Senate learns of Clean Heat Standard snafu: who gets the ‘credit’?

House bill is confusing, redundant, state’s top energy official warns

Heat pump – Energysmartvt.org photo credit

By Guy Page

The State of Vermont’s top energy official warned the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee last Friday that H715, the Clean Heat Standard bill, has a serious structural problem: it would allow two energy-saving organizations to claim the same ‘clean heat credit.’

Public Service Dept. Commissioner June Tierney explained the looming regulatory snafu to committee Chair Chris Bray (D-Addison) in an April 15 letter:

Under H.715 as presently drafted, both distribution utilities [editor: such as Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Co-op] and fuel dealers will be able to claim Clean Heat Credit for the same measure, such as a heat pump. It is unclear whether there would need to be payment from the fuel dealers in order to claim that credit. It is also unclear whether the Department is intended to oversee those credit sharing agreements as it currently does with the distribution utilities and efficiency utilities.

The committee could solve the problem by including her proposed draft language. However, the committee has not done this. Instead, on Friday it sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee a bill that includes none of Tierney’s proposed language.

The whole point of the Clean Heat Standard bill is to get Vermonters to switch from oil and gas heat to lower-carbon options, including electrified heat pumps. Under a program envisioned by the bill, fuel dealers may earn newly-created “clean heat credits” by removing enough oil or gas burning furnaces and installing enough heat pumps, pellet furnaces, weatherization, etc. to avoid newly-created steep financial penalties of selling fossil fuels. 

Tierney is pointing out – and according to her letter, not for the first time – that as written, electrical utilities and fuel dealers will be able to claim clean heat credits for the same heat pump. The arrangement is confusing to manage and counter-productive to the aim of carbon reduction if both fuel dealers and electrical utilities take ‘clean heat credit’ for the same carbon reductions. 

The bill simply needs more work, Tierney explained: “these are material policy issues that require more debate and deliberation with a far more robust representation of the affected stakeholders than has been possible in the legislative process to date during this session.”

The Senate version also includes new legal covering language on severability (if one part of the bill is struck down in court, the rest still stands) and intent (the program should limit financial harm to low-income Vermonters).

Will Senate Appropriations pick up on Tierney’s suggestion? Will the full Senate, if the bill reaches them without solutions to the problems Tierney raises, still approve it with veto-proof confidence? And will Gov. Phil Scott chastise the Legislature in a veto statement, ‘you were warned there were problems with this bill?”

H715 passed the House 96-44 on March 16. It is not specifically on the Senate Appropriations Committee agenda this week. However, there is plenty of “To Be Determined” time on its schedule, which is to be expected at this time of year when many bills with spending allocations (including H715, including $600,000 for new Public Utilities Commission staff) await review. 

6 replies »

  1. When someone can tell me the process in which woodpellets, stoves, heating pipes, water pumps, and all other apparatus necessary to generate heat can be accomplished without fossil fuels – I’ll continue to ignore these idiots. Please review the classic “I am a pencil”

  2. Legislating by emotion has been a particular favorite of the liberal mindset in Montpelier for decades. By whatever term you choose- knee-jerk, reactionary, emotional- Vermont’s liberals are expert at rushing legislation without regard for consequence- unintended or not. We have endured this treatment with healthcare legislation, school funding and so many other “hot-button” causes, all of which are still not resolved. Now we are forced to pay for the consequences of this perceived need to right the world’s wrongs regarding CO2 and hydrocarbons, with the caveat that whatever is done and legislated will make zero difference to the environment. Just to Vermont’s residents. The not rich ones.
    What is being legislated today is a direct result of whom we elected to the great clubhouse in Montpelier- and what we allow this inept group of liberal elites and the cabal of money peddling lobbyists to do to harm us.

  3. How does a heat pump that up until two weeks ago has been out of service for a year and a half, because we could not find a contractor to work on it fit into the scheme here? All of the excuses known to man and some we have never heard of were in play for the last year and a half. Efficiency Vermont actually prolonged this nonsense because their “help” in trying to find contractors was a lost cause. Their list was out of date, and they apparently do not realize that contractors come and go the same as any other business. Heat pumps may be ok as long as they work…. but when they do not and your contractor is not available every “excuse” in the world will surface.
    These things are no different than a heating and/or cooling system, and must be treated as such by that business, but they are not. Thank God for Lohsen P&H, they got our unit back in business, I would recommend this business to anyone needing that kind of service. They were the first out of 3 contacted, to keep a schedule as promised, and do EXACTLY as they said they would. Anyone wanting names, we will give out in private.

  4. We may not know who is going to get the credits but we know who’s going to get screwed.

  5. We should refer the jokers who voted for this ill conceived legislation to Bidens newly proposed Disinformation Board.