On Thursday, numerous solar stakeholders gathered at the headquarters of nonprofit group Vermont Energy Investment Corp. (VEIC) to discuss 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, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and led by 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.
VEIC says Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan has established the goal of meeting 90% of the state’s total energy needs with renewable resources by 2050, and 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.
Key findings of the study include the following:
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% solar. Generating 20% of the projected electricity consumption in Vermont by 2025 will require an estimated 1 GW 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.
At VEIC’s Burlington, Vt., headquarters Thursday, stakeholders participated in a roundtable discussion about the study and its implications.
“For solar to provide 20 percent of Vermont’s electric supply by 2025 means that we will have increased solar generation by a factor of eight 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.”
“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,” added Jim Sullivan, director of the Bennington Regional Planning Commission, who also participated in the panel discussion.
The Vermont Solar Pathways study is one of 15 Solar Market Pathways programs funded by the SunShot Initiative. One of the major goals of the larger Solar Market Pathways Program is to make solar deployment faster, easier and less expensive. According to VEIC, studies like the Vermont report can provide greater certainty to businesses, institution, and utilities investing in solar. Such certainty lowers the “soft costs” associated with solar energy, such as customer acquisition, financing, and utility interconnection.
The full report is available here.