Vermont is at the threshold of a dramatic transformation in how we procure and use energy. Meeting our state’s legally mandated greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets will require rapid and widespread electrification of our transportation and thermal sectors and the equally rapid development of new, renewable energy generating capacity. As part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Vermont will be able to access federal money to improve grid resilience. Ensuring that Vermont’s grid is resilient not just today by five, ten, and twenty years into the future will require investing in a grid that is capable of serving dramatically increased demand and integrating high levels of renewable generation.
The guiding principle for the use of IIJA grid resilience funds must be that investments made today are compatible with the grid that Vermont will need in 2035 and beyond. This means that, to the greatest extent possible, infrastructure hardening must be done in conjunction with infrastructure “right-sizing” to ensure that system components will be appropriate in an environment with significantly higher demand and renewable penetration. Strategically targeting grid resilience investments must also consider the central role that distributed renewable energy and energy storage can play in building the adaptive capacity of the grid during disruptive events as well as in promoting flexible and innovative grid operations. Taking advantage of the capacity of these technologies to promote operational flexibility would act as a multiplier on Vermont’s infrastructure investments.
Given the rapid changes that are on the horizon, we urge the Department of Public Service to consider using IIJA funding to commission a comprehensive study of the opportunities to promote grid resilience in conjunction with renewable energy and storage deployment. Analysis by Vibrant Clean Energy and others has demonstrated the cost and resilience benefits that can be achieved with a mix of storage, distributed generation, and larger renewable facilities. By looking beyond hardware-based solutions to include consideration of renewable curtailment, load management, storage aggregation, and other innovative opportunities to increase operational flexibility comprehensively, the Department will be able to assess the most beneficial, and least cost opportunities for improving resilience and our capacity to meet the need of an electrified and renewable future.