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Energy Plan Determination Standards and Technical Assistance for Local Planning

The Department of Public Service has proposed “energy planning determination standards and recommendations,” as called for in Act 174, the Energy Development Improvement Act. The draft standards and recommendations, along with an overview, can be found at here.

The Department is due to issue final standards and recommendations in the near future based on reviews by stakeholders and the public. The BCRC assisted in the development of the standards and offered a number of suggestions on the draft standards, primarily focusing on ways to simplify the development and use of energy data and maps by municipalities.

Once finalized, these standards and recommendations 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 be given substantial deference for their land conservation measures and specific policies when the Public Service Board considers orderly development in its review of siting applications. According to statute, the standards must ensure consistency with Vermont’s energy and climate goals and include energy analysis across the building, transportation, and electrical sectors.

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 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.

“Achieving Vermont’s renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals is going to require an all-hands-on-deck approach at the local, regional, and statewide level,” noted Department of Public Service Deputy Commissioner Jon Copans. “We are hopeful that these standards and the planning process envisioned in Act 174 will inspire Vermonters to work collaboratively at the local level to plan for the energy transformation necessary to continue to make progress towards our goals. In many ways, the constructive conversations we have had with interested stakeholders as we worked on these standards mirror the dialogue we believe will happen at the local and regional level as we all do our part to fight climate change and achieve greater energy independence.”

BCRC to Support Municipal Energy Planning

Act 174 also appropriated some funds to help regional planning commissions assist towns and villages meet the standards for “approval” of a municipal plan. The BCRC will work with the Department and other regional planning commissions to develop training materials and conduct workshops to explain the standards and outline a planning process for crafting enhanced local energy plans. BCRC staff assistance also will be available to provide direct support to at least three municipalities seeking to develop those plans in the coming year. Detailed information on these opportunities will be sent directly to local officials and posted on BCRC’s website later this month.