New data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows renewable energy use exceeded coal for the first time since 1885. Vermont and New England mirror the national trend toward increased reliance on renewable electricity. Across New England, tens of thousands of consumers have been inspired to adopt solar for their homes, farms, schools and town buildings. Together the more than 180,000 small-scale solar systems in New England pack a mighty punch against climate pollution. Just last month, home and community based solar installations set a new record by generating 3,200 MW of clean power, producing three times as much power as the Seabrook Nuclear Facility.
“As summer solstice approaches, we celebrate the incredible local economic benefits and energy independence that more solar electricity brings to Vermont and our nation,” said Olivia Campbell Andersen, Renewable Energy Vermont executive director. “Every Vermonter should be proud of the progress we’ve made together to raise local renewables and curb polluting fossil fuel electricity in New England. Local solar brings rays of light and hope for the future during these challenging times.”
Consumer demand, price competitiveness, and encouraging state and federal policies enabled renewable energy consumption to expanded in the US for the last four years in a row and hit a record-breaking annual output of 11.5 quadrillion Btu. Nationally, electricity from coal continues to decline precipitously, dropping to its lowest level in 42 years while total renewable energy consumption continues to grow.
In Vermont, two policies have been particularly important in supporting the state’s climate pollution reduction targets while saving Vermonters money on their electric bills—net metering and standard offer. In 1998, the state legislature enacted net-metering making it possible for Vermonters to generate their own renewable electricity and share it with their neighbors. Customers with small-scale solar systems (less than 500 kW) consume power they generate themselves and then buy any additional power they might need from the utility. Without net-metering, the more than 343 MW of solar powering schools, town halls, homes and farms across Vermont would never have been built and all ratepayers would pay millions more annually to import electricity.
For larger community and small utility-scaled projects, the Standard Offer Program requires Vermont utilities to access the lowest price for new local solar generation through a competitive reverse auction. As a direct result Standard Offer, Vermont now generates 136,698MWH of clean power from a wide-range of technologies including farm methane, biomass, solar and hydroelectric.
“The new historic record for local solar wouldn’t have been possible without strong state policy – particularly net metering and standard offer,” explained Campbell Andersen. “We need to keep these programs going in Vermont to ensure that everyone can participate and benefit from generating renewable local power.”