The Public Service Board will hold a workshop early next month to figure out how a renewable energy siting bill enacted this year should affect utility-scale projects in Vermont.
The workshop will concern several renewable energy duties that fall to the Public Service Board, including determining which technologies will account for roughly 7.5 megawatts of new power generation being authorized under a program meant to encourage a variety of sources.
A primary purpose of the workshop is to establish a pilot program meant to better site renewable energy projects, as called for by legislation passed this year titled Act 174.
The pilot program requires that a small portion of new renewable energy generation be in "preferred locations." These locations include parking lots, abandoned gravel pits, rooftops and other previously developed spaces.
The Public Service Board's workshop will establish details of this preferred-location pilot program.
The board must also at that workshop perform its annual review of what are called avoided costs, the metric by which the board caps rates for projects under its standard offer program.
The program encourages new energy generation from a variety of sources, including wind, solar, hydroelectric, landfill methane and food-waste anaerobic digestion. Would-be providers compete to win approval for a limited number of megawatts allocated to each power source every year. These projects must, in order to be considered for the program, produce power at costs lower than what the Public Service Board has deemed the avoided costs of each technology.
The 2016 standard offer program awarded permits to nine projects, all of them solar or wind generators. Rates ranged from 7.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for the Checkerberry Solar Park in Milton to 25.1 cents per kilowatt-hour for several small wind generators in Wardsboro and Alburgh.
The board will also hold a workshop Tuesday to consider what to do about the fact that large power projects tend to be located far from the utility that will buy the energy and from the customers who will use it.
Locating power sources closer to where their output is needed saves money on infrastructure and lessens the likelihood of widespread power outages, among other advantages, say backers of the practice.
That rationale contributes to Vermont's push for increased renewable energy generation, and at smaller scales than the large, centralized generators such as Vermont Yankee that they replace.
The standard offer program has inadvertently made the energy supply more costly than necessary because of the projects' distance from retail customers and utilities, according to the Public Service Board. The Tuesday workshop is meant to reduce that effect of the program.
The workshop on the standard offer program will be Oct. 4 at 9:30 a.m. in the Susan M. Hudson Hearing Room of the People's United Bank building in Montpelier.
By January 15, 2018, the Public Service Board must submit a report on the standard offer program's preferred locations pilot project, according to Act 174. The report must include the size of each project applied for under the new program, along with their locations, generation technology and cost per kilowatt-hour.