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Act 174: Planning and Renewable Energy Siting

Act 174, designed to support local and regional energy planning and allow for greater local say in the siting of energy generation projects, was passed by the Legislature and signed into law this year. The new law offers communities that do “enhanced energy planning” a higher level of consideration through Section 248, the Public Service Board’s regulatory process under which energy generation and transmission projects are reviewed. For those municipalities and regions who choose to meet a defined standard of energy planning, “substantial deference” will be given in Section 248 proceedings. Although this new level of energy planning is not required, provisions in plans certified as meeting standards will be considered controlling by the Public Service Board when evaluating an application “unless there is a clear and convincing demonstration that other factors affecting the general good of the State outweigh the application of the measure or policy.”

The Department of Public Service currently is developing draft standards that will be used as a measure of certification for local and regional plans. Public input will be collected on the proposed standards with final standards being issued by November 1 of this year. The standards will consider energy planning comprehensively, looking at a plan’s treatment of land use, transportation, and approaches to supporting energy conservation, efficiency, and well-sited renewable energy development.

The BCRC has developed a draft Regional Energy Plan that will provide some guidelines for towns and villages as they work to refine and expand their plans. The Plan includes background data on energy supply and demand, possible measures to promote conservation, efficiency, and use of alternative energy sources, and maps that identify areas where renewable generation is most feasible. Those maps can be used as a starting point for communities that want to develop detailed town-level energy resource maps. The BCRC will be holding a series of public meetings on the Regional Energy Plan this fall.