Five Public Hearings Scheduled Across Vermont in October: Essex Jct, Lyndonville, Montpelier, Rutland, WestminsterVermont Business Magazine By vastly reducing reliance on fossil fuels, increasing conservation and using more renewable electric, especially for transportation and heating, Vermont will reach its goal of meeting 90 percent of its energy needs through renewable sources by 2050. The Public Service Department today released the Public Review Draft of the 2015 Comprehensive Energy Plan. The draft, which weighs in at a governmental 386 pages, reaffirms Vermont’s 90 percent goal and provides additional details on how to get there. The PSD sought significant public and stakeholder input to inform the draft and has been working across state agencies – including the agencies of Natural Resources; Transportation, Agriculture, Food and Markets; Commerce and Community Development; and Human Services – to put the draft together.The PSD will be holding a series of five public hearings around the state in October to seek reaction and comments on its draft Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan. In addition, comments are welcome in writing via the comment form at the CEP project website, http://energyplan.vt.gov(link is external) until November 9, 2015.“The 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan drove concrete actions to meet Vermont’s energy goals and advance our economy, environment, and public health,” said Commissioner of Public Service Christopher Recchia. “The updated plan builds on that success and shows paths forward to continue that progress. We welcome public review, and will incorporate comments in the final plan to be released toward the end of the year.”Dr. Asa Hopkins, director of energy policy and planning at the Vermont Public Service Department added “We are particularly interested in hearing from the public about what we’ve gotten right, what we’ve gotten wrong, and what’s missing from the draft plan. The Department and our sister agencies will be continuing to refine the plan, and public input will definitely improve the final product.”This draft 2015 CEP expands upon the ambitious long-term goal of obtaining 90 percent of the state’s total energy needs from renewable sources by mid-century. When combined with the statutory goal of 25% renewable by 2025 (10 V.S.A. § 580(a)), this draft CEP proposes the following set of goals:• Reduce total energy consumption per capita by 15% by 2025, and by more than one third by 2050.• Meet 25% of the remaining energy need from renewable sources by 2025, 40% by 2035, and 90% by 2050.• Three end-use sector goals for 2025: 10% renewable transportation; 30% renewable buildings; and 67% renewable electric power.The plan emphasizes the importance of efficiency and conservation. This includes efficiencies gained by using new electric technologies (heat pumps, electric vehicles) that are substantially more efficient than previous technologies. It also includes efficiency in electric generation that comes from shifting away from wasteful power plants that send heat up smokestacks, and toward wind, solar, and hydroelectric. The focus on strategic electrification reinforces the shift toward distributed energy resources that support our grid, increase resilience, and lower infrastructure costs.The draft CEP builds on the state’s accomplishments since the previous plan was completed in 2011. Some of those accomplishments include:• passage of Act 56 establishing a Renewable Energy Standard;• the Thermal Efficiency Task Force and two Clean Energy Finance Summits;• updated building energy codes and a Vermont residential building energy label;• pilots of new financing programs including the Heat Saver Loan;• signing of the multi-state Zero Emission Vehicle memorandum of understanding;• expansion of the Standard Offer program while lowering the cost of new contracts by more than 60%;• expansion of net metering to 15% of peak load and an ongoing process to design a sustainable net metering program; and• expansion of solar net metering and standard offer projects in the ground by 10× since 2011.Meanwhile, electric rates in Vermont have increased only 4.2% since 2011, which is slower than overall inflation, while New England average rates rose 11.9% and U.S. average rates have increased 5.7%.Since the last CEP was published in 2011, Vermont has added more than 100 MW each of wind and solar PV electric generation to the state.When the renewable power from Hydro-Quebec, which has been approximately 30% of supply, is counted, nearly 60% of the power supplied for purposes of Vermont end-use consumption is presently from renewable sources. Courtesy H-QPublic HearingsDates and locations for the hearings are:• Oct. 7: Lyndonville (Lyndon State College, Moore Community Room)• Oct. 13: Essex Junction (Essex High School, cafeteria)• Oct. 21: Montpelier (Vermont College of Fine Arts, Noble Hall)• Oct. 26: Westminster (Bellows Falls Union High School, auditorium)• Oct. 29: Rutland (Rutland Regional Hospital, Community Health Education Center)The hearings will run from 6-8 pm and light refreshments will be served.“We know that energy issues, including the economic and environmental benefits and costs, have been at the top of the news in many communities,” said Dr. Hopkins. “We look forward to the opportunity to hear from Vermonters about how your experience and vision should be reflected in the final plan.”The hearings are hosted by the Vermont Department of Public Service, in partnership with the local regional planning commission.For more information on the CEP, for more detailed directions to the public hearing locations, or to comment on the draft plan, visit: http://energyplan.vt.gov(link is external).GMP photo of Searsburg wind farm.