You see them almost everywhere-- solar panels on the rooftops of homes large and small. The tremendous growth has been due in large part to generous federal subsidies and something called net metering, where solar panels are connected to the grid and surplus power offsets an owner's cost.
But with the popularity also came growing pains. Several smaller utilities last year ran up against a state-imposed net metering cap, effectively shutting down any new installations. Lawmakers are now trying to iron out the problems. At a hearing, supporters of the program say the state's support for solar must be consistent if it is to thrive.
"If the most active energy committee in the state of Vermont in a town with the highest rate of solar in the entire state, in a state with the fifth highest solar in the entire nation is at almost a total impasse... then we need to change," said Jamie Ervin of Waterbury Local Energy Action Partnership.
Supporters also say the policy must be even-handed across all utilities.
"Net metering from the customer point of view shouldn't depend on what town you're living in or what part of town you live in, in a town that's served by more than one utility," said Avram Patt, the former president of WEC.
Critics of net metering have claimed it doesn't take into account the fixed costs utilities have to pay to maintain power lines and other infrastructure. They say right now those costs are borne on the backs on nonsolar customers. But regulators dispute that. Lawmakers are now looking at a temporary fix that raises the net metering cap and has general agreement from all sides.
"For now you don't want to stop the momentum-- and everybody is agreeable to that-- so that everybody can take advantage of what is in place. And I think the 15 percent cap is what gives the utilities that comfort," said Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier.
Comfort to build out until 2017 when a federal 30 percent solar incentive expires and the state will need to revisit the issue.
Friday, April 18 2014 12:04 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:04:40 GMT
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road. Investigators say 63-year-old Eric Ladd was walking slipped and hitMore >>
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 12:00 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:00:59 GMT
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire. On Wednesday workers were doing spring clean-up at Wheelock park when they found a 55-gallon drumMore >>
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:58 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:58:40 GMT
There's been a tragedy on the Burlington beltway Thursday night. Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltway. The name has been releasedMore >>
Burlington Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltline.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:08 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:08:04 GMT
Police say two people found dead at a home in Stowe are believed to have died in a murder-suicide. Police are still not releasing their names or the cause of death, but they say the victims are adults. StoweMore >>
A Stowe couple is dead after what police say was a murder-suicide. The news came as a shock to neighbors who say they never noticed any red flags. More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 6:58 PM EDT2014-04-17 22:58:26 GMT
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury. Timothy Foley did appear in court Thursday in Middlebury. He wasn't there last time,More >>
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:26 AM EDT2014-04-17 15:26:34 GMT
A 79-year-old woman accused of causing the death of a motorcyclist in Vermont last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent operation and has received a suspended sentence of six to...More >>
A 79-year-old woman accused of causing the death of a motorcyclist in Vermont last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent operation and has received a suspended sentence of six to 12 months.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 12:05 PM EDT2014-04-17 16:05:16 GMT
A teenager has been arrested for making a bomb threat in St. Albans. Police say the threat was made to Project SOAR, an alternative school, Wednesday morning. The building was searched and no bomb wasMore >>
Police say a teenager has been arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat to an alternative school in St. Albans.More >>