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The Department of Public Service (DPS) has released the final energy planning determination standards and recommendations called for in Act 174, the Energy Development Improvement Act. The final standards and recommendations, along with a summary, are posted here.
DPS and regional planning commissions will use these standards to determine whether regional and municipal plans are consistent with state energy policy. Plans that receive an affirmative determination will receive substantial deference for their land conservation measures and specific policies when the Public Service Board considers orderly development in its review of siting applications. Act 174 details a set of planning requirements to receive a determination, including consistency with Vermont’s energy and climate goals and the inclusion of energy analysis across the building, transportation, and electrical sectors. These standards consist of a checklist of required analyses, goals, and actions. The checklist approach will enable municipal and regional planners to conduct planning while keeping in mind energy compliance.
Act 174 establishes three pathways for a plan to receive a determination of energy compliance:
To help develop the standards, DPS conducted substantial public and stakeholder outreach. This included a half-day public forum on August 30, several topical stakeholder focus groups, an online survey (which received nearly 150 responses), a public hearing, numerous meetings with individual stakeholders and organizations, and a formal comment period. Comments received on the draft standards the department released in September are posted here.
The standards build upon regional energy planning work already underway at all regional planning commissions under contract with the department. Regions will furthermore provide analyses and maps that will enable municipalities to meet the Analysis & Targets and Mapping standards. Regions will also conduct at least two trainings in each region, will each offer in-depth technical assistance to at least three municipalities, and will compile best practice language from those efforts, which will aid future municipalities in meeting the Pathways standards.
DPS will also be issuing guidance documents for regions and municipalities to use as they write their plans, which will offer standard-by-standard guidelines, resources, and potential language, and which will incorporate the Recommendations as excerpted from the 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan. This guidance is expected to be complete by the time each region offers its first training in December.