Paul Gipe, author of Wind Energy Basics: A Guide to Home- and Community-Scale Wind Energy Systems, Second Edition, brings us this huge renewable energy news for the Green Mountain State: on Wednesday, May 27, Vermont became the first state to put into law a feed-in tariff for small wind generation, along with other small-scale renewables (Republican governor Jim Douglas allowed the bill to become law without his signature). This means that energy users who create their own renewable energy—be it through solar panels, wind turbines, or biogas—will get paid competetive rates for energy they put into the grid.
The tariff depends on the kind and size of the technology, and is based on the cost of generation plus a reasonable profit. Hopefully, this is just the first domino to fall in a far-reaching cascade that could stimulate small-scale renewable energy generation across the continent.
Vermont’s feed-in tariff legislation became law at the end of business on May 27, 2009. H. 446 is the first legislation calling for a full system of advanced renewable tariffs in the US to pass the legislature and become law. The bill includes changes to Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program (SPEED) that would implement a pilot feed-in tariff policy.
Vermont’s action follows closely on that of the Ontario provincial legislature’s groundbreaking Green Energy Act and with several states considering similar legislation, the Green Mountain state could be the tipping point for a rapid succession of feed-in tariff policies across the continent.
It may be small states, such as Vermont, and municipalities, such as Gainesville, Florida, that could drive new renewable energy policy in the US and not the big states of California or Florida that are hopelessly embroiled in partisan stalemates.
Unlike the policy in Washington State and in the crude feed-in tariff in California, Vermont’s legislation bases the tariffs on the cost of generation plus a reasonable profit. Costs of the program in Vermont are borne by ratepayers, not taxpayers as in the Washington State system.
One unique feature in the Vermont program not found in Ontario is a specific tariff for small wind turbines, those less than 15 kW. Though several bills have contained proposed tariffs for small wind turbines, Vermont’s legislation is the first to become law with long term contracts. The tariff of $0.20/kWh is the highest in North America.
Though it has a low program cap of only 50 MW, Vermont’s feed-in tariff policy is a serious commitment by a state of its size. Vermont has a population of little more than 600,000.