REV report details unpredictable permitting process for renewable energy projects

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Vermont Business Magazine Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) today released No Good Reason: Vermont’s Regulatory Roadblocks to Renewable Energy and Our Fight Against Climate Change its report detailing the unpredictable permitting process renewable energy projects face and the needed regulatory reforms to address this problem.

According to the report’s primary author REV Deputy Director Jonathan Dowds, “REV members fully support a robust permitting process for renewable energy projects that protects the public interest and our natural resources. But in a time of increased storms and other in-your-face evidence showing the effects of climate change are here today, we have a regulatory process that unnecessarily slows new renewable energy projects and drives up the cost of renewable energy for ordinary Vermonters all of which ultimately blunts the state’s fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The report includes 10 case studies highlighting three barriers to permitting new renewable energy projects that are increasing in frequency:

·     lack of timeliness in the review process

·     the inconsistent application of existing rules

·     highly subjective evaluation criteria

According to Rep. Gabrielle Stebbins the Co-Chair of the Legislature’s Climate Solutions Caucus, "The transition from a few, large, centralized generation plants to many distributed systems sprinkled across the landscape and throughout the grid, requires all of us – legislators, regulators, policy makers, utility engineers, landowners and neighbors – to revisit how we have been planning and building our energy infrastructure. The need for regulatory reform is a hot topic across the United States; what worked before is simply not cutting it, no matter your role. I look forward to working through the various issues raised here, in the public meetings being held across the state by the Department of Public Service, and in the Renewable Energy Study working group in the upcoming 2024 legislative session." 

Chad Farrell, the Founder of Vermont-Based Encore Renewable Energy, states “Our deep commitment to conservation starts with site selection to minimize our impact on the environment. It is further reflected in the design and construction of every project that we develop to ensure that we deliver more than just clean power to the local communities we serve. Our projects provide critical habitat for endangered pollinators and ecosystem improvements like carbon sequestration and runoff mitigation. Regulatory oversight should align accordingly with impact and not unfairly impede the energy transition.”

Added Dowds, “No Good Reason” proposes solutions to provide more consistency and predictability to the permitting process. These solutions will protect the public interest, our natural resources and allow Vermont to meet its statutory commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by supporting new, responsible renewable energy development.

These solutions include:

·     mandating the development of clear and binding timelines for PUC decisions

·     clarifying statutes to make the process for permitting renewables more objective and predictable

·     amending the aesthetic assessment process so the burden to demonstrate an undue impact aligns with Act 250

The full report is available for download at REV is a 501 (c)(6) trade association representing businesses, utilities, and others committed to a fossil fuel-free energy future in Vermont.

Source: 6.21.2023. Montpelier- Renewable Energy Vermont