Energy Regulation and Permitting
Energy generation in Vermont is subject to a number of different permitting requirements, most of which are at the state level. On the municipal level, state statute protects residential renewable energy generation systems from regulations that will prohibit their development.
Act 174 (Determination of Energy Compliance)
Following the passage of Act 174 in 2016, communities now have the opportunity to revise their municipal plans in order to secure a “Determination of Energy Compliance” certificate. A Determination of Energy Compliance elevates a municipality’s standing in the Section 248 permitting process (see below), which applies to most renewable energy generation facilities. Plans that seek to earn this certificate must meet a higher standard for energy planning than is currently required for municipal plans. Municipalities and regions which plan to this enhanced standard 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 here.
If you have specific questions or need assistance regarding a development proposal under Section 248, contact Harry Falconer at [email protected].
According to Vermont statutes, after a town has submitted all the required documents to TRORC, the RPC will schedule a public hearing noticed at least 15 days in advance by direct mail to the requesting municipal legislative body, on the TRORC website, and in a newspaper of general publication in the municipality.
TRORC will normally hold the public hearing for discussion of the determination of energy compliance directly following the public hearing for the Town Plan approval and confirmation action. Under statute, TRORC is required to issue a determination in writing within two months of the receipt of a request. If the determination is negative, TRORC will state the reasons for the denial in writing and, if appropriate, suggest acceptable modifications.
Submissions for a new determination following a negative determination will receive a new determination within 45 days.
For a complete submission the town must send the following to TRORC:
- A digital copy of the municipal plan and all accompanying maps
- Completed Energy Planning Standards for Municipal Plans Checklist: Municipal Determination Standards
- Completed and signed Energy Planning Resolution Template
All submissions should be sent to Peter Gregory at [email protected]
Section 248 (electrical generation facility permitting process)
All distributed power generation facilities—such as hydropower dams, wind turbines or solar photovoltaic (PV) systems owned by utilities—along with fossil fuel plants, 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 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.