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Vt. Senate backs bill to expand home-grown energy

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm •  Published: March 13, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The amount of power utilities could buy from customers with solar or other renewable energy systems would nearly quadruple under a measure given preliminary approval Thursday by the Vermont Senate.

Vermont caps the amount of power utilities can take through what's called net metering, when the owners of rooftop solar installations or similar projects put excess power onto the grid. The current cap says each utility can take up to 4 percent of the peak load on its system from net-metering projects. The bill increases that to 15 percent.

"Net metering projects are very popular in the state, and they're popular because of the programs we have to encourage this kind of development," Sen. Virginia Lyons, D-Chittenden, said in explaining the proposed expansion to her colleagues.

Utility customers who participate in net-metering get paid at above retail rates for the power. While typical retail rates among Vermont utilities run less than 15 cents per kwh, net-metered customers are paid 20 cents per kwh for their power. The bill would change that to 19 cents for projects with a capacity larger than 15 kilowatts. After 10 years, participants in the program would be paid the retail rate for their power.

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