Vermont governor signs renewable energy bill

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - As he stood outside a Victorian house getting new insulation, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law Thursday designed to retool Vermont's renewable energy programs and spur utilities to help customers cut costs and carbon emissions in heating their homes.

Shumlin was surrounded by lawmakers, executive branch officials, utility and renewable energy industry leaders as he signed House Bill 40.

Among other provisions, the legislation establishes a new requirement that 55 percent of the power sold by Vermont energy companies must come from renewable sources by 2017. That figure rises to 75 percent by 2032.

The new law also calls for an "energy transformation" program, in which Vermont utilities will provide leasing or on-bill financing to help customers make efficiency improvements to their homes, such as high-efficiency heat pumps for heating rooms or water.

"Vermonters will now have one stop access for services and financing to weatherize their homes and businesses, add on-site solar and replace or upgrade their current heating system with state-of-the-art air source heat pumps," said Democratic Rep. Tony Klein of East Montpelier, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Dan and Mary Margaret Groberg, owners of the 1898 home where Shumlin signed the bill, said they recently installed heat pumps. Their newly installed hot water heater in the basement is expected to cost $215 a year to operate compared with $531 a year for the old unit.

Vermont utilities sell about $50 million worth of renewable energy credits a year outside the state. And the law's renewable source requirement is expected to help resolve complaints from outside Vermont, particularly from Connecticut, that Vermont counts some of its wind, solar, and biomass power twice - once toward meeting its in-state renewable goals and again by allowing renewable energy developers to sell pollution reduction credits outside the state.

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