Developers and officials seek a solution for over-power issues in Vermont

vermont grid problems

Vermont state officials and developers are working on a solution for over-powering issues in the grid, for not to bottleneck the renewable energy developments that want to invest in the state; and not to transfer costs to electricity users.

The grid in Vermont is out of balance, especially in the Northeast Kingdom. There, the grid carries much more energy than the region can consume. This imbalance has caused the grid operator to reduce output from wind generators, and the devaluation of local generation.

Also, the issue has stalled more developments, as a two-year moratorium on new renewable energy projects in the Kingdom has been ruled. Now, the state seeks to break the imbalance with a surcharge on new solar projects that would serve as a mitigation fund.

According to the Department of Public Service in Vermont, and its chief, Ed McNamara, the local grid has about 450 megawatts of generation running through the grid, while only 35 of them are consumed. This causes three big problems; the already mentioned moratorium, an underpayment to generators in the area, and, when the overload gets serious, complete production shutdowns from local projects.

“The economic harm comes from having a large number of renewable resources all trying to produce at the same time. So, to the extent that those resources are receiving less money though the ISO New England markets, it means there’s less value to ratepayers,” McNamara said, quoted by the local press.

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Solution for overpower in Vermont still to be discussed

The solution McNamara has proposed is to rule a surcharge per kilowatt hour on net-metered solar projects in the region. As grid upgrades would cost up to $200 million to every developer, this solution might serve as a fund to mitigate the cost impacts.

“We’re not saying that we’ve got the solution worked out. We’re trying to come up with a way of resolving what’s been essentially a two-year roadblock… Because a net-metering resource will have an economic harm, we want to mitigate the economic harm and the easiest way of doing that is to have a mitigation fund, so to speak.” McNamara said.

For solar developer Nils Behn who has a stalled solar project in Eden, McNamara’s solution is “the least-worst option, quite honestly.” While, Olivia Campbell Andersen, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, thinks the grid concerns are overrated.

“Much of the challenges and constraints can be addressed by strategic electrification and appropriate upgrades to great-grandpa’s grid that was really designed a long time ago for a system that no longer works.” Other solar developers conclude that utilities should pay for grid upgrades.

However, Craig Kieny of the Vermont Electric Cooperative thinks McNamara’s choice would eventually make things worse. “As developers pay the grid adjustor and pay for the impact, they’ll get built and they’ll be even more generation. It doesn’t solve any physics issues,” he concluded.

According to local news media, the state is looking for more feedback and discussion before any ruling comes into fruition.

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