Highlights

  • Coordinated and facilitated a stakeholder process to investigate and plan for rapid growth in solar to support Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan targets.
  • Created the Vermont Solar Pathways report which examines challenges to an advanced solar future and how they can be overcome.

Background

Solar PV is the fastest-growing form of energy in Vermont. From 2012 to 2016, Vermont’s solar energy capacity increased more than seven times to 198 MW, a compound annual growth rate of 66%. During this time, the portion of electricity from solar grew from 0.5% to more than 4%. The state is one of the national leaders in net metering, community solar, and solar jobs per capita.

In 2011, the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP) set a goal to have renewable energy supply 90% of the state’s total energy needs (including electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation) by 2050. The Department of Public Service completed a Total Energy Study to examine the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of various paths to the 90% goal and related emissions goals. The General Assembly created a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that includes credit for projects—such as electric vehicles and modern wood heating—that switch end uses away from fossil fuel, making the RPS essentially a total energy portfolio standard. Achieving the state’s energy goals will require major contributions from distributed resources and the development of supporting infrastructure such as energy storage, electric vehicle charging stations and upgraded distribution systems.

Report:
Vermont Solar Pathways Summary Vermont Solar Pathways Summary
Author:  VEIC

This document summarizes the research and findings of the Vermont Solar Pathways Report, detailing solar is widely available to meet Vermont’s energy needs.

The Vermont Solar Pathways project used scenario modeling and stakeholder engagement to create a broadly supported plan to get 20% of electricity from solar by 2025. Scenario modeling provided numbers and graphs for examining issues, costs and benefits, and spurred discussions at the 10 stakeholder meetings held over the first two years of the project. Stakeholders provided feedback to improve the model and made suggestions for variations on the scenarios.

Stakeholder Engagement

Through a two-year process, the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) engaged key Vermont energy stakeholders—including a range of solar energy market actors, citizen and consumer advocates, legislators, utilities, regulators, the statewide energy efficiency utility, and academic researchers—in the development of the solar master plan to address challenges and opportunities created by high levels of solar generation. The VEIC team held a series of stakeholder meetings organized around strategic focus areas related to growing solar:

  • Net metering
  • Electric vehicles
  • Heat pumps
  • Smart grid
  • Energy storage
  • Incentives
  • Social equity

Though the stakeholder groups met separately initially, the varied interests of most of the stakeholders, and the overlapping nature of many of the focus areas, made combined stakeholder meetings the best option for in-depth discussions that brought together diverse viewpoints for the benefit of the project.

Scenario Modeling

In order to determine the physical and financial investment in solar PV, grid upgrades, efficiency, and flexible load needed to progress Vermont toward its 2050 goal, VEIC created scenario models of different levels of renewable energy generation. This scenario modeling allowed VEIC to easily create and compare related scenarios to each other and a business-as-usual scenario. The project team started with a model that accurately reflects Vermont’s total energy system at the start of the study, and, using LEAP scenario modeling software from the Stockholm Energy Institute, VEIC’s Vermont total energy model had the following scenarios:

  • Business-as-usual: Uses existing efficiency efforts that are among the best in the nation.
  • 90×2050VEIC: Meets the 90% goal through any means of renewable energy use.
  • Advanced Solar: Similar to 90×2050VEIC, but with about three times more solar by 2025 to meet the 20% goal.
    • Lower net metering is a version of Advanced Solar with more utility solar, similar to the mix seen in other states with mature solar markets.
    • Delayed deployment installs the solar more slowly so that it costs less, but this also reduces the amount of Federal Investment Tax Credit that would flow into the state.

A key finding of this study is that the total spending for energy and related infrastructure between now and 2025 is the same for all of these scenarios. The graph below shows the net present value of that spending along with the percent of total energy from renewables. However, extended to 2050, the graph shows the business-as-usual scenario will cost $8 billion more by that time.

Vermont Solar Development Plan

Released in 2017, Vermont Solar Pathways report considers challenges and barriers to solar deployment and how they can be overcome. The report considers solar growth as a part of total energy rather than in isolation, which means it includes related technologies, such as heat pumps and electric vehicles, and the effects of those fuel switches. It also explores how solar will change the dispatch of electricity generation. Key report highlights include:

  • Vermont has enough land and sunlight to meet 20% of its electricity needs with solar by 2025.
  • To meet this target, Vermont needs 1GW of solar capacity, but the state’s electric grid currently peaks at that level. This requires more planning, investment, and upgrades to grid hardware and operations systems.
  • Investing in efficiency and solar can yield economic benefits for Vermonters and cost less than relying on imported fossil fuel, helping low-and-moderate income residents afford energy.
  • Solar is growing symbiotically with heat pumps and electric vehicles. The markets for these technologies overlap and offer utilities, installers, and contractors opportunities to innovate new business models.

Resources

Report:
Vermont Solar Pathways Vermont Solar Pathways
Author:  VEIC

This report specifies the policy, regulatory and market conditions needed for distributed solar to play an important role in meeting Vermont’s 90% renewables by 2050 energy goals.

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Webinar:
VEIC: Vermont Solar Pathways Project ... VEIC: Vermont Solar Pathways Project Presentation
Author:  ISC

This webinar focuses on key successes and lessons learned from the VEIC Solar Market Pathways project including, modeling, scenario planning, stakeholder engagement, and more.