in Sheldon Springs. WestRock partners with customers to provide differentiated paper and packaging solutions. The company employs 150 people in Sheldon Springs. According to WestRock Sheldon Springs General Manager Wade Taylor, between 2010 and 2017 the company contributed $2.5 million into the electric efficiency fund and received only 23 percent of its contributions back as grants to invest in electrical efficiency projects.
“We appreciate the Legislature and Governor encouraging Vermont businesses to continue investing in ways that increase energy efficiencies,” said Taylor. “We believe the ESAPP Program will allow us to make energy investments where they will have the most positive impact in reducing our total energy costs, not just electric costs.”
The bill also expands SMEEP to Florence-based OMYA and allows SMEEP participants to count productivity improvements as eligible efficiency expenses. SMEEP allows firms to retain their energy efficiency fees instead of paying them into a fund, manage their own efficiency programs, and report to the state on their investments. SMEEP has historically only been available to the state’s largest electricity user – Global Foundries of Essex Junction. The bill expands eligibility to the state’s second largest electricity user, OMYA. OMYA processes calcium carbonite in Florence with mines in Middlebury and Florence and employs more than 130 Vermonters.