Department of Public Service Requests Evaluation of Utility Regulation
On April 10, the Vermont Department of Public Service called on the Public Service Board to undertake a "workshop process to broadly review emerging trends in the utility sector and to evaluate existing forms of Vermont regulation in light of these trends."
The Department maintains that this review is needed in light of “significant developments in the utility sector” including:
- The enactment of significant renewable development goals and requirements through the Renewable Energy Standard, Net Metering Program, and Standard Offer Program;
- Shifts in enabling technologies through the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure and the emergence of electric vehicles, battery storage, and heat pumps;
- A more dynamic energy environment in which end users and third-party aggregators have greater ability to manage loads in real time;
- The merger of the state's two largest electric utilities; and
- The expansion of the state's only natural gas utility to a new part of the state, as well as its designation as an efficiency utility.
The letter was penned by the Department’s Director for Public Advocacy, James Porter, and copied to the state’s electric utilities as well as a variety of advocacy groups. Though the observations the letter makes about trends and changes in utility regulation are accurate, it is unclear from the letter what in particular (if anything) prompted the Department to request a workshop at this time, nor what particular goals (if any) the Department hopes the Board to accomplish. Legislation in the area of renewable energy over the past couple of years has altered the renewable energy markets in sometimes unpredictable ways, often to the detriment of independent renewable energy developers. It will be interesting to see how this process unfolds.