From the Director, February 2018 - Our Regional Energy Plan's Long Journey

Chris CampanyStaff, commissioners and committee members have been working on a regional energy plan that complies with Act 174 for nearly a year and a half. At its February meeting, the Windham Regional Commission will be voting to move the draft plan to public hearing. In addition to discussions at open meetings of the WRC, our Executive Board, and our committees, we've held forums and public meetings throughout the region and throughout the process.

The WRC advocated for comprehensive energy planning by regions and towns going back to Governor Shumlin's Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission in 2012, and that those plans should have greater standing in Public Utility Commission (formerly Public Service Board) deliberations and that those plans should inform future iterations of the state Comprehensive Energy Plan. Our purpose was to develop plans that not only better inform energy siting decisions, but to also inform what would, could and should be done to reduce consumption of non-renewable energy and increase energy efficiency. The provisions of Act 174, regional and town standing before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and subsequent PUC rules are far from perfect but move comprehensive energy planning in the state forward.

Much of the attention in the development of our draft energy plan has been on the siting of energy generation; specifically utility scale wind power generation. Siting is certainly an important issue, but I would urge everyone to look at the broader issues raised in the plan; notably how much energy we use, the types and sources of that energy, and what we can realistically do about consumption, efficiency, and switching to renewables. Regional commissions establish policies, but we issue no permits. State commissions review, interpret and apply our policies. We can and do assist towns with the development of their plans, policies and bylaws. And we can and do pursue non-regulatory solutions. Examples are grant funding we've secured to help schools and other public buildings implement modern wood heat systems, to help towns improve the efficiency of their buildings, and to support renewable energy generation projects by businesses and non-profits. The WRC has been a leader in energy policy at the regional and state level, and we have made support for energy efficiency and switching to renewables a priority. But as the energy consumption, generation targets, and policy limitations of the plan show, the real change will come about at the household level, and the choices we all make that influence our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions footprint.

Last Updated on 22 March 2018
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