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