After a torrid start to the year at the Public Utility Commission during which REV participated in nine PUC proceedings, REV continued the fight for a fair, predictable, and efficient regulatory process in the second half of 2022. REV took part in four PUC proceedings and filed comments in response to four Department of Public Service RFIs/requests for comments on topics that will shape state policy and the environment for renewable deployment going forward.
At the PUC, REV continued to push for improvements in three ongoing rulemaking cases (5.10 – Net-Metering, 5.400 – Section 248 CPGs, and 5.500 – Interconnection) and successfully halted a retroactive reduction to net-metering compensation for net-metering 1.0 customers served by the Burlington Electric Department. While REV has won incremental improvements in the rulemaking cases, the PUC has generally continued to shift the regulatory playing field against new renewable development, highlighting the need for Legislative action.
Before the DPS, REV sought to steer a DPS review of renewable procurement policies to focus on key issues of additionality and true greenhouse gas reductions, argued that federal grid resilience funds should be leveraged to identify and invest in least-cost methods for supporting the interconnection of renewables and storage, argued for a more comprehensive analysis of the cost and benefits of the Renewable Energy Standard, and supported improvements to build codes to improve EV readiness.
REV’s regulatory advocacy is guided by the experience and knowledge of our members. As REV staff, we strive to synthesize the knowledge and amplify the needs of our members to maximize our collective impact while minimizing individual members’ burden when participating in the regulator process.
Public Utility Commission Proceedings
BED Net-Metering Tariff (22-3947): Burlington Electric Department filed a proposed tariff that would have terminated the utility’s long-standing practice of providing monetary payments to customers with net-metering systems permitted before 2017. The proposed tariff would also impose new limits on how long these systems could carry credit balances. In response to objections from REV, BED dropped its request for retroactive changes to net-metering compensation for pre-existing net-metering customers. The Department of Public Service subsequently recommended that BED be required to implement the changes in the original filing, arguing that the terms that older net-metering systems received were not consistent with the net-metering rule, despite multiple approvals of these terms by the PUC.
The PUC has opened an investigation into this case. REV is participating in that investigation and will continue to advocate for BED to honor the existing agreement.
Working Group: Jake Elliot, Leslie Caldwell
Net-metering Rulemaking (19-0855-RULE): This May, REV argued that given the urgency to expand renewable generation, all changes to Rule 5.100 must be evaluated based on one criterion above all others: Will the changes facilitate or impede the rapid and responsible deployment of new net-metered systems? Unfortunately, many of the proposed changes unnecessarily restrict the locations and markets available for net-metered systems without providing any clear public benefit. REV urged the PUC to halt these changes and re-engage with stakeholders to ensure that the Rule is consistent with the need to promote renewable development in Vermont.
A new draft rule released in December included some very minor improvements but largely maintained many of the problematic elements from the April draft. A proposal for a blanket prohibition on tree-clearing larger than an acre was minorly improved by exempting designated development areas and growth centers and changing the language defining a forested area from land in “any stage of succession” to areas with “more than 10% canopy cover” but remains problematic. Proposed changes to preferred siting criteria that would limit facilities to the footprint the existing structure/impervious surfaces were left in place. The new draft also maintains language prohibiting net-metering systems from participating in the wholesale market or being used for public EV charging.
REV will file an additional round of comments in January.
Working Group: Martha Staskus, Jim Merriam, Nils Behn, Kim Hayden
Interconnection Rulemaking (19-0856-RULE): During the rulemaking process, VELCO raised concerns that inverter setting errors on solar installations could create risks to system stability. While these concerns are likely unfounded given the default settings on new inverters, REV has been participating in the development of an inverter setting verification process with VELCO and the DUs. Our focus has been to ensure the verification process does not create project commissioning delays and introduce significant new costs. We have proposed a 60-day post-commissioning window for developers to submit one of 1) a signed attestation that the inverter settings match those specified in the CPG application or 2) a digital export of the settings from the inverter itself.
Working Group: Doug McDonald, Rhiannon Johnson, Carrie McLaughlin, Jacob Flannigan, Nils Behn, Kyle Wallace, Greg Tessier
Rule 5.400 Rulemaking (21-0861): In draft revisions to Rule 5.400 the PUC proposed eliminating intervention thresholds for granting adjoining landowners party status in Section 248. This change would threaten the viability of the Section 248 permitting process and was opposed by REV, along with several Vermont utilities and VELCO, in filings in June and July of this year. VELCO, VEC, and GMP jointly asked the commission to apply the provisions of Commission Rule 2.209(B) (see page 5 of the Rule) which would maintain the PUC’s discretion in granting landowners the right to intervene instead of providing them with automatic party status and REV filed comments reiterating the DU’s concerns and stating that their proposed solutions represented the bare minimum.
Unfortunately, the language that the PUC added in response to these comments — which requires potential intervenors to list the specific issues on which they are seeking to intervene and explain how their interests will be affected by the decision – does relatively little to address the concerns raised by REV and the DUs. The Rule is expected to go before LCAR in the New Year.
Working Group: Jake Clark
Comments to the Department of Public Service
In August, REV submitted its response to the Vermont Department of Public Service’s RFI on redoing Vermont’s renewable and clean electricity policy and programs. REV’s comments centered around the structural changes that needed to be made to Vermont’s energy policies to truly solve the climate crisis including emphasizing that additionality and greenhouse gas emissions reductions must be the top priority in evaluating opportunities to expand new renewable electricity resources; that the true social cost of carbon should be used in all Department’s analyses of renewable and clean energy programs; and the importance of eliminating cheap unbundled Renewable Energy Credits from out of state hydro. REV’s comments were also signed by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.
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 but 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. 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.
As a state, our capacity to meet our climate goals rests heavily on our ability to transition quickly to electric vehicles (EVs). Incorporating strong electric vehicle (EV) readiness requirements in our building codes is a vital step to supporting this goal as access to convenient and reliable charging opportunities is essential for promoting consumer acceptance of EVs. Since the cost of installing charging infrastructure during a building retrofit is substantially higher than during new construction, building codes that require new construction support the deployment of EV charging infrastructure makes sense for Vermont. REV strongly supports the Department of Public Service’s proactive efforts to incorporate EV readiness into our building codes.