Final Energy Planning Standards
The Department of Public Service today released the final energy planning determination standards and recommendations called for in Act 174, the Energy Development Improvement Act. The final standards and recommendations, along with an overview, can be found here – http://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/act-174-recommendations-and-determination-standards.
These standards will be used by the Department and Regional Planning Commissions to make determinations as to whether regional and municipal plans are consistent with state energy policy. Plans that receive an affirmative determination will receive substantial deference for their land conservation measures and specific policies when the Public Service Board considers orderly development in its review of siting applications. Act 174 details a set of planning requirements to receive a determination, including consistency with Vermont’s energy and climate goals and the inclusion of energy analysis across the building, transportation, and electrical sectors.
The standards published today consist of a checklist of required analyses, goals, and actions. The checklist approach is intended to enable municipal and regional planners to conduct planning with a determination of energy compliance in mind.
Act 174 establishes three pathways for a plan to receive a determination of energy compliance: 1) regional plans will be evaluated by the Department; 2) once their region’s plan has received an affirmative determination, municipal plans will be evaluated by their regional planning commission; and 3) until July 1, 2018, a municipality in a region that has not received a determination may apply to the Department for evaluation.
“With the publication of these final standards, the path forward is now clear for those municipalities and regions seeking to better integrate their planning efforts with statewide energy goals and planning,” noted Department of Public Service Deputy Commissioner Jon Copans. “These standards provide municipalities and regions with a roadmap as we come together on the local, regional, and statewide level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate more renewable energy here in Vermont. All eleven of Vermont’s Regional Planning Commissions, supported by the Department of Public Service, are in the process of revising energy plans in accordance with these standards. I would encourage all Vermonters to engage in the regional and local planning process. Greater public participation will result in better plans.”
To inform development of the standards, the Department conducted substantial public and stakeholder outreach. This included a half-day public forum on August 30, several topical stakeholder focus groups, an online survey (which received nearly 150 responses), a public hearing, numerous meetings with individual stakeholders and organizations, and a formal comment period. Comments received on the draft standards the Department released in September are available at http://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/act-174-recommendations-and-determination-standards.
“I appreciate that the Department consulted frequently with Regional Planning Commissions and other interested stakeholders as they developed these energy determination standards,” noted Jim Sullivan of the Bennington County Regional Commission. “As the Bennington County Regional Commission and others around Vermont continue with our energy planning efforts, I encourage all interested Vermonters to get involved. Our success is dependent on active engagement from our member municipalities and community members.”
“I am optimistic that this process will help support a good, needed balance,” said Warren King, Chairman of the Ripton Planning Commission and member of the conservation commission and energy committee. “A balance that ensures the state transitions to a more clean, reliable and affordable energy grid but does so in a way that empowers communities and regions in particular to shape how that happens.”
The standards build upon regional energy planning work already underway at all Regional Planning Commissions under contract with the Department. Regions will furthermore be providing analyses and maps that will enable municipalities to easily meet the Analysis & Targets and Mapping standards. Regions will also conduct at least two trainings in each region, will each be offering in-depth technical assistance to at least three municipalities, and will be compiling best practice language from those efforts, which will aid future municipalities in meeting the Pathways standards.
The Department will also be issuing guidance documents for regions and municipalities to use as they write their plans, which will offer standard-by-standard guidelines, resources, and potential language, and which will incorporate the Recommendations as excerpted from the 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan. This guidance is expected to be complete by the time each region offers its first training in December.
The Department of Public Service is an agency within the executive branch of Vermont state government. Its charge is to represent the public interest in matters regarding energy, telecommunications, water and wastewater.