Vermont debates new state energy policy

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's Public Service Department is preparing an update of the state's comprehensive energy plan, paying particular attention to the solar power boom and changes in transportation.

Department Commissioner Chris Recchia said in a recent interview that Vermont's move toward using more distributed energy sources — wind, solar and other renewable energy sources — will be addressed in a draft to be released later this summer. The plan also will incorporate the views of utilities, environmental groups, renewable energy advocates and consumers.

It's the first rewrite of the plan since 2011.

State law sets ambitious goals for Vermont to serve its energy needs from renewable sources: 55 percent of electricity by 2017; 75 percent by 2032. By 2050, renewable sources are to account for 90 percent of all Vermont's energy, not just for electricity, heating and cooling and transportation.

"We want to hear from people about what ideas they have about how to get there," Recchia said.

The department is accepting written comments through July 24, a week from Friday. After issuing the draft, the state will accept more comments before adopting a final plan by Jan. 1, the commissioner said.

The first of four regional meetings on a plan was July 9 in Woodstock. Three more are set for July 16 at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury; July 20 at the Manchester Community Library; and July 23 at the Bellows Free Library in St. Albans. All are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The department kicked off development of the plan with four half-day meetings in June with stakeholders and experts. The topics included energy efficiency, energy supplies, transportation, the electric grid and utility issues.

In the transportation realm, topics ranged from whether a ridesharing service like Uber can catch on in a rural state like Vermont, to how development patterns in and around cities and towns can affect transportation and energy devoted to it.

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