Solar stakeholders, market participants, and policy experts were invited today to explore the findings of a recently released study that identifies what it will take for Vermont to transition from a developed solar economy to an advanced one by 2025.
The Vermont Solar Pathways study, led by Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) in partnership with the Vermont Department of Public Service and the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), is the culmination of two years of stakeholder engagement and consideration of the economic, technical, regulatory, policy, and business model issues and opportunities tied to Vermont’s solar future.
Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan has established the goal of meeting 90% of Vermont’s total energy needs with renewable resources by 2050. The Solar Pathways study illustrates how solar is emerging as a major component of that goal and specifically investigates how solar can provide 20% of state’s electric consumption by 2025. The study carefully examines the investments, business models, policies, technologies, and electric grid enhancements that are needed to enable that outcome.
“For solar to provide 20% of Vermont’s electric supply by 2025 means that we will have increased solar generation by a factor of 8 in a decade,” said David Hill, Distributed Resources Director at VEIC, and the lead investigator on study. “Growth of that magnitude is consistent with what we see today, and it will certainly have impacts looking forward. The study identifies those impacts and how to manage them. Overall we found that Vermont’s solar economy is strong and is demonstrating the potential to be a national leader.”
Numerous stakeholders met at VEIC’s Burlington, VT headquarters today to review the key findings and participate in a roundtable discussion about implications for utility planning, economic development, land use, and sustainable energy goals in the state. They also discussed how the report can most usefully contribute to informed discussion as Vermonters make decisions about their use of solar in the future.
“The Vermont Solar Pathways report is a very comprehensive analysis of how Vermont can achieve its renewable energy goals,” said Christine Hallquist, CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative and one of the panel participants. “It provides some of the best guidance that I have seen yet on how to optimize our electric grid to support high levels of distributed renewable generation.”
“The scenarios supporting Vermont’s Solar Pathways report have made essential contributions to municipal and regional planning commissions’ new energy plans,” said Jim Sullivan, Director of the Bennington Regional Planning Commission, who also participated in the panel discussion.
Key findings of the Vermont Solar Pathways study include:
- There is room for solar. Vermont has enough land and sunlight across the state to meet 20% of electricity needs with solar by 2025 – it would only require approximately 0.1% of Vermont’s land area to meet this goal.
- Vermont’s electric grid can handle 20 percent solar. Generating 20% of the projected electricity consumption in Vermont by 2025 will require an estimated 1,000 MW (1 gigawatt) of installed solar capacity. Careful planning and siting will be required to manage the cost and impact of this transformation.
- Solar is a good investment. By 2050 Vermont would see about $8 billion of net benefits, primarily from buying less gasoline and fuel oil (not including the value for reducing carbon dioxide or other environmental benefits).
- Solar is affordable. Investing in efficiency and solar can yield significant economic returns for Vermonters and is less costly than relying on imported gasoline, fuel oil, and other fossil fuels.
- Solar can help low- and moderate-income households afford energy. Projects that combine solar and efficiency can increase energy affordability for low- and moderate-income households. Renters and people without good sites for solar can join “community solar” systems for lower electric bills.
The Vermont Solar Pathways study is one of 15 Solar Market Pathways programs funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. One of the major goals of the larger Solar Market Pathways Program is to make solar deployment faster, easier, and less expensive. Studies like the Vermont Solar Market Pathways can provide greater certainty to businesses, institutions, and utilities investing in solar. Such certainty lowers the “soft costs” associated with solar energy, such as customer acquisition, financing, and utility interconnection.
Vermont is one of several states embracing quickly growing solar capacity. This project’s discussion and analysis of how to achieve higher levels of solar generation adds to an expanding body of knowledge from leaders like California, Massachusetts, and Hawai’i, creating a smoother path for other states to follow.