Currently, Vermont’s electric generation mix is 94% carbon-free, and the statutory Renewable Energy Standard requires that all electric utilities meet at least 66% of electricity deliveries with renewable power. Overall, the electric sector contributed less than 6% of Vermont’s GHG emissions in 2017, a number that is forecasted to decline even further.
Transportation fuels continue to account for the largest portion of Vermont’s total energy consumption, and they include more fossil fuels than any other energy source. Transportation makes up 38% of the total energy consumed in Vermont, and produces more GHG emissions — around 40% — than any other sector.
The transportation sector is overwhelmingly fueled by gasoline and diesel, including small portions of ethanol and biodiesel, respectively. Electricity use for transportation is rapidly growing but remains less than 1% of total fuel use, in part because electric vehicles are more efficient per mile than vehicles with combustion engines.
Every year, Vermont produces an Annual Energy Report. The following highlights the progress and challenges facing the energy sector:
Solar: Despite its small size, Vermont has experienced a high rate of growth in distributed energy resources, specifically in the deployment of solar installations. Having seen almost 50 megawatts (MW) of small-scale solar installations each year for the better part of the past decade, and with total capacity now about 400 MW, there are certain parts of the Vermont grid that are saturated with generation resources. Particularly in western Vermont, several distribution substations are no longer able to accommodate the connection of additional distributed generation resources above a certain size. Reverse power flow from these resources would exceed utility system equipment ratings.
Biomass: Ryegate is a 20 MW biomass (wood-fired) generator plant located just north of Orange County. The fate of this facility is not yet known and contingent on improved heat utilization for beneficial purposes (also known as co-generation). As a wood-fired plant, the Ryegate facility relies upon a consistent supply of biomass from the forest economy. Likewise, many fuel suppliers rely on Ryegate to fill an essential role in the market for forest products, a market with significant impacts on businesses and livelihoods. Several fuel suppliers have recently expressed significant concerns about the state of operations at the Ryegate facility. The most prominent issues include (1) payment and contracting practices, with some commenters reporting that they are not being paid for deliveries or are owed substantial sums; (2) lack of a certified scale to weigh incoming deliveries; (3) lack of qualified forestry staff; and (4) the impacts of ongoing bankruptcy proceedings associated with Solar Enterprises, Series LLC (“Stored Solar”), Ryegate’s owner. The Department has engaged with Ryegate since learning of these issues to express its concern and underline the importance of addressing the issues, fully and transparently, without delay. Ryegate has acknowledged that it had been behind on payments, and faced difficulties with its payment schedules, but reported that it was current on its outstanding obligations through November 13, 2022. The company also expressed a willingness to enter contracts with suppliers, which had been a standard practice in the past. As to equipment and staff, Ryegate stated that its broken truck scale was due to be repaired and recertified on November 29, and confirmed it has a Vermont-licensed forester with plans for a successor. Ryegate also represents that it is not directly involved in the bankruptcy case, although the proceeding has indirectly affected its operations. There is still significant progress to be made on several fronts, and Ryegate has affirmed its commitment to continuing the work. The Department will continue to closely monitor Ryegate’s operations under the contract that has been directed by the General Assembly.
Vermont Gas Systems has begun incorporating alternative fuel supplies into their portfolio and has set a corporate goal to increase their alternative supplies to 20% of retail sales by 2030, including from Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). RNG can come from many sources including landfills and farms; each source brings different carbon intensity levels. Recently, the Public Utility Commission adopted the Department’s position that approval of RNG contracts should reflect the carbon intensity of the source, and keep the cost paid for avoided greenhouse gas emissions below the social cost of carbon.