Energy generation in Vermont is subject to a number of different permitting requirements, most of which are limited to state level permitting. On the municipal level, state statute protects residential renewable energy generation systems from regulations that will prohibit their development.
Distributed power generation facilities, such as hydropower dams, fossil fuel plants as well as wind power or solar systems owned by utilities, are subject to review and approval by the Vermont Public Service Board (30 VSA §248). Under this law, prior to the construction of a generation facility, the Board must issue a Certificate of Public Good. A Section 248 review addresses environmental, economic, and social impacts associated with a particular project, similar to Act 250. In making its determination, the Board must give due consideration to the recommendations of municipal and regional planning commissions and their respective plans. Accordingly, it is appropriate that local and regional plans address these land uses and provide guidance to town officials, regulators, and utilities. The Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Plan contains explicit language that is intended to guide the development of energy generation facilities under Section 248.
The Vermont Public Utility Commission issued Rule 5.100 for Net-Metering Systems in January, 2017. TRORC uses a review protocol for requests for a Preferred Site Letter of Support under Rule 5.103(7). The review protocol can be found here: Section 248 Preferred Site Review Protocol.
A plain language document on the Section 248 process can be found here.
Act 174 of 2016 establishes a new set of municipal and regional energy planning standards, which if met, allow those plans to carry greater weight in the Section 248 siting process for energy generation. Act 174 provides an opportunity for regions and municipalities – from the planning commission and selectboard to energy committees and citizens – to shape and inform their own energy future. Act 174 expands the basic requirements for regional energy planning, but its primary thrust is voluntary: municipalities and regions which plan to the enhanced standard envisioned by the Act will receive substantial deference before the Public Service Board with respect to both land conservation measures and specific policies included in their plans. Municipalities and regions that do not have enhanced plans continue to receive due consideration for their plans. For more information, please visit the DPS website: https://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/act-174-recommendations-and-determination-standards
If your community has questions or needs assistance with regard to a proposed development under Section 248, please contact Kevin Geiger at [email protected]
At the October 28, 2015 TRORC Board meeting, Jeannie Oliver, Special Counsel for the Vermont Public Service Department, gave a presentation about the Section 248 process. The slide show can be found here: Section 248 Presentation October 2015